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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 #88

Farm Radio International shares favourite stories from the first 99 editions of FRW

In keeping with the theme of this week’s edition, this section is devoted to the favourite stories of people involved in the creation and production of FRW. Doug Ward and Kevin Perkins provided the leadership that got Farm Radio Weekly started. Heather Miller and Nelly Bassily prepare, revise, translate, and publish the news stories and resources for each edition. And Blythe McKay and Vijay Cuddeford provide support in news story selection and editing.

Doug Ward, Chair of the Board

-“Africa: Locusts destroy crops and pastures in Kenya, threaten farm lands in Sudan” (Various UN Sources)
FRW #1, December 3, 2007

No question about my favourite Farm Radio Weekly story. Why? Because it is the first story in the first issue of Farm Radio Weekly!

Farm Radio International has provided important stories for farm broadcasters for three decades. But the script packages, as they are called, only go out three or four time a year.

I’m an ex-broadcaster. I wanted program ideas every week not just every three months! And when we talked to African farm broadcasters, we found out that was what they wanted too.

And so we designed Farm Radio Weekly, and begged and borrowed money to do a test run. And then we asked some African broadcasters to try it. They had ideas to make it better, but most of all, they said to tell everyone and get started. And so we did!

Kevin Perkins, Executive Director

-“Africa: Tiny but powerful – bees and chilies can keep elephants away from crops” (Various Sources)
FRW #1, December 3, 2007

Farm Radio Weekly has produced so many excellent stories that it is hard to select the very best.

However, one of my favourites is a story first published in December 2007 about how the recorded sound of an angry swarm of bees can chase elephants out of a farmer’s field. It is the kind of creative, simple, and effective idea that farmers in one part of Africa can discover and share with other farmers through the Weekly.

Heather Miller, Farm Radio Weekly Editor

-“Cameroon: Farmers find manure a good substitute for expensive chemical fertilizers” (by Lilianne Nyatcha, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Douala, Cameroon)
FRW# 28, July 7, 2008

The world was in the middle of what we now call the “food crisis” when Lilianne Nyatcha contacted me. She was going to visit her family, who live in an agricultural community, and wondered if we would be interested in a news story. The story that she found was a great example of farmers persevering through great challenge. High chemical fertilizer costs were preventing so many farmers from obtaining their normal yields and driving up food costs across the globe, but these farmers were willing to try an alternative, and found a solution in their own backyards.

Nelly Bassily, Research and Production Officer

-“Nigeria: Group advocates for women farmers’ rights” (by Greg Modestus, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Nigeria)
FRW# 17, April 7, 2008

I like this story because it looks at the importance of empowering women farmers in their quest to obtain equal land rights to men. Land is precious for women farmers. This story illustrates that when women farmers band together, not only do they make their land rights and other rights a reality, they support each other and find constructive ways of bettering their livelihoods.

Blythe McKay, Development Communication Coordinator

-“Uganda: Turning trash into treasure” (by Sawa Pius, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Kampala)
FRW# 58, March 16, 2009

I like this story for several reasons. It is written by one of our stringers, and it demonstrates a local innovation that not only provides additional income for people producing compost, but also helps address a sanitation problem. And the compost can be used to increase crop production!

Vijay Cuddeford, Managing Editor

-“East Africa: Indigenous vegetables make a comeback” (New Vision, New Agriculturalist)
FRW# 22, May 26, 2008

I think this is a great win-win-win story. The indigenous vegetables described in this story are easy-to-grow, incredibly nutritious, earn good income for farmers, are environmentally friendly, and could even strengthen farmers’ pride in their own traditional food cultures.

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Warm greetings to all!

We extend a special welcome to our newest subscribers: Bolivar Makobo Kabange, from a farmers’ co-operative in the Democratic Republic of Congo; Muzaliwa Loochi, from Restore Hope in Africa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo; Ndey Bakurin, from Women inAction, in The Gambia; John Adelamo, from Newlight Farms in Nigeria; Said Komba, from the Agricultural Research Institute-DSM Tanzania; and James Ssenabulya, from Nakaseke Community Multimedia Centre/Nakaseke Community Radio, in Uganda.

