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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 #94

Happy New Year!

A warm welcome back to Farm Radio Weekly! We wish all of our subscribers a belated Happy New Year. May 2010 bring you and your families health, happiness, and prosperity, and may it be a year of tremendous accomplishments for each of your organizations.

Over the last three weeks, many new subscribers have joined the FRW community. We are pleased to welcome: Paul Mzeka, from Bui Community Radio, Mngo Demse, from Oku Community Radio, and Misse Alain Christian, from Institut de Recherche Agricole pour le Développement, all in Cameroon; André Safari, from Agriculture et Construction pour le Développement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Dereje Moges, from the Amhara Mass Media Agency in Ethiopia; Doreen Magak, a freelance journalist in Kenya; Daouda Dembele, from Radio Fanaka in Mali; Boubacar Elimane Aidara, from the NGO ASRADEC in Senegal; and Andrew Ndawula Kalema, from New Vision Media Group, Mary Edgar, from the West Nile Disadvantaged Women and Orphans Association, and Byamukama Tadeo Araali, from Kabarole Information Center, all in Uganda.

We have a variety of interesting news stories and resources to share with you this week. Our first story is about farmers in the Republic of Congo facing a common problem – poor road conditions that prevented them from accessing markets. Our story explains how the farmers took matters into their own hands and fixed local roads. We also bring you a story from the small island state of Mauritius, where young farmers are reviving the dairy industry; and a story from Rwanda, where innovative artisans are taking advantage of a ban on plastic bags.

Farm Radio International is pleased to announce that the latest script package is now online. Learn more about this script package and where to find it in the Farm Radio Action section. Another great online resource is listed in the Radio Resource Bank: CTA has created a series of practical guides to agricultural practices, which can be downloaded or ordered in print format.

Happy reading!

-The Farm Radio Weekly Team

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In this week’s Farm Radio Weekly:

African Farm News in Review

1. Republic of Congo: Farmers solve rural road problem with their own hands (IPS)

2. Mauritius: Young farmers return to dairy (Spore)

3. Rwanda: Ban on plastic bags creates new market for banana bags (Syfia Grands Lacs, Spore)

Upcoming Events

-February 28, 2010: Deadline to apply for grants supporting community radio initiatives

Radio Resource Bank

-CTA Practical Guides to agricultural practices

Farm Radio Action

-New scripts about climate change and rice are now online

Farm Radio Script of the Week

-Indigenous knowledge and livestock raising

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1. Republic of Congo: Farmers solve rural road problem with their own hands (IPS)

Music fills the air outside the village of Ngouha II in southern Republic of Congo. In this atmosphere of song, farmers are hard at work. They haul stone, wood, and soil to the site of a broken bridge. The bridge has been broken for some time.

While the bridge lay in ruins, no vehicles could pass. Farmers struggled to get their produce to market. But today, they are determined to fix the bridge with their own hands.

Pierre Ngoro is the village chief. He insists: “If we do not do it ourselves, nobody will come to our aid.” Agricultural produce would rot in the field, he says.

Pierre Mavinda is a local farmer working on the bridge. He explains that, last harvest season, farmers had to carry produce to market on their heads. Squash, peanuts, taro, cassava, fruit, vegetables – all were transported this way, Mr. Mavinda recalls. Next season, they will be able to transport their goods via truck.

A few dozen kilometres away, villagers from Ndiba had the same idea. Soft spots and crevasses had made the local farm road impassable. Armed with hoes and shovels, village youth are fixing these problems. Mpandzou Armand is one of the youth. He explains that farmers provide them with meals. On top of that, the young workers ask each passing vehicle for five dollars.

Poor road conditions are a problem for farmers in many parts of the Republic of Congo. Just as they are a problem for farmers in many other parts of Africa. Without good roads, some villages are isolated. Farmers are unable to sell surplus food in nearby markets. Farmers who grow mostly cash crops can be stuck with produce that rots before it can be sold.

Gilbert Koumba squats by his banana harvest. He waits for a train at the Les Saras station. The train was supposed to pick up his bananas a week ago, laments Mr. Koumba. He is afraid of losing his produce. Since a major bridge was broken, the train is the only means of transport from this area.

In areas such as these, local labour is not enough to fix roads and bridges. Fortunately, external funding has been secured. The International Fund for Agricultural Development plans to construct 400 kilometres of rural roads. Dominique Keng heads this initiative. He explains that it will focus on bottlenecks such as bridges and swamps. The priority is enabling farmers to get produce to market.

Another rural road initiative is jointly funded by the Congolese government and the International Development Association. In four years, this project has constructed more than 1,300 kilometres of rural roads. Irene Mboukou-Kimbatsa oversees the effort. She says this progress is small compared to the needs.

