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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 #312

Breaking down walls: changing the future

Hello! Welcome to Farm Radio Weekly issue #312! In this edition, we present stories from Rwanda, Malawi and Somaliland.

Reconciliation after a bitter or divisive conflict can be difficult and painful. But a group of Rwandan women have sweetened the process by setting up the country’s only home-grown ice cream company. Their popularity with locals and foreigners alike means they are set to expand their business.

After her divorce, Annie Basikolo found it difficult to provide food and education for her children. She started growing okra to feed the family, but discovered that the citizens of Lilongwe enjoy eating the vegetable as part of their daily meals. Now the kids are at school and well fed!

Somaliland is facing a crisis: the cost of charcoal has risen fivefold in the past seven years. The government is trying to implement measures to alleviate the situation, but Somalilanders are used to charcoal and find it difficult to change the habit of a lifetime.

Our Resource section is dedicated to A poem for the living. This monologue, available in several languages, is a plea from a boy infected with Ebola to his loved ones. He asks them to follow the practices which will keep them safe, even if they prevent them from physically comforting him in his distress.

Ghanaian broadcaster Victoria Dansoa Abankwa is one of the three joint winners of Farm Radio International’s George Atkins Communication Award for 2014. Farm Radio Weekly is delighted to present a profile of this dynamic lady; we hope that her story serves as an inspiration to others.

Our next issue will be dedicated to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Be sure to check your inbox!

Keep listening to farmers, as they listen to you!

-the Farm Radio Weekly team

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Rwanda: Women survivors drum up ice cream business (by Fulgence Niyonagize, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Chantal Kabatesi survived the Rwandan genocide. But for many years after 1994, she lived isolated in her community in Huye, in the Butare province of southern Rwanda. Now she has re-connected by joining a group of women survivors.

Mrs. Kabatesi explains, “Before, I was a farmer, and then I joined a group of women drummers. Subsequently, the group set up a project to produce and sell ice cream. ”

She joined the association in 2004. The women played drums, sang and danced to help ease their painful memories of the genocide.

Odile Gakire Katese, known as “Kiki,” founded the group. The former university professor brought together victims of the genocide with former torturers. The women opened up to each other, reconciled and united. The group was the first to break the gender taboo against women playing drums, instruments usually reserved for men.

Playing drums broke the woman out of their social isolation. The group increased from 25 members to 100. The association began to consider new activities which could include all members. By chance, Kiki met the founders of Blue Marbles Ice Cream, a small ice cream company based in Brooklyn, U.S.A. Kiki realized that the group could develop an ice cream business in Rwanda.

At the end of 2010, the women launched their fledgling business, calling it Inzozi nziza, or Sweet dreams. Mrs. Kabatesi works in the shop as a waitress. She serves customers soft ice cream flavoured with passion fruit, strawberries and pineapple. If they want, she adds toppings like fresh fruit, honey and homemade granola.

Inzozi nziza is the only company in Rwanda currently producing ice cream from locally-produced dairy products, honey, eggs and fruit. Group members grow and supply the fruit used in the desserts. In addition to ice cream, the women make sandwiches and cook omelettes for their customers.

The customers are not only Rwandans; many foreign tourists have discovered Inzozi nziza. At first, the women could only speak their local language. But some have learned English to better communicate with their foreign customers.

At first, Inzozi nziza was supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, but the company is now self-sufficient.

Kiki says that, despite the ice cream business, drumming continues to be the focus of their leisure time, and continues to provide social connection and development. But, she adds, “The volume of sales to customers encourages us to increase our output. I intend to open shops in other towns.”

Mrs. Kabatesi talks proudly about the many changes in her life. She says, “With the money I earn here, I support my husband by paying our child’s school fees. And my family and I live well in our renovated house.”

Mrs. Kabatesi has used her wages to enrol in a family health insurance scheme. She says, “It’s all good. I don’t know what would have happened to me had I not joined Inzozi nziza.

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Malawi: Farmer earns enough from okra to send her children to school (by Norman Fulatira, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Life became difficult for Annie Basikolo in 2004 when her marriage ended in divorce. It was a challenge to provide enough food for her children and pay their school fees. She had little money and less time.

