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African Farm News in Review

Congo-Brazzaville: Stigma still a barrier for mixed HIV status couples (by Privat Tiburce Massanga, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Fénelon Mboumba sits under a mango tree cradling his newborn baby. He knows all about the stigma faced by those living with HIV. In his home village near Mossendjo in southern Congo-Brazzaville, villagers still struggle to accept those who live with HIV, and even those who live with an HIV-positive partner.

Ibouanga Madeleine is married to Mr. Mboumba. Because she lives with HIV, the couple were forced to relocate to the city of Brazzaville.

Mr. Mboumba says that living with other people’s negative attitudes is often more difficult than dealing with the virus. He adds: “My wife was pregnant and suffering from tuberculosis. We already had two kids. My friends and family pushed me to separate [from her] because she presented clinical signs of HIV.”

Although criticized, mocked and publicly humiliated, Mr. Mboumba insists he would never leave his wife because of her HIV status. The couple abandoned their cassava fields and moved to the city to escape villagers’ ridicule.

Tears stream from Mr. Mboumba’s eyes as he says, “I doubted [our HIV statuses until] the day when we came to Brazzaville to take the tests. The tests showed that I was negative but my wife was positive.”

After a short silence, he gives a wry smile and adds: “The relatives who had hosted us [in the city] no longer wanted us in their home. We spent two weeks sleeping under the stars, not knowing where to go. It was very difficult until someone told us about the Association Femmes Solidaires. [The association] took us in and helped us.”

The association encouraged Mrs. Ibouanga to start anti-retroviral medication, or ARVs. Three months later, her baby was born healthy – she had not passed the virus on to the child.

Sweeping the porch of their new home, Mrs. Ibouanga praises the association. She says: “I cannot thank the association enough. It renewed my taste for life. This trial has shown me how my husband supports me and how great is the ignorance about this disease. I suffered more from other people’s discrimination and mockery than I do from the virus that is eating away at me.”

Emma Tsoulou is the executive director of the Association Femmes Solidaires. The association gives moral support to women facing stigma because they are living with HIV. It also provides social assistance by taking the women in and feeding them.

Mrs. Tsoulou explains the association’s mission, saying: “When these women arrive, it is up to us to explain to them why they have experienced [stigma] either in their neighbourhoods, or from their extended families, or at home. We bring women together to talk; we create a space where women who have suffered similar problems can comfort newcomers.”

Each woman has different needs. Sometimes the association simply provides shelter. It may also offer financial support so a woman can buy food or even start a small business.

Mrs. Ibouanga is grateful for the association’s help. She is also convinced of the benefits of HIV testing, and of anti-retroviral treatment. She says: “I must [now] be a spokeswoman for the fight against HIV and AIDS. Since I stated ARVs, I have put on weight. I must follow doctors’ advice in order not to have a relapse. I was told that I could return to my village if I come back to the city every three months to stock up on drugs. I want to recover my children, and my fields.”

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Kenya: Lack of justice for victims of sexual violence (Trust)

Ms. Ayaimba could not believe it. A man walked into her office and demanded that his daughter be returned to him. He had been arrested just two days previously for raping the three-year-old girl.

Ms. Ayaimba is a local government official in an impoverished Nairobi neighbourhood. According to medical reports, the three-year-old girl had a torn hymen, bite marks, bruising and cuts. But the police officer who had released the man and accompanied him to Ms. Ayaimba’s office insisted that the girl be returned to her father.

Ms. Ayaimba says, “How could I give the child back to the father who was raping the child day and night?” She adds, “An uncle of this man, who is a very senior government officer, came to me and told me: ‘If you don’t produce the child and drop this case, I will make sure that you are fired.’”

Government figures show that one in three Kenyan girls experience sexual violence before the age of 18. But, according to campaigners, many survivors of sexual violence in Kenya are denied justice as a result of an “epidemic” of corruption and intimidation.

Doctors, lawyers, police officers and community workers at a recent Nairobi seminar on sexual violence charged that the criminal justice system functions poorly.