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2. Mauritius: Young farmers return to dairy (Spore)

Shailendra Singh Totaram stops to speak with one of his dairy cows. “Eat, my friend,” he encourages her. “You have to give plenty of milk.”

At 28 years of age, the farmer runs a successful dairy farm in northern Mauritius. He grew up with cows. Mr. Totaram’s parents and grandparents sold milk for extra income. But when he was just a child, his family gave up the business. Cheap imported powdered milk was flooding the market. There was no money to be made in local dairy.

Mr. Totaram’s family was not the only one to abandon dairy farming. Some were forced out by low prices. Others chose higher paying jobs in the textile industry. Before the 1980s, there were 10,000 small-scale dairy producers on the island state. Now there are fewer than 2,000.

Fortunately, Mr. Totaram is one of many young farmers now taking up dairy. The government has introduced a program to encourage local production. Grants and loans are available to purchase equipment, livestock, and land.

Mr. Totaram’s return to dairy began with a training session offered by the Agricultural Research and Extension Unit. He now has 20 cows. He keeps them in a concrete shed outside the village of Triolet. Each day, he sells his milk to a local food processor. Mr. Totaram says he will strive to become the best farmer on the island.

Other young farmers share this goal. Ten of them recently joined the Cowbreeders Cooperative Society in the centre of the island. Together, they produce 1,500 litres of milk each day.

The island’s farmers are slowly increasing local production. But the process of restoring the dairy industry in Mauritius will take time. Currently, the country’s producers meet only two per cent of local demand. The government hopes that by 2015, local farmers will provide 10 per cent of the island’s milk.

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3. Rwanda: Ban on plastic bags creates new market for banana bags (Syfia Grands Lacs, Spore)

Plastic bags used to mar the Rwandan countryside. Four years ago, the government passed a law against them. Last year, they started enforcing it. The new law is not only clearing the countryside of plastic bags. It is also creating jobs for innovative artisans.

Alexis is a member of a co-operative called Land Love Rwanda. The cooperative developed an alternative to plastic bags used to germinate seeds. They make ibihoho – or germination bags – from banana bark.

Alexis explains some of the benefits of banana germination bags. They retain moisture well after watering. And when it’s time to plant the seedling, there’s no need to remove the bag. The banana bark decomposes and acts as a natural fertilizer.

Land Love Rwanda sells each bag for 10 Rwandan francs (approximately 0.02 American dollars or 0.01 Euros). There is no shortage of buyers. Alexis says many nurseries order from the co-operative.

KOABIMU is another co-operative that produces banana baskets and bags, as well as other banana products. Since plastic bags have been outlawed, grocery stores now order banana bags, too.

Joseph Bimenyimana is president of KOABIMU. He says artisans make a good living weaving banana fibre. Each member of the co-operative earns 30,000 Rwandan francs per month (about 53 American dollars or 37 Euros).

A local leader in the capital city of Kigali reflects on the plastic bag ban. He has seen it transform the city. The streets are clean. And hand-made bags and baskets are now in high demand, providing employment for many artisans.

Follow these links for past FRW stories on innovative uses of bananas and banana waste:

-“East Africa: Handmade banana briquettes could replace firewood” (FRW #66, May 2009)
-“Rwanda: Processing bananas changes lives in Rwanda” (FRW #41, October 2008)

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Notes to broadcasters on repairing rural roads:

In rural areas throughout Africa, poor roads can prevent farmers from accessing markets to sell their goods. Some communities have long been isolated by a lack of roads. Others, such as the ones described in this week’s news story from the Republic of Congo, have recently been cut off by deteriorated roads or bridges.

This week’s story shows how farmers in some Congolese communities took matters into their own hands – deciding to fix road blockages themselves, or engaging local youth to work on the problem. Of course, more serious road problems may require more than local resources. It is a promising sign that external financing has been secured to correct some of these problems in the Republic of Congo, with the goal of improving farmers’ access to markets.

You may wish to produce one or more programs on rural roads in your area, and consider how the quality of roads affects the ability of farmers to access markets. Some questions to consider include:

-Are there rural communities in your listening area that have good access to markets via roads or other modesof transportation? Have the roads always been good? If not, who improved the roads? How are the roads maintained?
-Are there rural communities in your listening area that are isolated due to poor road conditions or a lack of roads? Have the roads always been in poor condition, or have they been damaged or deteriorated in recent years?
-Are poor roads preventing farmers in your area from accessing markets? How do farmers cope with this situation?
-Do these isolated communities face other problems as a result of poor road conditions (for example, problems accessing health care or essential goods)? How do they cope with these problems?
-What are communities affected by poor road conditions doing to improve their roads or gain access to good transportation? Do they have plans to correct the problem as a community or make efforts to access external funding?

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Notes to broadcasters on dairy production:

Dairy production is both a traditional agricultural practice, and one that some farmers are modernizing with new equipment and practices. It remains an important source of nutritious milk for farming families, as well as a potential source of family income.

