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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 #97

Greetings to all!

We extend a special welcome to our newest subscribers: Balcha Kebede Sisay, from Adama University in Ethiopia; Richard Omondi Oyoo, from Macomed Community Radio Services in Kenya; Mousa Adamou, Lawan Adbou, Bonkano Bawa, Moumouni Moussa, and Boukari Salissou, all from Radio Rurale Fara’a in Niger; and Eric Pohlman, from One Acre Fund in Rwanda. We hope you enjoy this week’s edition!

This week, we bring you two stories of farmers coping with pest problems. FRW correspondent Prince Collins brings us our first story from Bong County, Liberia. This area was devastated one year ago, when a caterpillar invasion forced people from their homes and destroyed their crops. You’ll find out how communities have persevered to rebuild their livelihoods. Our second story turns to Kenya’s Nyeri District, where coffee farmers are dealing with green scales. Local agronomists provide advice on how to manage this pest. Our third story will be of special interest to fishing communities, as it looks at the issue of illegal offshore fishing, and how local Ghanaian have been empowered to control it.

Scroll down to find out about an award offered by One World Radio and a resource produced by the United Nations Educational Scientific & Cultural Organization. And, for those who want to have their say in the formation of Farm Radio International’s online social networking community, turn to the Farm Radio Action section. The deadline for completing the survey is tomorrow, February 2.

Happy reading!

-The Farm Radio Weekly Team

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In this week’s Farm Radio Weekly:

African Farm News in Review

1. Liberia: Community support helps farmers rebuild following caterpillar invasion (by Prince Collins, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Monrovia, Liberia)

2. Kenya: Solutions offered for ’green scales‘ that attack coffee trees (Daily Nation)

Upcoming Events

3. Ghana: Local fishers use cameras to catch illegal fishing (IRIN, Peace FM Online, Ghana News Agency)

Upcoming Events

-February 26, 2010: Deadline to apply for Special Award from One World Media

Radio Resource Bank

-What are the main considerations in selecting field recording equipment?

Farm Radio Action

-Last chance to respond to survey about online social networking community

Farm Radio Script of the Week

-Reduce pests naturally with biological pest control

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1. Liberia: Community support helps farmers rebuild following caterpillar invasion (by Prince Collins, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Monrovia, Liberia)

Tapia Molley will never forget that fateful day when caterpillars invaded his farm. He remembers watching the caterpillars eating his cabbages. He cried at the sight of his crops being destroyed. It seemed that all his effort was in vain.

It has been one year since caterpillars invaded Liberia’s Bong County. They devoured crops, contaminated water sources, and took over buildings. Villagers fled and the government declared a state of emergency.

It was a heavy blow to farmers in this important agricultural area. But they have recovered, finding hope and replanting their fields.

“Thank God we are moving ahead with our lives since the incident,” Mr. Molley said. His neighbours helped him prepare his land. The cabbages are growing again. Mr. Molley is proud to say that his crop is valued at $5,000.

Annie Yarkpawolo is another farmer grateful for the help of neighbours. She is a single mother of five children. Ms. Yarkpawolo said she almost gave up on life when the caterpillars took over her sweet potato field. But she later found courage. With the support of other villagers, she replanted her potatoes. She expects to harvest 20 bags of potatoes in February. These will provide food for her family and planting materials for next season.

Terry Tamba actually expanded his planting following the caterpillar invasion. He admits it was frustrating to start from square one. But he got a loan from a local agricultural bank. He and his family replanted their pepper crop. This time, it is even larger. He is happy to see the peppers grow. The proceeds from this crop will feed his family and send his two children to school.

Food grown in Bong County is not only important for locals, but for other counties as well. Much of Liberia’s cassava, eddoes, plantains, bananas, and potatoes are grown here. Farming is a livelihood and a way of life.

Lorpu Kollie says no amount of caterpillars could prevent her from farming. She says: “I love doing it. This is what my parents taught me to do.” She was troubled when caterpillars devoured her rice. But she put it behind her and redoubled her efforts. Many people from Bong County relied on emergency food relief when they were displaced from their homes. Now, Ms. Kollie looks forward to harvesting and eating her own rice.