We would like to remind all of our subscribers to please take a few moments to complete the 2009 FRW Survey. This survey was e-mailed to subscribers on November 6. Those who complete the survey by November 20 will be entered into two draws for Sansa MP3 players – the first to be held on November 20, and the second on December 4. Don’t miss your opportunity to have your voice heard, and your chance to win!

This week’s news stories touch on two very different issues from two sides of the African continent. Our first story comes from Mozambique, where farming communities are is enjoying the benefits of involvement in a carbon credit scheme. Farmers are earning income for planting and conserving trees, as well as from tree crops and beekeeping. Our second story comes from Mali, where plant breeders have developed new hybrid sorghum varieties that promise much higher yields. The notes to broadcasters that accompany this story provide additional information and discussion points on the subject of hybrid versus traditional crops.

Happy reading!

-The Farm Radio Weekly Team

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In this week’s Farm Radio Weekly:

African Farm News in Review

1. Mozambique: Farmers earn money by planting trees under carbon credit scheme (Spore, Various Sources)

2. Mali: Hybrid sorghum varieties promise higher yields (AGRA)

Upcoming Events

-WRENmedia to select participants for “Better Science Reporting” course

Radio Resource Bank

-Asking the right questions

Farm Radio Action

-Farm Radio International’s founder recalls how it all began

Farm Radio Script of the Week

-Farmers in Niger benefit from letting trees grow in their fields

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Mozambique: Farmers earn money by planting trees under carbon credit scheme (Spore, Various Sources)

Felicio Lucas Melo stands in a field with a hoe over his shoulder. On either side of him, there is a row of trees. Trees are common in farmers’ fields in Sofala Province, Mozambique. But it wasn’t always this way. In recent years, farmers have abandoned slash and burn agriculture and taken up tree planting as part of a carbon credit scheme.

Carbon credits are a new commodity on the global market. Individuals or companies who create greenhouse gas emissions purchase carbon credits from initiatives that aim to store carbon – often by planting trees.

Plan Vivo is an international organization that coordinates carbon storage projects. They operate the carbon credit scheme in Sofala Province. Through the initiative, farmers earn money for planting trees, managing forests, and preventing fires. More than 1,000 farmers are now involved.

Farmers in participating communities live near the boundary of a national park. The park was dotted with mashambas – land that had been slashed and burned for agriculture, then deserted. These areas are now vibrant with plant life. They have been planted with indigenous trees. Most are fruit trees or trees that attract bees.
Local farmers receive money for replanting the forest. They have also been trained to prevent forest fires. Mr. Melo and others also earn money by planting trees on their own farmland.

The carbon credit project is scheduled to last for seven years. But the benefits to farmers will continue. Trees planted on farmland will produce crops such as cashews and fruit. They will also help prevent soil erosion.
Some farmers have also taken up a task that will allow them to profit from the forest for years to come. They have begun beekeeping.

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2. Mali: Hybrid sorghum varieties promise higher yields (AGRA)

Sorghum is the crop of choice for many Malian farmers. The plant is naturally drought resistant, making it a reliable staple grain. However, sorghum isn’t a high yielding crop. After years of breeding, Malian plant scientists have changed that. They have created a hybrid sorghum that could double yields.

Aboubacar Toure is a program officer with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, or AGRA. AGRA supported the development of the hybrids by the Rural Economic Institute of Mali.

Mr. Toure explains that local and foreign sorghum cultivars were bred together to create the hybrids. They were tested in the Sahel and Sudan zones of Mali.

Under the same growing conditions, the hybrids produce greater yields than regular sorghum. Local sorghum produces about 1.5 metric tonnes per hectare. The hybrid varieties can produce between three and four metric tonnes per hectare.

The Rural Economic Institute of Mali will promote hybrid sorghum to farmers over the next year. They will also train seed producers to breed the hybrids.