Suspects try to bribe and threaten police, judges and survivors. Public ignorance, stigma and poverty are additional challenges. Poor families often bow to pressure to drop the case in return for a few banknotes.

One police officer says: “I have been threatened on several occasions. I have had some cases where the complainant disappeared mysteriously. [Two complainants] have been killed.” Kenya’s police investigators are overworked. Morale is low, and they lack the training and proper equipment required to collect and safely store evidence.

Edigah Kavulavu is a lawyer with the Kenyan section of the International Commission of Jurists. He says: “People are not well informed about preservation of evidence. Also, [with] the taboo associated with rape, [many victims] will go and take a bath and … [thereby] destroy the evidence.” A forensics expert adds that sometimes crimes can only be solved by trying to match the DNA of a baby born to a victim of rape with DNA from the rapist.

Most victims of sexual violence are children, and most of the perpetrators are people they know. One doctor treated two sisters, aged six and seven, after they were raped. The doctor says: “[The perpetrator] paid a goat to the father and the case went away. Justice is never found, people are not prosecuted and the perpetrator is likely to repeat the same offence.” The doctor adds, “Some of [the survivors] are just afraid of going to the police. The family should be assisted to go to court and get the perpetrators prosecuted.”

But it is not easy to get justice, even for the courageous. Cases can drag on for years and survivors and witnesses run out of time, money and stamina. Prosecutors find it difficult to connect the survivors’ stories with poorly gathered evidence, or link the suspect with the assault.

A lawyer says that if the crime was badly investigated, and the evidence collected incorrectly, it is difficult to secure a conviction.

Ms. Ayaimba refused to hand the three-year-old rape victim back to her father. Two years later, the girl is safe and the case is in the courts.

Editors’ note: Ms. Ayaimba did not supply her full name to the investigating journalist.

To read the full article on which this story was based, What price the rape of a child? In Kenya, impunity can be bought with a goat, go to: http://www.trust.org/item/20141111115659-zgoko

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Sierra Leone and Liberia: Radio stations broadcast school lessons

Authorities have closed schools in Liberia and Sierra Leone because of the Ebola outbreak. There is no immediate prospect of reopening classrooms, so a growing number of students are receiving their lessons on the radio.

Tuan Tarper is a teacher in Monrovia. He says, “If a child stops learning for too long, you will see that child begin to decline.”

Maxim Blateen is the director of communications for Liberia’s Ministry of Education. He says: “In the midst of Ebola, the Ministry of Education has embarked on this program because we want our children to be engaged academically … we wanted to bring them something to keep them learning.”

Dozens of local FM stations are broadcasting 30-minute lessons at least twice a day. The broadcasts are aimed at children aged six and older. More than one million people in Liberia have tuned in since the programs first aired in mid-September.

In Sierra Leone, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is partnering with aid agencies to target more than one and a half million schoolchildren. Forty-one stations broadcast four one-hour lessons daily.

Many lessons are purely academic. But others focus on health and hygiene to help stop the spread of Ebola. Each lesson is followed by an assignment.

Many children appreciate and enjoy the radio lessons, but most say it is not the same as going to school.

Hannah Bangure is an 11-year-old student at Services Primary School in Freetown, Sierra Leone. She misses spending time with her teacher and getting help on assignments. Ms. Bangure says, “For me, the lessons … on the radio are basic … but [they are] helping me to stay in touch with my education, rather than just playing all the time.”

Thirteen-year-old Mary Cole is a student at the Paynesville Kindergarten School in Liberia. She says, “It isn’t easy. This is radio, so you have to listen attentively to what they are saying. But we are getting it gradually.”

Education officials are aware that radio lessons are not a perfect solution, but they say they are doing the best they can, and adjusting as they go.

Mr. Blateen says radio lessons are currently the only way to help children remember the things they have already learned. He encourages children to listen to the radio, and think about and learn from the lessons.

He also wants teachers to help raise awareness of Ebola. He says: “They need to engage themselves and work with the community to fight this deadly Ebola, because that is the only way we will resume our activities and reopen schools.”

