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Farm Radio Weekly is a news and information service for rural radio broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa. It is published by Farm Radio International.

Issue #311

Good news about Ebola, efficiency and fisheries

Welcome to Farm Radio Weekly!

In issue #311, girls lead the fight against ignorance of Ebola in a poverty-stricken Monrovia neighbourhood, a Ugandan discovers that fuel-efficient stoves can improve his livelihood, and a fishing culture is denied reasonable access to their traditional fishing grounds on the Zambezi.

Two hundred school girls are visiting homes in West Point, Liberia, with a message of hope, hygiene and hand sanitizer. Their message? “Believe it, people, Ebola can kill. Let’s come together to stop Ebola.” It’s their neighbourhood, and the residents are starting to trust in, and act upon, the girls’ message.

For generations, Ugandans have cooked with firewood on a three-stone stove. But these stoves are time- and resource-intensive, and hazardous to health. Felix Ogwal is making a good living building and selling fuel-efficient clay and metal stoves. They’re cheap to buy and use less fuel.

The Tonga people of northwestern Zimbabwe have made their living from the Zambezi River for generations. But government levies are barring the already impoverished fishers from accessing the river, leaving commercial companies to dominate the fishery.

Farm Radio Weekly is planning a series of profiles on Farm Radio International’s broadcasting partners. Interested in being featured in the Weekly? Want to nominate another broadcaster whose story you think we should hear? Check out this week’s Action section, where you can find out how to contact us.

We wish you a favourable wind in your sails, and a safe journey through the week!

-the Farm Radio Weekly team

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Liberia: Meet the girls beating Ebola (Daily Beast)

Two hundred girls weave in and out of alleyways in the seaside slum of West Point, Liberia. Their voices rise in song: “Believe it, people, Ebola can kill. Let’s come together to stop Ebola.”

The girls, along with a few boys, are aged between 16 and 19. Together, they make up Adolescents Leading an Intense Fight Against Ebola, or A-LIFE. Through their own efforts, the group has already reached more than 4,000 homes in West Point, a neighbourhood in Monrovia.

In 2012, UNICEF started an educational group for girls in West Point, a neighbourhood known for its dangers even in a country with one of the highest rates of sexual and gender-based violence in the world. The girls were taught how to protect themselves from sexual violence.

With the outbreak of Ebola, the girls also learned how to protect themselves from this new danger. This gave them something the rest of their community lacked − knowledge and understanding of the virus, and how people are infected.

The girls’ efforts have proved a vital counterpoint to the atmosphere in the city. As the Ebola epidemic swept through the region, Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, ordered a 21-day quarantine of the area. West Point residents’ fear and mistrust of health workers escalated. So when the quarantine was lifted after only 10 days, some concluded that Ebola was not real.

More than half of the Ebola cases and half of the 5,000 deaths attributed to Ebola have occurred in Liberia, according to the World Health Organization, or WHO. But WHO believes that there may be two-and-a-half times as many cases as the official figures indicate.

Sheldon Yett is UNICEF’s representative in Liberia. He says: “[The girls] took what they learned and built on it. They embraced everybody, went to everywhere they could find, and discovered new ways to get information across.”

Carrying educational pamphlets and hand sanitizer, some girls go out into the community three or four days a week; others commit themselves to seven days a week. Schools in Liberia are closed indefinitely, so the girls are making good use of their spare time.

Jessica Neufville is an enthusiastic 16-year-old member of A-LIFE. She says, “I feel good educating people about Ebola and helping them see how they can prevent themselves from getting it.” Ms. Neufville declares, “I could be afraid, but being afraid would stop me from going out to help people.”

Most West Point residents live in shacks with rusted tin roofs. Many lack clean water and electricity. There are less than a dozen toilets to serve more than 50,000 people, who must cope daily with malaria and lethal cases of diarrhoea.

According to UNICEF, A-LIFE’s visits to more than 4,000 homes in West Point have brought changes that are essential to curbing the epidemic. Mr. Yett says: “We see at every street corner in West Point, in front of every shop, people have buckets to wash their hands. We’ve seen a real behaviour change in these communities, and that’s amazing.”