The Liberian government has set up a task force to determine how to prevent future caterpillar invasions. They are awaiting the task force’s report.

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2. Kenya: Solutions offered for ’green scales‘ that attack coffee trees (Daily Nation)

John Mwangi was not happy with his coffee harvest this year. His trees produced only 350 kilograms of berries. Normally, he harvests more than ten times that amount. But this year, his crop was attacked by pests known as green scales.

Many coffee farms in Kenya’s Nyeri District have been attacked by green scales. Local agronomists say crops were particularly vulnerable after the recent drought.

Robert Thuo is an agronomist with the Kenya Heartland Coffee project. He explains how green scales damage trees. The insects attack during the dry season, sucking fluid from the trees. They then excrete onto the leaves, leaving them black. The trees become stressed and may die.

Green scales are an unwelcome arrival in Nyeri. But they are not a new pest.

Dr. Chrispine Omondi is a former researcher with the Coffee Research Foundation. He says green scales are manageable and no cause for alarm. He suggests solutions for the short- and long-term.

In the short term, ladybird beetles (sometimes called ladybirds or lady beetles) can be introduced to coffee plantations. The ladybirds eat green scales, controlling the pest in an environmentally-friendly manner.

To protect future crops, Dr. Omondi recommends intercropping coffee with shade trees. The intercropped trees should be taller, providing shade for the coffee. When coffee bushes are protected from the hot sun, they are less vulnerable to pest attack. They also mature more slowly, producing a better berry.

Dr. Omondi explains that intercropping has other benefits. It prevents soil erosion, improves soil quality, and offers crop diversification.

Several agro-chemical companies are trying to find a chemical pesticide that will control green scales. To date, they have had no success.

You may also be interested in this related FRW article on intercropping coffee and bananas:

-“Uganda: Coffee and bananas make good neighbours” (FRW #90, November 2009)

-For links to Farm Radio International’s scripts on pest management, go to: http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/pest.asp.

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3. Ghana: Local fishers use cameras to catch illegal fishing (IRIN, Peace FM Online, Ghana News Agency

Ayele Okine grills fingerlings on Jamestown Beach in Accra, Ghana. Smoke billows from her charcoal fire. She tells the story of how her husband became a criminal. He was a fisherman, but fishing became unprofitable. Illegal fishing vessels were depleting stocks and damaging small-scale fishing equipment. Ms. Okine’s husband became frustrated and depressed. Then one day he was arrested for robbery.

Ms. Okine’s husband is one of thousands of small-scale fishers who have given up fishing along Accra’s coast. They feel they cannot compete with foreign trawlers – especially those that use illegal practices.

But local fishers were recently presented with a tool to fight back. The Ghana Fisheries Commission has given them cameras to help document illegal fishing.

Mike Kwabena Akyeampong is chair of the commission. He says the government doesn’t have the capacity to monitor the shoreline around the clock. So they need the eyes of small-scale fishers. They train fishers to gather intelligence and report back to security agencies.

The initiative paid off almost immediately. In December, local fishers reported two foreign vessels operating illegally. Both of the vessels were fishing inshore, an area protected by law for local, small-scale fishers. Fishers presented evidence that, by deliberately entering protected water, the foreign trawlers destroyed the nets of local fishers. Both foreign vessels had their licenses suspended.

Ghana’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food is seeking amendments to the fisheries law to raise fines for illegal fishing. They also want to make it more difficult for foreign trawlers to obtain a fishing license.

The ministry is in the process of acquiring two patrol boats so that the Navy can arrest illegal trawlers. In the meantime, local fishers use their new cameras to monitor the shores.

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Notes to broadcasters on recovering from caterpillar invasion:

Last year’s caterpillar outbreak in Liberia wreaked havoc on many villages and triggered concerns about food shortages resulting from crop destruction. There were fears that neighbouring countries were at risk. One year later, it is heartening to hear about the resilience of farmers in affected areas, and the community effort that got farming back on track.