But things began to change in 2005 when she started growing okra in her garden in the village of Njovu, near Malawi’s capital city of Lilongwe. She grew okra to feed her family. But many Malawians love eating okra as a relish or sauce to accompany nsima, a stiff maize porridge eaten as a staple. When city residents began asking for the crop, Mrs. Basikolo realized that she had a market.

Since then, Mrs. Basikolo has expanded her okra field to nearly a quarter-hectare, a little less than half a football pitch. She plants at the beginning of the first rains, making the most of the erratic water supply in her area.

Because her field is close to a river, she can also irrigate the crop. Irrigation allows her to harvest okra pods for nearly six months. Mrs. Basikolo improves the health and fertility of her soil by applying as much composted manure as she can get her hands on.

Okra has worked well for Mrs. Basikolo. She says it does not take long before okra returns benefits to a grower. She explains: “I harvest tender okra pods using a sharp knife almost daily from two months after planting. I harvest about eight kilograms of okra every day, and this gives me the much-needed income for my home.” She sells her produce to eager buyers at the nearby Area 23 Township Market in Lilongwe.

Joseph Mtengezo is an agricultural extension worker in Lilongwe. He says okra is generally grown as a subsistence crop in Malawi, with less than 100 hectares planted around Lilongwe. But there is great demand from city dwellers, and Mr. Mtengezo believes the crop could transform the lives of small-scale farmers.

He says many farmers have poor harvests because they intercrop okra with maize. He explains, “I encourage farmers to turn to monocropping as opposed to intercropping, in order to realize higher yields.”

John Molosoni is a farmer from Ching’amba village, 60 kilometres east of Lilongwe, who follows Mr. Mtengezo’s advice. He says, “I have seen a major improvement in okra yield after transforming to monocropping from intercropping this year.”

Mr. Molosoni plans to grow more okra in the coming rainy season. He is optimistic that higher yields will mean a better income for his family.

Mrs. Basikolo has only one problem with okra: the pods have tiny spines that irritate her hands when harvesting.

But okra has changed her life. With daily sales of $10 U.S., she can easily pay her children’s school fees of $45 U.S. per term. Her children attend the local government secondary school during the day, and Mrs. Basikolo has food waiting for them on the table when they return home.

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Somaliland: Soaring charcoal prices hit families hard (IRIN)

Families in Somaliland have been hard hit by the steep rise in the price of charcoal, the main cooking fuel in the region.

Asha Ahmed is a mother of five. She says, “We used to buy two full sacks of charcoal per month, but due to the high price we buy one jaqaf daily.” A jaqaf, or tin, contains just two-and-a-half kilograms of cooking fuel.

Mrs. Ahmed’s family is one of the many affected by charcoal’s fivefold price increase over the last seven years. In 2007, a 25-kilogram sack sold for 18,000 Somaliland shillings [$2.76 U.S.]*. Now, families must pay 90,000 shillings [$13.84 U.S.].

The price has risen by 50 per cent in the past few months alone − in September, a sack cost only 60,000 shillings [$9.23 U.S.]. Charcoal accounts for about 65 per cent of the Ahmed household’s daily expenditures, so there is little money left for food.

Mrs. Ahmed lives in Hargeisa, which serves as the capital of the self-declared republic of Somaliland. She says: “We spend 9,000 shillings [$1.38] on charcoal out of our 14,000 shilling [$2.15] daily expenditure. The 5,000 shillings [76 U.S. cents] left is not enough … for the family [to eat] three meals per day.”

Omar Aden Yusuf is a researcher with the Academy for Peace and Development. He says: “During our research in 2007, we found one charcoal field in Odweyne [100 kilometres east of Hargeisa] where more than 3,000 trees were being burned down for charcoal daily.”

Mr. Yusuf adds: “The worst environmental degradation is in [the costal region of] Sanaag … because charcoal is trucked from there to [the port of] Bossaso, from where it is exported to the Gulf States.”

Ahmed Abdillahi is an environmental expert. He says, “Two reasons caused the increase in the price of charcoal: government fines on charcoal traders, and the lack of trees to burn for charcoal.”