He adds, “Because [the girls] come from that community, they’re known by that community. People understand where these girls are coming from, and people believe their messages.”

To read the full article on which this story was based, Meet the Liberian girls beating Ebola, go to: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/10/29/meet-the-liberian-girls-kicking-ebola-s-ass.html

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Uganda: Farmer profits by making fuel-efficient cookstoves (by Denis Ongeng, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Felix Ogwal has farmed all his life. But the thirty-eight-year-old’s efforts were not paying off. He found it difficult to provide for his family’s daily needs. Mr. Ogwal spent a lot of time thinking about how to find an alternative source of income to supplement his earnings from farming.

So he was delighted to attend a training workshop in 2010 on how to construct cooking stoves. The German NGO, GIZ, ran a workshop in which farmers from Aduku sub-county in Apac district in northern Uganda learned how to make stoves from locally available materials.

Traditionally, most rural Ugandan families use a three-stone stove fuelled by firewood, a previously common resource. But firewood has become scarce as forests are cut back. Charcoal is now expensive, with the price of a sack increasing to around $11 U.S. in urban areas and $4 in the countryside. For many families, this is barely affordable.

When he returned home after the workshop, Mr. Ogwal realized that he could make more money if he built stoves that used charcoal efficiently. He knew that many residents of Lira and other nearby towns used charcoal stoves, but he saw a weakness in their general design. Most of the stoves he examined were made of metal and iron sheets. He uses clay to build his stoves, a material which better preserves the heat from burning charcoal, which saves money and time. He targeted city dwellers with his new stove.

Another advantage of Mr. Ogwal’s stove is that it can be made easily with locally available materials. He explains: “Clay soil is the most important material needed for the stove. Clay soil is prepared with [an] adequate amount of water before the building of the stoves starts.”

After the clay is fashioned into the correct shape, the stove is dried over the flames and then fired so that it hardens and becomes less fragile. Then Mr. Ogwal plates the clay oven with iron sheeting and takes the finished product to the market for sale. He says, “The stove can be made only of clay, or can be covered with iron to improve [its] durability.”

Walter Ojok is one of Mr. Ogwal’s happy customers. He says the new stove saves him quite a bit of the little money he earns. Mr. Ojok explains, “When using this stove, [$1 U.S.] of charcoal can cook meals for two days.”

Karsten Bechtel is an expert with the Department of Bioenergy at Makerere University in Kampala. He says, “Energy-saving stoves reduce smoke by 70 per cent and increase speed of cooking by 50 per cent.” He adds that the smoke produced by the traditional three-stone stove can lead to respiratory diseases.

Mr. Ogwal is convinced that farmers should adopt his kind of stove to save money on charcoal. He sells his stoves for only 6,000 Ugandan shillings [$2.25 U.S.], much less that the commercially-produced stoves available in the market, which cost up to $7 U.S.

Building and selling the stoves has improved the standard of living for Mr. Ogwal’s family. He says: “I earn on average about $80 U.S. per month. This has helped me to feed my family and pay school fees for my children.”

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Zimbabwe: Tonga fishermen cut off from Zambezi lifeline (IRIN)

The Tonga people in Zimbabwe’s Matebeland North Province have for generations depended on fishing for food and income. But government levies are making their lives increasingly difficult.

Salani Nyirenda is a village headman. The 69-year-old from Binga South District says: “Government must allow us complete freedom to fish from the river. We must also be … [allowed] … to set up vegetable gardens along the river, and there is [a] need for irrigation schemes along the Zambezi … There is so much poverty here.”

The area is too dry to grow crops successfully, but rich in mineral and timber resources. Local communities catch bream and kapenta in the Zambezi River. They eat the fish and sell them to local people or commercial buyers from as far away as Harare, some 500 kilometres to the east.

The Tonga used to enjoy unlimited access to the Zambezi. But the government began charging levies to fish in the river two decades ago. At first, the fees were small and the authorities were relaxed. But fees have increased over the years.