Hybrid seeds will come at a higher price. Regular sorghum seed currently costs about 300 CFA francs (about 70 American cents or 0.45 Euros) per kilogram. It’s expected that the hybrid sorghum seed will sell for twice the price, at 600 CFA francs (about 1.4 American dollars or 0.9 Euros) per kilogram.

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Notes to broadcasters on carbon credit:

The trade in carbon credits, also known as carbon offsets, is growing quickly. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has identified carbon offsetting as an efficient way to guide investments towards greenhouse gas reductions. Companies that release large quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere can “offset” these emissions by investing in initiatives such as tree planting that store carbon. Individual consumers can also purchase carbon credits to offset the carbon emissions they create, for example, through their personal air travel.http://weekly.farmradio.org/?p=1507.

In this week’s story from Mozambique, we saw that local farmers are benefiting from an international carbon credit scheme. They received money for planting trees and protecting forests, and their communities maintained ownership of land. But carbon credit schemes do not always turn out well for local communities. In September, we ran a news story from Uganda about locals being displaced from their traditional lands by a tree planting project. You can review this story online, here:

Whenever an outside investor is interested in farmland, there are potential risks and benefits for local communities. The following questions may serve as a starting point for investigating cases of farmland investment in your area:

-Who are the investors (company, government, or other) who have leased or bought land (or are interested in leasing or buying land)?
-Did the national government consult local, small-scale farmers about the negotiations? If yes, then what was the process? If not, what was the outcome?
-What sort of agriculture (for example, small-scale or commercial) is being practiced on the land in question and what sort of crops are being grown? What type of agriculture do the investors wish to practice?
-Who will control the land? Who will profit?
-Will the local community benefit from the land investment? What guarantees do they have that the investors will deliver any benefits they promise?
-If rural people have been or will be displaced by the land investment, where will they go? How will they meet their food needs?
-Are there alternatives to permitting the sale or lease of local land that would benefit rural communities?

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Notes to broadcasters on hybrid sorghum:

The benefits of traditional crop varieties versus hybrid or “improved” crops have long been debated by farmers, scientists, and rural development specialists. The hybrid sorghum varieties developed by Malian breeders promise to produce higher yields, while maintaining the drought resistance associated with regular varieties.

While hybrids generally promise to address the shortcomings of regular varieties, there are many concerns about their use. Farmers who use hybrid seeds must normally purchase them anew each year. This is because, if you save seeds from hybrids and then plant them, the results are not predictable.

Another common concern about hybrid seeds is that they may require more inputs, such as chemical fertilizer and pesticides (though this is not the case with the hybrid sorghum varieties developed in Mali). Even so, many farmers have found that hybrid seeds are the best option for their farms.

Farm Radio Weekly has produced a number of stories which look at farmer success with hybrid seeds and traditional crops, including:
-“Liberia: Women mix indigenous and NERICA rice in effort to bridge ‘hunger gap’” (FRW#66, May 2009):
-“Zimbabwe: Government promotes open-pollinated seeds over hybrids” (FRW#47, December 2008)
-“Uganda: Farmers, scientists encourage preservation of traditional crops” (FRW#33, August 2008)
-“Uganda: Improved seeds improve livelihoods for women” (FRW #27, July 2008)

You may also refer to these Farm Radio International scripts which discuss the benefits of crop diversification for family income and health, and offer tips on experimenting with new varieties:

-“Comparing crop varieties: Start small, go slowly” (Package 68, Script 8, September 2003)
-“Diversify crops to keep your family healthy” (Package 65, Script 1, October 2002)
-“Diversity beats disease in the rice field” (Package 58, Script 3, January 2001)
-“Radio spots: Grow many different crops and crop varieties” (Package 56, Script 4, July 2000)

You may consider hosting an on-air panel discussion among experts, including farmers, about traditional crops and the use of hybrids. Be sure to allow time for listening farmers to call or text-in their questions or describe their experiences. Some questions you may consider important for discussion include:

-What are the area’s traditional crops? What are some of the benefits of these crops, such as adaptation to the land and climate, nutrition, taste, etc? Do many farmers still grow these crops, and on what scale?
-Do farmers in the area use hybrid seeds? Where are they purchased and how much do they cost? Are chemical inputs such as fertilizer and pesticides required to grow these hybrids? What precautions should farmers take to protect their family’s food security when trying a new hybrid variety?