To stop the deforestation, the government intends to stiffen the fines required by the 1998 environmental law. Currently, anyone caught cutting trees for charcoal is fined 2,500 shillings (38 US cents) per sack.

Shukri H. Ismail Bondare is Somaliland’s Minister for Environment and Pastoralist Development. He says: “The government is working to find alternatives to charcoal because it has already made a negative impact on the Somaliland environment, and our entire forests have now become deserts.”

Mr. Bondare says the government is planning to set up credit facilities to give more people access to kerosene stoves. He adds that the government has made liquefied petroleum gas and kerosene stoves tax-free to help solve the problem.

But charcoal is the preferred fuel. Ali Sh is a student at the University of Hargeisa. He says the people of Somaliland will not stop using charcoal stoves for cooking unless they are forced to seek an alternative. He adds, “They have been accustomed to using charcoal their whole life.”

Amina Omar agrees. The elderly mother is living in State House, a centre for displaced people in Hargeisa. She says, “We don’t know how to use kerosene and LPG; we only know how to use charcoal.”

Mr. Bondare says: “We are calling on the international community to help us to get alternative cooking energy, such as promoting kerosene, LPG, as well as solar energy.”

To read the full article on which this story was based, Soaring charcoal prices hit livelihoods in Somaliland, go to: http://www.irinnews.org/report/100805/soaring-charcoal-prices-hit-livelihoods-in-somaliland

*The original article used an exchange rate of 6,522 Somaliland shillings to 1 U.S. dollar.

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FRW news in brief

1-Mozambique: Fighting cervical cancer

Mozambique is reeling under the twin burden of HIV and cervical cancer. Eleven women die of cervical cancer every day, or 4,000 a year. Yet this cancer is preventable and treatable, if identified early.

Cervical cancer is caused by two of the 40 types of Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV. Being infected with HPV doubles the risk of acquiring HIV, while HIV hastens the progression of cervical cancer. Many people unknowingly carry some types of HPV, but the virus often dies off without medical treatment.

Health authorities are tackling the problem with a three-pronged strategy: information for prevention, routine screening for detection, and better treatment. Routine screening for HPV is now offered with family planning services, and Mozambique’s Ministry of Health hopes to cover all districts by 2017.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/10/fighting-the-neighbours-disease-in-mozambique/

2-Rwanda: Afro-pop, rap and R&B musicians promote healthier diets − through beans

Rwanda’s top musicians are promoting better nutrition and health with a new music video released last week.

The song extols the nutritional benefits of high-iron beans, now available in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda. Almost 40 per cent of Rwandan children do not get enough iron in their diets. In severe cases, this can lower their IQs and learning capacity, resistance to disease, and energy levels.

The campaign has featured musicians such as Miss Jojo, Riderman, and Urban Boyz in a series of road shows across the country. The artists have performed live for more than 30,000 people. Rwandan rapper Riderman says, “We came together to make sure that we say goodbye to malnutrition.”

To read the full article and hear the song, go to: http://appablog.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/afro-pop-rap-and-rb-musicians-promote-healthier-diets-through-beans/

3-Sierra Leone: SMS messages tackle Ebola across West Africa

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, or IFRC, has sent about two million text messages a month to Sierra Leoneans since the Ebola outbreak began in March. The messages advise people how to avoid getting infected, and to seek immediate treatment if they do catch the virus.

The Trilogy Emergency Relief Application system was rolled out in Sierra Leone last year following a cholera outbreak, and allows blanket SMS alerts to be sent to people in precise geographical areas.

Robin Burton is the IFRC’s mobile operator relations consultant. He says, “The service has been brilliant in Sierra Leone, and other countries want to follow suit because Ebola is a clear and present danger.” The charities plan to extend the service to Benin, Togo, Ghana, Mali, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia and Burkina Faso.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.trust.org/item/20141105172430-9qaas/

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Calls for applications: National Press Foundation fellowship

The National Press Foundation is offering 20 fellowships for journalists to attend and report on a conference focusing on tobacco’s global impact on health.

