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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 #95

Welcome to our readers!

We extend a special welcome to the newest members of our ever-growing Farm Radio Weekly community: Jean Baptiste Musabyimana, a journalist for the farmers’ organization FOPAC in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Daud Yussuf, from Reuters in Kenya; and, from Radio Communautaire Biso Na Biso in Republic of Congo, Pulchérie Ekanga, Lydie Biramani, Damase Moundongué, and Lydie Koungou. If you are reading our newsletter online, please note that subscribing to FRW is as easy as following this link and entering your contact information: http://farmradio.org/english/partners/fr_weekly_subscribe.asp.

This week, we bring you two stories that look at various aspects of the “land grab” issue. Our first story from Cameroon visits a community where a Chinese company operates a large farm on leased land. We hear local people’s experiences with working for the company, and learn why some consumers are boycotting company-grown rice. Our second story looks briefly at why a major sugarcane-for-ethanol project was recently cancelled by the Mozambican government.

Other resources offered in this week’s issue focus on Farm Radio’s collaboration with the Africa Rice Center. Scroll to the Radio Resource Bank for information on how to access videos offering “farmer-to-farmer” advice on rice production, and go to the Script of the Week for a new script on how to keep birds away from rice 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. Cameroon: Locals denounce poor worker treatment, poor quality rice, from Chinese-run farm (Syfia Info)

2. Mozambique: Government cancels ethanol deal with foreign investor (UPI)

3. Zimbabwe: Farmers protest imported GM produce (Radio Voice of the People)

Upcoming Events

-April 30, 2010: Deadline to apply for scholarship to International Media Studies Master’s program

Radio Resource Bank

-‘Farmer-to-farmer’ videos on growing rice

Farm Radio Action

-Farm Radio’s Managing Editor meets with radio organizations in whirlwind visit to Cameroon

Farm Radio Script of the Week

-Combine different methods to keep birds away from rice fields

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1. Cameroon: Locals denounce poor worker treatment, poor quality rice, from Chinese-run farm (Syfia Info)

Come rain or sunshine, farmers are at work in the agricultural community of Nanga-Eboko, Cameroon. Two thousand hectares of land here are controlled by a Chinese company. Chinese workers are employed full-time to tend to the fields. They are responsible for planting, weeding, and harvesting crops. Sometimes, a small group of local people is paid to help out.

A citizen of Nanga-Eboko described a typical day working for the company. Dayworkers toil for eight to ten hours. There is no break. They work under the sun and in the rain. The daily pay for their efforts: 1,000 CFA (about 2.2 American dollars of 1.5 Euros). This amounts to less than the guaranteed minimum wage in Cameroon, which is just over 28,000 CFA per month (about 62 American dollars or 43 Euros).

The man is not alone in his discontentment with the Chinese company. Many locals are unhappy about the company’s presence. The national government leased land to a Chinese company called Sino Cam Iko without consulting local people. The contracted land includes 2,000 hectares in Nanga-Eboko, 4,000 hectares in Ndjoré, and 4,000 hectares in Santchou. The company may lease the land for up to 99 years.

Mr. Zhao is director of Sino Cam Iko. He says they want workers to work harder so the company can grow. Instead, local workers complain of mistreatment.

A taxi driver who worked on the company farm says they do not allow local workers to enjoy the fruits of their labour. He says that if they catch you with some rice in your pocket, they send you to jail.

Many local people fear that the entire project will benefit China, rather than locals. The ACDIC is a citizens’ organization that defends local interests. Bernard Njonga is president. He maintains that, when land is sold to local buyers, there is a better chance that local labour will be used, and produce will be sold in local markets. With foreign buyers, there is no such guarantee, Mr. Njonga insists.

To date, Sino Cam Iko has sold rice grown in Cameroon to local markets. But some are refusing to buy, even though it sells for a lower price. One restaurant owner said that this was her way of denouncing the presence of the Chinese company. Other locals insist that the Sino Cam Iko rice is of poor quality and does not cook well.

Local dissatisfaction does not seem to deter Sino Cam Iko. Mr. Zhao says the company will expand across Cameroon and beyond. He contends that the company provides local jobs and helps meet local food needs. According to Mr. Zhao, a memorandum of understanding with the government requires that the company’s produce be sold locally. To date, this promise has not satisfied or comforted local people.