If you have a story about how a community in your listening area has recovered from a serious pest outbreak, we would be interested in hearing about it. Please consider posting your story in the comments section of this article, or e-mail FRW Editor Heather Miller at hmiller@farmradio.org.

Here are some suggestions on how your radio organization might approach programming during a major pest outbreak:

1) If you broadcast in an area that is, or may be, directly affected by the outbreak:
-Keep in touch with relevant authorities and NGOs for accurate and up-to-date information on the situation, and take note of any support services available to those who are affected.
-If possible, send reporters to speak with people in affected areas, or people who have fled affected areas. Find out how they are affected and what they are doing to cope.
2) If you broadcast in an area that is unlikely to be directly affected by the current crisis:
-Consider informing your listeners about the pest outbreak.
-Broadcast information on how to control the pest or other pests that pose a threat to farmers in the area.

If your area is periodically threatened by pests such as desert locusts which cannot be controlled by individual farmers alone, you may consider a program that answers questions such as:

-How do farmers’ organizations in your area work together to combat locust swarms or other pests that cannot be controlled by individual farmers alone?
-What measures do individual farmers or farmers’ organizations in your area take to prepare for food shortages caused by natural disasters? What other measures could they take?

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Notes to broadcasters on illegal fishing:

Declining fish stocks are a concern in many parts of Africa where people make their living as fishers. More than half of Ghana’s 20 million people reside within 100 kilometres of the coast, and fish represent the primary source of both dietary protein and income.

This week’s article focuses on how illegal fishing contributes to the problem. More information on illegal fishing activities, and efforts to stop them, can be found on this website: http://www.illegal-fishing.info/sub_approach.php?subApproach_id=61#news_anchor.

Past FRW news articles have looked at steps that fishing communities can take to ensure they do not deplete local fish stocks. For example, seasonal fishing bans, designed to halt fishing during the time that fish reproduce, aim to ensure healthy fish populations. In November 2008, FRW reported on a proposed seasonal fishing ban for Lake Victoria. (http://weekly.farmradio.org/2008/11/03/east-africa-fishers-and-scientists-back-seasonal-fishing-ban-for-lake-victoria-new-vision/) Last August, we reported that some of Madagascar’s fishers are learning to use larger-meshed nets to avoid catching very small fish, another technique that helps fish stocks to regenerate. (http://weekly.farmradio.org/2009/08/03/1-madagascar-fishers-reel-in-prizes-while-learning-to-keep-waters-stocked-syfia-info/)

If you broadcast to a fishing community, you may wish to host a panel discussion on the topic of maintaining fish stocks. Invite one or more local fishers and/or representatives from fisher organizations, as well as representatives from relevant government agencies or NGOs. Questions for discussion might include:

-How have local fish stocks changed (increased or decreased) in recent years?
-What has caused this change? (For example, has overfishing caused fish stocks to drop, or have management techniques caused the stock to improve)?
-What laws are in place to regulate fishing practices used by local fisherman and by offshore vessels (if applicable)?
-Do locals play a role in monitoring the practices of offshore vessels, as fishers in Ghana are now being encouraged to do?
-What fishery management policies and methods, such as seasonal fishing bans or use of larger-meshed nets, do fishers use to promote healthy fish stocks?
-If local fishers observe a seasonal fishing ban, what income-generating activities (such as selling dried fish or producing other products) do fishers pursue in order to sustain themselves during non-fishing seasons?

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February 26, 2010: Deadline to apply for Special Award from One World Media

The Special Award for Development Media is presented by One World Media. It recognizes an outstanding media project or organization working on the ground in the developing world, which has made a real impact on the lives of those living and working near it. Local radio or television initiatives (including a specific program or channel, or a network of stations), print media, or new media that address social or developmental issues are eligible to apply. Advocacy media initiatives working at a grassroots level are also eligible.