Tobacco use in all its forms increases the risk of diseases that cause millions of deaths and sicken millions more every year. Tobacco is a global industry worth $600 billion annually.

This seven-day, all-expenses-paid fellowship includes three days of educational sessions with leading experts on the tobacco industry, its regulation, the diseases related to tobacco, new products such as e-cigarettes, old products such as shisha, and the latest policy research.

The conference will take place March 15-21, 2015, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The fellowship includes registration, round-trip air or train travel, hotel accommodation and per diem expenses.

Candidates must show that they will report on the topic after the conference.

Proficiency in spoken and written English is required.

The application deadline is December 16, 2014.

For more information and the application form, go to: http://nationalpress.org/programs-and-resources/program/tobaccos-global-impact/

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Video and audio available for download: Ebola: A Poem for the Living

This video animation, created for use in West Africa, is designed to help dispel myths about how Ebola is spread, and to prevent infection and further spread of the disease.

The story is told from the point of view of a Liberian teenager who is speaking to his parents, brother and sister from his hospital bed. He warns them about the disease and tells them how to avoid infection. The story highlights the need for isolation, and shows the heartache of a family which is unable to comfort, touch, or care for the very sick boy.

His words comfort those who must be separated from their loved ones in order to take care of themselves and stay away from those who are ill.

The video, which uses only young voices, is available in several languages, including English (Nigerian, Liberian, Sierra Leonean and South African dialects), French (for Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea), Krio, Pidgin, Portuguese and Swahili.

The video can be downloaded in high definition, low definition, for use on mobile platforms and as stand-alone audio files at this link: http://www.umcom.org/global-communications/ebola-a-poem-for-the-living

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Congratulations to Victoria Dansoa Abankwa, 2014 George Atkins Communication Award winner

Victoria Dansoa Abankwa is one of the three joint winners of Farm Radio International’s George Atkins Communications Award for 2014.

Mrs. Dansoa Abankwa is a dynamic woman who is both passionate and vocal about the development of African agriculture. She produces and presents an interactive farmers’ program called Akuafoa kyɛpɛn on Radio Central, a public radio station that covers Ghana’s Central Region and parts of Western and Ashanti Regions. She volunteers her time to the radio station, fitting in the work around her job as an officer with Women in Agricultural Development for the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in Ghana.

When Akuafoa kyɛpɛn was facing financial challenges, Mrs. Dansoa Abankwa’s determination and passion to continue broadcasting to farmers came to the fore. She decided to fund the program herself. She uses her own resources and initiative to find farmers, extension officers and other experts to contribute to the program.

Her vision for farmers is a simple but powerful one: Agriculture in Ghana can be a lucrative and rewarding profession.

Mrs. Dansoa Abankwa currently hosts two programs a week on Central Radio, one on general farming practices and another specifically focused on orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP). She is a driving force behind OFSP programming at Central Radio. She visits farmers and health facilities and attends forums, workshops and other events to introduce and educate people on the benefits of OFSP.

In her acceptance speech for the George Atkins Communications Award at a ceremony in Cape Coast on September 19, Mrs. Dansoa Abankwa noted that the training she received from FRI had improved her presentation skills and her ability to interview farmers in the field. She credits this training with helping her win the award. She also thanked her husband and children for always standing by her, and thanked the supportive staff team at Central Radio for sharing ideas and offering assistance.


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SolarAid’s micro solar project in rural Tanzania: Tremendous solar energy potential

This week’s story from Somaliland talks about the rising cost of charcoal. One promising long-term energy solution for Africans, including small-scale farmers, is solar energy.

In April 2009, FRI distributed a script on solar energy in Tanzania. While the potential for solar energy in Tanzania is tremendously high, most people are discouraged by the high initial cost of purchasing solar panels. As a result, few rural Tanzanians are taking advantage of solar power. An example noted in the script is a secondary school in the Mafinga District of Iringa Region which uses kerosene in laboratory tests and cannot use computers because there is no electricity.

SolarAid is a UK-based charitable organization that addresses this issue by producing low-cost solar panels for Tanzanian schools and homes. Our script of the week talks about the organization’s efforts to bring affordable solar power to the Tanzanian countryside.


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