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2. Mozambique: Government cancels ethanol deal with foreign investor (UPI)

Across Africa, rural communities are protesting against land grabs. Farmers have been joined by environmentalists and land activists concerned about foreign companies taking control of farmland. In some cases, these protests have been effective in stopping land deals.

In Mozambique, a deal between the government and a foreign investor was recently cancelled. But it wasn’t due to local protest. The deal was cancelled because the investor was slow to clear the land.

Procana is the name of a proposed sugarcane plantation in southern Mozambique. The plantation was to cover 30,000 hectares. The sugarcane was earmarked for ethanol production.

A British company was the original investor in the project. But following a series of transfers, the project is now managed by a company called Sable Mining, which is based in the Caribbean.

At the end of December, the Mozambique government announced that the contract with the land investor was void. The reason given was that the company had cleared only 800 hectares of land, leaving more than 29,000 hectares untouched.

While this news story proves that protests aren’t the only way for a land deal to collapse, the following FRW reports describe cases where protesting has been effective in halting land grab attempts:

-“Africa: Angola land deal announced; Madagascar land deal on hold” (FRW #52, January 2009)
-“Kenya: Local resistance to land grab captures government, investor attention” (FRW #70, June 2009)
-“Republic of the Congo: Land deals on hold” (FRW #71, June 2009)

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3. Zimbabwe: Farmers protest imported GM produce (Radio Voice of the People)

In Zimbabwe, imported genetically modified maize sells for about 60 American dollars per tonne (about 42 Euros). That’s just a fraction of what it costs local farmers to produce the same quantity of maize. A national farmers union says that imported GM crops threaten their livelihoods. They are withholding their grain production in protest.

Robert Marapira is acting president of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union. He says local farmers want to make a profit. But when the government allows GM crops to be imported, this is not possible.

Members of the farmers union have agreed not to sell their crops through the government’s Grain Marketing Board. According to Mr. Marapira, millions of tonnes of maize are being withheld.

Under Zimbabwe’s laws, it is illegal to grow GM crops in the country. There is no ban on the import of GM produce.

The use of genetically-modified (GM) crops remains one of the most hotly-debated topics in African agriculture. While this news story highlights the potential of imported GM crops to distort national markets, this is only one of many concerns that some farmers, environmentalists, and other activists have raised. Some of these concerns are discussed in the following FRW news stories:

-“Benin: A cautious approach in the midst of the heated debate on GMOs” (Issue #16, March 2008)
-“South Africa: Farmers reject GM potato” (Issue #38, September 2008)
-“ Kenya: Kibaki gives seal of approval on biosafety law for the production and use of genetically modified crops” (Issue #56, February 2009)
-“South Africa: GM crop problems called ‘failure of biotechnology’” (Issue #63, April 2009)

-The Food and Agriculture Organization has prepared a list of arguments for and against GMOs, as follows:
-Arguments for: http://www.fao.org/english/newsroom/focus/2003/gmo7.htm
-Arguments against: http://www.fao.org/english/newsroom/focus/2003/gmo8.htm

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Notes to broadcasters on Chinese-run farm:

Farm Radio Weekly has been following the issue of farmland grabbing in Africa since November 2008, when it was announced that a South Korean company intended to lease half of Madagascar’s arable land. Since then, there have been countless media reports on the issue of farmland grabbing.

One of the primary concerns with land grabbing is a fear that local people will be expelled from land on which they make their livelihoods, and that local land will be used to produce food or biofuel for export, instead of providing food to local people. At the same time, many foreign investors insist that, by operating large-scale farms on African land, they will provide jobs and increase food production. Our news story from Cameroon illustrates how foreign land investment has played out in one community, and particularly how locals remain dissatisfied with job opportunities offered by a Chinese-run farm and mistrustful of the company’s stated intention to sell its produce locally.

Research has been conducted on how land transactions could be carried out to benefit everyone, including local people. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) recommends the following to ensure that local people are protected in land deals: transparency in negotiations; respect for existing land rights; equitable sharing of benefits; environmental sustainability; and abidance with national trade policies. The IFPRI report, entitled: “Land grabbing” by foreign investors in developing countries: Risks and opportunities, is available online, here: http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/bp/bp013.asp.

The following questions may serve as a starting point for investigating 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, what was the process? If not, what was the outcome?
-What sort of agriculture (commercial, subsistence, etc.) is being practiced on the land in question and what sort of crops are being grown? What type of agriculture do the foreign investors wish to practice?
-Who will control the land? Who will profit? Who stands to lose?
-Will the local community benefit from the land investment? What guarantees do they have that the investors will deliver any benefits promised?
-If rural people have been or will be displaced by the land grab, 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?