Kudakwashe Munsaka is the director of Siabuwa Development Trust, an NGO that works on local issues. The Trust has been lobbying the government to develop the area’s rich natural resources, which include indigenous timber and deposits of coal, gold, tantalite, uranium and diamonds. But nothing has come of their efforts.

Mr. Munsaka says: “This leaves the Zambezi River as our only salvation … there should be unhindered access to it, but the … levies [are] driving poverty levels up.”

Anyone wishing to fish with nets or rods must pay $5 U.S. per day. Mr. Munsaka asks, “Where can the villagers get the $5 a day to pay to fish when almost all of them are living on less than a dollar a day?”

Commercial fishers from urban areas now dominate fishing on the Zambezi River. They can afford to pay annual fees of over $10,000 U.S. to local and national authorities because they sell their catch in urban areas at higher prices than local fishers.

Some locals fish without paying fees, or outside regulated fishing times. If they are caught, they often have to pay fines they cannot afford. The Parks Authority charges poachers $20, and fines those with unlicensed boats $50.

Many locals complain of being victimized by corruption even when they pay levies. Tracy Munenge belongs to the Zubo Balizwi Trust, a women’s fishing co-operative. The 34-year-old mother of two says, “The parks and council officials leave you to fish and, at the end of the day, take whatever you [have] caught, saying you were poaching.” A Parks Authority spokeswoman denies that their officials are corrupt. She says, “We are operating within our mandate.”

Francis Mukora works with the Zimbabwe Community Development Trust, an NGO that campaigns for members of disadvantaged communities. He says that preventing the Tonga from fishing the Zambezi contradicts government policy to empower its citizens.

Mr. Mukora adds: “This fuels poverty and food insecurity while depriving [locals] of highly nutritional but affordable food. While other people have been given farms [through the land reform program], people from Binga must be empowered through adequate access to the Zambezi.”

To read the full article on which this story was based, Zimbabwe’s Tonga Fishermen cut off from Zambezi Lifeline, go to: http://www.irinnews.org/report/100670/zimbabwe-s-tonga-fishermen-cut-off-from-zambezi-lifeline

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FRW news in brief

1-Central African Republic: Violence hits food production, economy ‘broken’

According to a new assessment by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, violence in the Central African Republic has taken a heavy toll on farming.

The report notes that livestock numbers have fallen by as much as 77 per cent as a result of cattle raids during the two-year conflict.

Food reserves in rural areas are more than 40 per cent below normal levels. Markets have shut down because traders fear for their safety.

FAO representative Pierre Vauthier says, “The economy has been completely broken,” and he fears there could be a “total collapse of production” after the next harvest.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.trust.org/item/20141030175929-ng1b7/

2-Somalia: At least three million in need of aid

In September, the United Nations said that more than a million people in Somalia were struggling to meet their daily nutritional needs.

But now, according to United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the country is threatened with famine. Mr. Ban says: “Over three million Somalis are in need of humanitarian assistance, and unfortunately that number is growing. I urge donors to step up contributions to avert another famine in Somalia.”

Philippe Lazzarini is the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia. He says rapidly rising malnutrition and food shortages resemble the warning signs that preceded the 2011 famine in which 260,000 people died.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.trust.org/item/20141029201643-dz0eq/

3-South Sudan: Fighting likely to surge as rainy season ends

The imminent end of the rainy season means warring parties in South Sudan’s civil war are preparing for major offensives, according to the think tank, International Crisis Group, or ICG.

ICG says fighting eased during the rainy season, giving both sides time to import arms and marshal their forces.

Rival factions have been fighting for nearly a year, with a growing number of militias and self-defence forces joining the conflict. This is occurring despite ongoing peace talks and several ceasefire agreements.

The conflict has disrupted harvests and food markets. Famine was averted this year by emergency food aid and normal rainfall. But U.N. agencies recently warned that at least 3.8 million people in South Sudan will need humanitarian aid.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.trust.org/item/20141030183300-piaoj/

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Call for entries: New media contest

The Media School at Bournemouth University, U.K., is accepting entries from students, bloggers, artists and writers for its New Media Writing Prize, or NMWP. The international competition is open to anyone, anywhere.