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WRENmedia to select participants for “Better Science Reporting” course

WRENmedia is seeking eight anglophone journalists from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, and The Gambia to participate in a “Better Science Reporting” training course to be held in Kumasi, Ghana, with a focus on agroforestry. The course will be sponsored by the British Department for International Development (DFID).

Working radio or print journalists with an interest and opportunity to report on science and agriculture may apply. Those interested should e-mail Mike Davison at m.davison@wrenmedia.co.uk for further details. Applicants will be requested to send samples of their work.

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Asking the right questions

The following is adapted from a section of The Panos Institute of West Africa’s guide to using oral testimonies, entitled Heeding the Voiceless. The guide defines an oral testimony as an “inverted interview,” which is guided by the interviewee rather than the interviewer. This approach may be useful when you wish to speak to people at the grassroots level, especially if you are profiling an individual or group, or seeking to explore the subtleties of an issue. To view the entire guide online, go to: http://www.panos-ao.org/ipao/IMG/pdf_Heeding_the_voiceless.pdf.

The right questions:

Open questions
Because oral testimony interviews focus on individual perspectives, and the significance of events as understood and described by the narrator rather than factual information, it is important to uncover this kind of qualitative information through “open” questions:
– Why do you think this happened?
– What do/did you feel about this?
– What do you think is/was the meaning of this?
– How important is/was this to you/your family/community?
– How does/did this affect you/your family/community?
– How is this different from the situation in the past/now?
– Why do you think that this changed/happens?
– What is your own experience of this custom/event?
– Why did you/your family/community make this decision?
– Do you feel you have/had a choice?
– In what ways could things have been easier/better/more helpful?

Sensitive questions
Sometimes it is very hard to talk about issues that are personal or sensitive. If the topic can be discussed in the third person, it might be easier for the narrator to give an honest reply:
-I have heard that some women in the community refuse to continue any old practices. What do you think about this?
-What is your view about parents who do not want their children to study their mother tongue?
Prompt and probe questions
These questions can be asked to encourage the interviewee to expand further in a certain direction or go into greater detail:
-Could you tell me more about that?
-Could you explain exactly how the system works?
-Could you please suggest how we could improve the health facilities in our community?

The wrong questions:

Closed questions
These questions tend to elicit yes/no answers and little else. They are useful to establish detail, or clarify, but should almost always be followed by open-ended questions:
-(closed) Had you met him/her before?
– (open) What was your impression when you first met?

Leading questions
These tend to assume an answer and may lead the narrator to respond with a simple yes or no:
-Was that helpful?
-Weren’t you angry when they changed their plans?
-All politicians are dishonest, aren’t they?

Double-barrelled questions
A double-barrelled question is a question framed in a way that demands two or more answers. These questions can confuse, and the narrator will almost always answer only one of the questions:
-When did you marry and what does your husband do?
-What is your favourite radio station and why do you like it and where is it?

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Farm Radio International’s founder recalls how it all began

The story of Farm Radio International (formerly the Developing Countries Farm Radio Network) began on a bus in Zambia 30 years ago. Our founder, George Atkins, a Canadian agricultural broadcaster, found himself seated between agricultural broadcasters from Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

In a videotaped interview, Dr. Atkins explains how this meeting became the inspiration for an organization dedicated to supporting radio broadcasters in their efforts to serve farmers. Click here to hear him tell the story:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4FtIFD1EKA

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Farmers in Niger benefit from letting trees grow in their fields

In this week’s news story from Mozambique, we learned that some farmers are being paid to plant trees and maintain nearby forests. But even with no direct payments, farmers and farming communities have strong incentives to plant trees and regenerate forests. In this script, we learn how and why farmers in a Nigerien community began conserving trees in their field. We see that these trees brought their own sort of “payment” in the form of increased crop yields.

You can also find this script online at: http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/88-7script_en.asp.

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