The winner of the Special Award will be flown to London, United Kingdom, to receive a trophy at an awards ceremony on June 22, 2010, with all expenses paid. The deadline to apply is February 26, 2010. For more information on the award and how to apply, visit: http://oneworldmedia.org.uk/awards/how_to_enter/special_award.

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What are the main considerations in selecting field recording equipment?

One of FRW’s Indian subscribers, Mahesh Acharya, thoughtfully referred us to a guide to community radio technology prepared by the United Nations Educational Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2007. In late 2006, the government of India decided to allow community radio stations in the country. The technology guide was designed to answer the questions of prospective radio operators about the kind of equipment needed to set up a community station.

The following is adapted from the guide, describing factors to consider when selecting field recording equipment. You may also refer to the complete guide – CR: A user’s guide to the technology, online at: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0015/001561/156197e.pdf.

1) Ruggedness. Any equipment we move around with should be able to take some basic knocks and bumps without malfunctioning: climbing in and out of vehicles, travelling in crowded buses, and hiking some distances on foot are par for the course for community radio volunteers, and the equipment should be able to take that. You’ll find that modern solid state recorders, in particular, fulfill this condition well, as they have very few moving parts.

2) Resistance to humidity and dust. Many pieces of electronic equipment are so sensitive that they cannot withstand shifts in temperature – indoors to outdoors, for example, or from sunshine to shade. Others get easily fouled by the fine dust that pervades cities and rural areas and need multiple cleanings of their heads and other moving parts to stay in working order. Such pieces of equipment cannot be part of our field recording kit. While some maintenance is unavoidable, the ideal field equipment will not mind a bit of dust and will have a large operating temperature range.

3) Adaptability and portability. While we are in the field, we do not have the luxury of carrying large varieties of equipment to suit different situations. The recording equipment we carry has to give adequate or good results in all the situations and recording conditions we are likely to encounter. (This means the microphone has to be good for delicate as well as harsh sounds, voices as well as music, able to work in noisy conditions and in quiet.) Similarly, this will be equipment we will be carrying on our persons most of the time, so it has to be reasonably light, or we will be weighed down and tired out by just the effort of carrying it around.

4) Availability of spares and ancillaries. While most modern electronic equipment is too complex for us to expect that there will be people capable of repairing faults wherever we go, always plan on acquiring field recording equipment for which supplies are available easily in the areas you work in. For example, choose equipment that uses standard AA, AAA or D cells over fancy proprietary batteries that may not be easily available. Similarly, if the availability of recording media is an issue for you, it makes better sense to choose an audio cassette based recording device than a MiniDisc (MD) or DAT recorder. (Of course, this is not always a problem – MDs and DATs, for example, are highly reusable media, and can be erased and reused several times, thereby increasing the gap before fresh supplies are needed.)

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Last chance to respond to survey about online social networking community

For years, Farm Radio International has heard from rural radio broadcasters in our network that they want to be better connected. Because of this, Farm Radio is about to develop an online social networking community. In order to get a better sense of what you would like to see included in this online community, we ask you to take 15 minutes to fill out a survey. Your answers are very important because they will help shape the content and functions of Farm Radio’s online social networking community.

The survey was sent via e-mail last week, but there is still time to provide your responses – if you act quickly. We want to get the online community started as soon as possible, so please complete this survey by Tuesday, February 2, 2010. Here is the link for the survey:https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/B5M3NGY.

If you have any questions or problems, please do not hesitate to contact Nelly Bassily, Farm Radio’s Research and Production Officer, at nbassily@farmradio.org.

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Reduce pests naturally with biological pest control

In our story from Kenya, we heard that ladybird beetles can help control green scale pests in coffee plantations. This is an example of biological pest control, a method of reducing pest populations by using their natural enemies. In the context of biological pest control, the ladybird beetle, or lady beetle, would be described as a “beneficial insect.”

As this week’s script explains, the lady beetle can be used to manage many pests. And there are many other beneficial insects that can play this role. Read on for more details on how farmers can use biological pest control to protect their crops without using pesticides.

This script can be found online at: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/72-4script_en.asp.

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