NMWP is looking for innovative and interactive storytelling (fiction or non-fiction) written specifically for delivery and reading/viewing on a PC or Mac, the Web or hand-held devices such as iPads and mobile phones.

The entry can be a short story, novel, documentary or poem and can use words, images, film or animation with audience interaction.

The overall winner will receive £1,000 (approximately $1,600 U.S.). The student winner will receive a three-month work placement at Unicorn Training, a leading e-learning company in Dorset, U.K. There will also be a People’s Choice winner.

The general deadline is November 28, 2014, but students can submit entries as late as December 12, 2014. To read the competition rules, go to: http://newmediawritingprize.co.uk/Terms_and_Conditions.pdf

For more information, go to: http://www.newmediawritingprize.co.uk/

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African Press Organization press releases − direct to your inbox

Have you ever found it difficult to keep up with a breaking story, or understand the underlying history of a news event? Do you need to source up-to-date and archived information, along with quotes and pictures?

The African Press Organization provides free content for journalists and ensures that news is delivered promptly to the African press. APO owns the largest archive of Africa-related news releases.

The African News Source, or APO-Source, is an online database of Africa-related news releases. It offers free access to tens of thousands of news releases categorized by country, industry and subject. Journalists can run searches by keyword, date, country, industry, subject, or company name. The database can be accessed through this link: http://appablog.wordpress.com/.

APO also runs a mailing list, and you can sign up for free. It distributes information, as it is released, about countries, topics, and institutions of interest via email. Most press releases come with verifiable links but, as always, check your sources!

To sign up for the mailing list, go to http://www.apo-opa.com/subscribe_form.php and fill out the form indicating your preferences. Then just click Subscribe.

For more information, go to: http://www.apo-opa.com/for_journalists.php?L=E

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Farm Radio Weekly spotlights African farm broadcasters

Farm Radio International knows that farmer radio programs help farmers voice their concerns and share their lives through the airwaves. We want to celebrate the hard work of the farm radio broadcasters who serve these farmers.

Starting in December 2014, we will be profiling an African farm broadcaster in many of our weekly FRW editions. We will be collecting stories about farm radio broadcasters from all over Africa.

We want to build a better understanding and an appreciation for what African farm broadcasters do, and spotlight how their work improves the lives of small-scale farmers and farming communities.

Do you or your station want to be featured in Farm Radio Weekly? Do you want to nominate another broadcaster you think FRW readers should hear about?

Get in touch with us by emailing nbassily@farmradio.org and proberts@farmradiotz.org.

In your email, tell us:

  • why you think your work and the work of your radio station should be highlighted;

  • how your farm radio programs are put together; and,

  • how you interact with your farming audience.

Whether you are nominating yourself or another broadcaster, please email us with responses to the questions above, along with your contact information (name and phone number) or the contact details of the broadcaster you are nominating.

We will follow up with you or the person you are nominating –and get your stories published!

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Improved cookstoves make life easier for women

This week’s story from Uganda highlights a farmer who makes a good income from designing and selling fuel-efficient cookstoves.

Improved cookstoves are especially valuable to women because women are often in charge of cooking in the home. If there is HIV and AIDS in the house and community, women’s work increases in many ways. If their husbands die, women must take on additional farm work. Many women are also responsible for orphans or other family members who have been left homeless. Women also care for people living with HIV at home. There are always funerals and community events to plan and attend – and all of these take time.

These short radio spots show that, if women replace their cooking fire or three-stone stove with a more efficient cookstove that burns less fuel, they will not have to spend as much time collecting firewood. More efficient cookstoves mean less work for women.

Improved cookstoves can be made of clay, dried mud, or metal. They may burn firewood, dung, charcoal, or coal. In some African countries, cookstoves are made and sold by women’s collectives. Certain types of stoves are popular in some countries, including Kenya Ceramic Jiko, Kuni Mbili and Upesi cookstoves.

Before you play these spots, you may want to find out which kinds of cookstoves are available in your area, where they are sold, and the price. Then you can incorporate that information into each spot.


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