Mary Cole hopes this will happen soon. She says, “The government does not want us to be infected, so the decision [to keep schools closed] is in the right direction. But I am missing school very much. I hope Ebola will go so I can return to school.”

To read the full article on which this story was based, School lessons by radio in Sierra Leone, Liberia, go to: http://www.irinnews.org/report/100838/school-lessons-by-radio-in-sierra-leone-liberia

To hear an audio piece on radio lessons in Sierra Leone, go to: https://soundcloud.com/irinfilms/school-lessons-by-radio-in

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Uganda: Widow recovers from violent marriage (by Geoffrey Ojok, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Tears of anguish roll down Sidonia Akello’s cheeks as she remembers the agonies she suffered during her marriage. But her life is different now that her husband is dead.

In hushed tones, Mrs. Akello sings a Luo funeral song to her one-year-old daughter, who she has rapped securely in a shawl on her back.

The 32-year-old mother of three endured a life of sorrow in her home village, Te-Oburu, about 400 kilometres north of Uganda’s capital city, Kampala.

In June 2013, villagers were stunned by the sight of Mrs. Akello standing before the village court bleeding from a gash on the side of her head. Her husband, Denis Oyar, had demanded she have sex with him. When she refused, he flew into a rage and cut off her ear. She had given birth only two weeks earlier and was still recovering from labour.

Mr. Oyar was often drunk and regularly beat his wife senseless. On the night in question, after beating her, he picked up his machete and cut off her right ear. The two older children ran out into the dark, screaming for someone to come to their mother’s aid.

David Okao is the village chief. He says, “Oyar committed an offence. We punished him and made him provide medical care to his wife.”

Mr. Oyar died six months later. But Mrs. Akello’s misery didn’t end. Her brother-in-law accused her of denying him his inheritance. She was sentenced to 60 lashes, and forced to sell a goat in order to pay a fine of $18 U.S.

But when all seemed lost, fortune smiled on Mrs. Akello. Her neighbour Ismael Omara had noticed the widow’s plight. The 79-year-old stood up in front of the village chief and publicly gave Mrs. Akello half a hectare of land as a permanent gift.

With this small gesture, Mrs. Akello’s life changed for the better. She now grows cassava on the plot of land she received from her neighbour. The widow feeds her children with her harvest, and sells whatever is left over. She explains, “I grow cassava because [of the] high demand in this region. Besides, I don’t need to buy insecticide and weeding expenses are minimal.”

She earned $230 U.S. by selling her last cassava harvest at the market. Mrs. Akello says, “I used the money I got to pay fees for my two [older] children [to go to] primary school. I bought food with the surplus money, and now we are happy.”

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Kenya: Nairobi residents take to the streets after woman is stripped and beaten in public (The Guardian)

Hundreds of women took to the streets of Nairobi to defend their right to wear what they choose after a woman was stripped and beaten for wearing a miniskirt.

The woman was attacked at a busy bus stop in Nairobi’s Central Business District. Dozens of men surrounded the woman, tore off her clothes and forced her to the ground. According to local media, the men said the woman was “indecently dressed,” and accused her of “tempting” them.

A bystander filmed the attack, and video footage of the incident later emerged online. It shows the men calling the woman “Jezebel” as she cries for help. Kenyans have condemned the attack on social media, using the hashtag #MyDressMyChoice.

The Facebook group Kilimani Mums organized a “miniskirt protest” in central Nairobi to defend a woman’s right to wear what she chooses.

On the event page, Kilimani Mums wrote: “This morning we as Kilimani Mums met and decided that we shall hold a peaceful procession to Accra Road. This is our chance to stand together as women and deliver a message to our country that sexual violence will not be tolerated.”

Reports say that over 200 people attended the march. But as the protesters walked from Uhuru Park toward the site of the attack, they were confronted by men declaring that they would “continue to strip women who are dressed skimpily.”