These stories from past issues of FRW look at how dairy farmers can work together to improve their income, and illustrate one reason why local milk production is increasingly valued:

-“Ethiopia: Dairy co-ops turn extra milk into profit” (FRW #74, July 2009)
-“Africa: Local milk promoted in wake of Chinese milk contamination” (FRW #39, October 2008): http://weekly.farmradio.org/2008/10/06/1-africa-local-milk-promoted-in-wake-of-chinese-milk-contamination-le-soleil-angola-press-agency-the-east-african/

The following Farm Radio International scripts may be of interest to dairy farmers in your listening area:

A farmer practices zero grazing (Package 51, Script 3, February 1999)
A mystery at the dairy: The importance of proper sanitation when working with animals (Package 63, Script 6, April 2002)
How to prevent and treat parasitic roundworms in cattle: advice from a veterinarian and a herder (Package 88, Script 2, July 2009)
‘Spray me, I’m itchy’: What moo really means (Package 88, Script 4, July 2009)

For more scripts on livestock rearing practices, follow this link:
http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/livestock.asp

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February 28, 2010: Deadline to apply for grants supporting community radio initiatives

Local and community radio stations and radio networks in Africa, along with African organizations that support local and community radio stations in Africa, are invited to apply for grants from the Dutch foundation Stem van Africa.

Applications should be for initiatives that are innovative and/or related to training. To be eligible for a grant, applications should meet the following criteria:
-intend to produce new and/or implement exceptional program formats;
-focus on often neglected, marginalized and/or under-represented groups;
-focus on often neglected and/or under-represented themes;
-engage in training initiatives that apply innovative pedagogical approaches;
-apply innovative cross-media technologies or interactive platforms;
– implement programs and practices that contribute to the social, institutional and/or financial sustainability of the radio station.

Applications are accepted in English, French, or Portuguese. The application guidelines and application form can be downloaded at: http://www.stemvanafrika.nl/index.php?article_id=16&clang=0. Complete applications must be sent by e-mail to proposal2010@stemvanafrika.nlby February 28th, 2010.

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CTA Practical Guides to agricultural practices

CTA has produced a series of practical guides on agricultural practices. These guidebooks will be of interest to many small-scale farmers. Topics include soil improvement, livestock rearing, food processing and storage, and others. Each guide is colourful and includes illustrations and easy-to-follow directions.

The guides are available in English, French, Portuguese, and Kiswahili. Below, we have provided links to electronic copies of the English guides. To find guides in other languages, and to find out how to order printed copies of the guides, visit: http://cta.esmarthosting.net/.

1. Rearing dairy goats
2. How to control Striga and stemborer in maize
3. Rainwater harvesting for increased pasture production
4. Improved practices in rearing indigenous chickens
5. Making high-quality cassava flour
6. Making sweet potato chips and flour
7. Enriched compost for higher yields
8. Preserving green leafy vegetables and fruits
9. Make a living through fish farming
10. Establishing a tree nursery
11. Making banana chips and flour
12. Processing tomatoes
13. How to keep bees and process honey
14. How to control the mango fruit fly
15. Worm control in sheep
16. Linking smallholder farmers to markets: (Please contact CTA for information on how to access this guide.)

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New scripts about climate change and rice are now online

Farm Radio International’s latest script package looks at Farmers Adapting to Climate Change. You’ll notice that the format of this script package is slightly different from past packages. The first three items in the package are issue packs. Farm Radio issue packs provide basic information on specific topics, as well as suggestions for producing local programming, and a guide to resources for further information. The issue packs in this package deal with the scientific basics of climate change, soil fertility, and water harvesting, respectively. The fourth item in the package presents several story ideas on crop storage. This is followed by three scripts that look at ways small-scale farmers can mitigate and adapt to climatic changes.

Also included in this script package are three new scripts about rice. One suggests ways to plant, harvest, and store rice to ensure a high quality product, while the other two describe techniques for keeping birds away from rice crops. These scripts were produced as part of Farm Radio International’s ongoing collaboration with the Africa Rice Center.

Farm Radio International script package 89 can be found online at: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/.

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Indigenous knowledge and livestock raising

Our story from Mauritius introduces a young man who took up dairy farming 20 years after his family abandoned that very business. Every day, in Africa and elsewhere, children and youth learn agricultural practices from their families and communities. But, unfortunately, important traditional knowledge can be lost when youth or entire families choose not to farm.

This week’s script visits two countries outside of Africa – Costa Rica and Indonesia – for examples of traditional knowledge in livestock rearing. It describes an indigenous method for housing chickens, and traditional knowledge that assists in livestock breeding. These stories may be of interest to your listeners, or you may use them as inspiration for a local report on the use of indigenous knowledge in agriculture.

This script can also be found online at: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/60-10script_en.asp.

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