You may also wish to review the following FRW articles, published as part of our series on land grabbing. Each of these stories highlights how local people are affected, and how they have mobilized to resist land grab attempts and/or ensure a better deal for their communities:

-“Land grabbing in Africa: An overview” (FRW #69, June 2009)
-“Sudan: Madi community fights land grab attempts” (FRW #69, June 2009)
-“Malawi: Villagers lose land to sugar plantation” (FRW #70, June 2009)
-“Uganda: Urban farmers fight eviction” (FRW#72, June 2009)
-“Ghana: European biofuel company meets resistance after clearing forests” (FRW#73, July 2009)

For regular updates on the issue of farmland grabbing, or to upload your own reports on the issue, visit the following website, created by the NGO GRAIN: http://farmlandgrab.org/.

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April 30, 2010: Deadline to apply for scholarship to International Media Studies Master’s program

Ten media professionals from Africa, Asia, Latin America, or Eastern Europe will be awarded full scholarships to the Deutsche Welle Master’s Program in International Media Studies. Journalists, media managers, and employees from communication departments are invited to apply.

The Master’s program is four-semester, full-time program. It combines topics such as media and development, journalism, communication science and media economics, with opportunity to develop practical skills and competencies.

The deadline to apply is April 30, 2010. For more information on the program, including details on how to apply online, visit: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/0,2692,12276,00.html.

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‘Farmer-to-farmer’ videos on growing rice

The Africa Rice Center has produced a series of videos on several topics related to rice farming, such as: land and seedbed preparation; managing weeds and soil fertility; and improving quality and adding value to obtain good prices. These videos feature interviews with farmers and clear visuals to illustrate techniques.

There are 11 videos in all. English versions of the videos can be found online, here: http://www.africarice.org/warda/guide-video.asp. To obtain copies of the videos in local languages, visit this website and find the contact person in your country: http://www.africarice.org/warda/guide-video-contact.asp.

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Farm Radio’s Managing Editor meets with radio organizations in whirlwind visit to Cameroon

In November of last year, Farm Radio International’s Managing Editor, Vijay Cuddeford, travelled to Cameroon to meet with broadcasting partners and potential new partners from across the country. He tells his story below:

“I recently completed a whirlwind three-and-a-half week tour of Cameroon, visiting our partners and meeting with potential partners. I was really fortunate to be accompanied to most of my meetings by James Achanyi-Fontem of Cameroon Link, or by Frederic Takang, who has worked for several radio stations in Cameroon. Besides translating for me (to make up for my quite basic French), the fact that my “guides” were known to so many of those I visited helped ensure a warm welcome.

In all, I visited 37 partners and other organizations between November 20 and December 11, 2009. Through James’ connections, I was interviewed on radio three times and on TV twice. James was also interviewed on both TV and radio on the subject of Farm Radio International, and there was some newspaper coverage. So it’s fair to say that Farm Radio International received a lot of media attention during my visit.

The meetings covered the following themes: an introduction to Farm Radio International and its programs, some questions about the station I was visiting, mention of Cameroon Link’s developing role as Farm Radio’s intermediary organization in Cameroon, some free discussion, then finally tours and photos of the station.

At almost every station and organization I visited, there was a lot of interest in our work. I was particularly excited to meet staff from stations in some of the more remote, rural communities, many of whom had travelled several hours to meet with me in the main cities. I was impressed by their commitment to serving smallholder farmer audiences, and by their dedication, in spite of a sometimes challenging lack of resources.

I have heard that there are 60 or more community radio stations in Cameroon – community radio is obviously expanding rapidly. We have a very good partner in Cameroon Link: James knows the media environment in Cameroon well, and is a well-known and respected figure in Cameroon radio.

I wish to thank everyone with whom I visited for their very warm welcome. Speaking for Farm Radio International (and for myself personally), I am looking forward to collaborating with you all in the future.”

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Combine different methods to keep birds away from rice fields

If there are rice farmers in your area, they are sure to know several ways to scarebirds away from their fields. But keeping them away can be difficult. This script suggests how farmers can combine methods to keep their rice safe until harvest time.

This script was produced as part of Farm Radio International’s ongoing partnership with the Africa Rice Center. It can also be found online at: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/89-10script_en.asp.

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