Police Chief David Kimaiyo appealed to the victim of the attack to lodge an official complaint so that the police can investigate.

Campaigners say that in Kenya’s conservative society, women’s rights are often abused. Winnie Kabintie is a correspondent for KenyaForum.net. She writes: “It doesn’t matter whether or not the woman was indecently dressed; after all, what’s the benchmark for what is considered decent? Furthermore, how did stripping her bare aid in enhancing her decency?”

The issue of what a woman chooses to wear is not only a Kenyan problem. Ugandan police issued a public warning against “indecently dressed” women in February 2014. The country’s State Minister for Ethics and Integrity proposed a ban on miniskirts. Women mobilized on social media, using the hashtag #SaveTheMiniSkirt. A year earlier, Namibian authorities also attempted to ban miniskirts. Police arrested forty women, claiming that revealing clothes “are not African.”

Dan Moshenberg is Director of Women’s Studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He writes: “Women [understand] that the issue of their clothing [is] nothing more or less than an attack on women’s autonomy.”

To read the full article on which this story is based, Kenyans protest after woman is beaten and stripped in public, go to: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/17/kenya-mydressmychoice-protest-woman-stripped?CMP=twt_gu

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Lesotho: Making trans rights matter

Tampose Mothopeng is a human rights defender from Lesotho. He is also young, idealistic, and transsexual. Mr. Mothopeng says, “There’s a lot of stigma in the general population.” He says the transgender community in Lesotho is tackling violence and bullying in schools, a lack of access to health services, and a high rate of unemployment.

Trans people define themselves as those who have a different self-identity than their physical gender. They face employment barriers because of their gender identity and expression. They often drop out of school because of family- or school-based violence.

According to Mr. Mothopeng, without education or employment, many are forced into sex work just to get by.

But despite these and other challenges, there is a vibrant trans movement in Lesotho working at both the grassroots and national levels. Mr. Mothopeng is the director of the Matrix Support Group, an organization which raises awareness and combats discrimination.

Matrix engages with traditional leaders, teachers, and government officials. Its members speak on radio and television talk shows. The group runs campaigns on bodily autonomy, and hosts community dialogues.

When the Government of Lesotho develops national strategic plans, Matrix pushes the government to include the perspectives of minority groups: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual/Transgender and Intersexual people, or LGBTI; men who have sex with men, and other key populations.

Mr. Mothopeng says: “We’re sensitizing and educating teachers about gender identity and human rights, and working with the Ministry of Education to develop a new module for high school students.”

Mr. Mothopeng points out that medical care can be particularly problematic for the trans community. He explains, “We cannot access health services. They don’t seem prepared to help us.” In response, Matrix released its own study on trans health this year. Mr. Mothopeng says the study was important because most research focuses on men who have sex with men only.

In May 2014, Matrix organized a march through Lesotho’s capital of Maseru to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The group uses days like this and the International Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20 to publicize issues that trans people face, and hold community-building activities such as movie screenings and group discussions.

He credits his recent Mandela Washington Fellowship experience in the U.S. with sharpening his leadership and problem-solving skills. Mr. Mothopeng says, “I now know when to say ‘no’ and when to say ‘yes.’ I don’t just rush into things. I look into things and prioritize before getting started.”

Mr. Mothopeng says he is proud of the partnerships Matrix has made. He also stresses the diversity within the organization’s management and leadership programs.

He says: “In Africa in general, most organizations have been struggling to sustain partnerships with other human rights groups or with the government itself. We don’t lose our partners. We’re a youth-led organization run by LGBTI activists.”

To read the full article on which this story was based, A movement that matters: Trans rights in Lesotho, go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/randal-mason/a-movement-that-matters-t_b_6177810.html

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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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Good news about Ebola, efficiency and fisheries

Welcome to Farm Radio Weekly!

In issue #311, girls lead the fight against ignorance of Ebola in a poverty-stricken Monrovia neighbourhood, a Ugandan discovers that fuel-efficient stoves can improve his livelihood, and a fishing culture is denied reasonable access to their traditional fishing grounds on the Zambezi.

Two hundred school girls are visiting homes in West Point, Liberia, with a message of hope, hygiene and hand sanitizer. Their message? “Believe it, people, Ebola can kill. Let’s come together to stop Ebola.” It’s their neighbourhood, and the residents are starting to trust in, and act upon, the girls’ message.

For generations, Ugandans have cooked with firewood on a three-stone stove. But these stoves are time- and resource-intensive, and hazardous to health. Felix Ogwal is making a good living building and selling fuel-efficient clay and metal stoves. They’re cheap to buy and use less fuel.

The Tonga people of northwestern Zimbabwe have made their living from the Zambezi River for generations. But government levies are barring the already impoverished fishers from accessing the river, leaving commercial companies to dominate the fishery.

Farm Radio Weekly is planning a series of profiles on Farm Radio International’s broadcasting partners. Interested in being featured in the Weekly? Want to nominate another broadcaster whose story you think we should hear? Check out this week’s Action section, where you can find out how to contact us.

We wish you a favourable wind in your sails, and a safe journey through the week!

-the Farm Radio Weekly team

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Liberia: Meet the girls beating Ebola (Daily Beast)

Two hundred girls weave in and out of alleyways in the seaside slum of West Point, Liberia. Their voices rise in song: “Believe it, people, Ebola can kill. Let’s come together to stop Ebola.”

The girls, along with a few boys, are aged between 16 and 19. Together, they make up Adolescents Leading an Intense Fight Against Ebola, or A-LIFE. Through their own efforts, the group has already reached more than 4,000 homes in West Point, a neighbourhood in Monrovia.

In 2012, UNICEF started an educational group for girls in West Point, a neighbourhood known for its dangers even in a country with one of the highest rates of sexual and gender-based violence in the world. The girls were taught how to protect themselves from sexual violence.

With the outbreak of Ebola, the girls also learned how to protect themselves from this new danger. This gave them something the rest of their community lacked − knowledge and understanding of the virus, and how people are infected.

The girls’ efforts have proved a vital counterpoint to the atmosphere in the city. As the Ebola epidemic swept through the region, Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, ordered a 21-day quarantine of the area. West Point residents’ fear and mistrust of health workers escalated. So when the quarantine was lifted after only 10 days, some concluded that Ebola was not real.

More than half of the Ebola cases and half of the 5,000 deaths attributed to Ebola have occurred in Liberia, according to the World Health Organization, or WHO. But WHO believes that there may be two-and-a-half times as many cases as the official figures indicate.

Sheldon Yett is UNICEF’s representative in Liberia. He says: “[The girls] took what they learned and built on it. They embraced everybody, went to everywhere they could find, and discovered new ways to get information across.”

Carrying educational pamphlets and hand sanitizer, some girls go out into the community three or four days a week; others commit themselves to seven days a week. Schools in Liberia are closed indefinitely, so the girls are making good use of their spare time.

Jessica Neufville is an enthusiastic 16-year-old member of A-LIFE. She says, “I feel good educating people about Ebola and helping them see how they can prevent themselves from getting it.” Ms. Neufville declares, “I could be afraid, but being afraid would stop me from going out to help people.”

Most West Point residents live in shacks with rusted tin roofs. Many lack clean water and electricity. There are less than a dozen toilets to serve more than 50,000 people, who must cope daily with malaria and lethal cases of diarrhoea.

According to UNICEF, A-LIFE’s visits to more than 4,000 homes in West Point have brought changes that are essential to curbing the epidemic. Mr. Yett says: “We see at every street corner in West Point, in front of every shop, people have buckets to wash their hands. We’ve seen a real behaviour change in these communities, and that’s amazing.”

He adds, “Because [the girls] come from that community, they’re known by that community. People understand where these girls are coming from, and people believe their messages.”

To read the full article on which this story was based, Meet the Liberian girls beating Ebola, go to: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/10/29/meet-the-liberian-girls-kicking-ebola-s-ass.html

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Uganda: Farmer profits by making fuel-efficient cookstoves (by Denis Ongeng, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Felix Ogwal has farmed all his life. But the thirty-eight-year-old’s efforts were not paying off. He found it difficult to provide for his family’s daily needs. Mr. Ogwal spent a lot of time thinking about how to find an alternative source of income to supplement his earnings from farming.

So he was delighted to attend a training workshop in 2010 on how to construct cooking stoves. The German NGO, GIZ, ran a workshop in which farmers from Aduku sub-county in Apac district in northern Uganda learned how to make stoves from locally available materials.

Traditionally, most rural Ugandan families use a three-stone stove fuelled by firewood, a previously common resource. But firewood has become scarce as forests are cut back. Charcoal is now expensive, with the price of a sack increasing to around $11 U.S. in urban areas and $4 in the countryside. For many families, this is barely affordable.

When he returned home after the workshop, Mr. Ogwal realized that he could make more money if he built stoves that used charcoal efficiently. He knew that many residents of Lira and other nearby towns used charcoal stoves, but he saw a weakness in their general design. Most of the stoves he examined were made of metal and iron sheets. He uses clay to build his stoves, a material which better preserves the heat from burning charcoal, which saves money and time. He targeted city dwellers with his new stove.

Another advantage of Mr. Ogwal’s stove is that it can be made easily with locally available materials. He explains: “Clay soil is the most important material needed for the stove. Clay soil is prepared with [an] adequate amount of water before the building of the stoves starts.”

After the clay is fashioned into the correct shape, the stove is dried over the flames and then fired so that it hardens and becomes less fragile. Then Mr. Ogwal plates the clay oven with iron sheeting and takes the finished product to the market for sale. He says, “The stove can be made only of clay, or can be covered with iron to improve [its] durability.”

Walter Ojok is one of Mr. Ogwal’s happy customers. He says the new stove saves him quite a bit of the little money he earns. Mr. Ojok explains, “When using this stove, [$1 U.S.] of charcoal can cook meals for two days.”

Karsten Bechtel is an expert with the Department of Bioenergy at Makerere University in Kampala. He says, “Energy-saving stoves reduce smoke by 70 per cent and increase speed of cooking by 50 per cent.” He adds that the smoke produced by the traditional three-stone stove can lead to respiratory diseases.

Mr. Ogwal is convinced that farmers should adopt his kind of stove to save money on charcoal. He sells his stoves for only 6,000 Ugandan shillings [$2.25 U.S.], much less that the commercially-produced stoves available in the market, which cost up to $7 U.S.

Building and selling the stoves has improved the standard of living for Mr. Ogwal’s family. He says: “I earn on average about $80 U.S. per month. This has helped me to feed my family and pay school fees for my children.”

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Zimbabwe: Tonga fishermen cut off from Zambezi lifeline (IRIN)

The Tonga people in Zimbabwe’s Matebeland North Province have for generations depended on fishing for food and income. But government levies are making their lives increasingly difficult.

Salani Nyirenda is a village headman. The 69-year-old from Binga South District says: “Government must allow us complete freedom to fish from the river. We must also be … [allowed] … to set up vegetable gardens along the river, and there is [a] need for irrigation schemes along the Zambezi … There is so much poverty here.”

The area is too dry to grow crops successfully, but rich in mineral and timber resources. Local communities catch bream and kapenta in the Zambezi River. They eat the fish and sell them to local people or commercial buyers from as far away as Harare, some 500 kilometres to the east.

The Tonga used to enjoy unlimited access to the Zambezi. But the government began charging levies to fish in the river two decades ago. At first, the fees were small and the authorities were relaxed. But fees have increased over the years.

Kudakwashe Munsaka is the director of Siabuwa Development Trust, an NGO that works on local issues. The Trust has been lobbying the government to develop the area’s rich natural resources, which include indigenous timber and deposits of coal, gold, tantalite, uranium and diamonds. But nothing has come of their efforts.

Mr. Munsaka says: “This leaves the Zambezi River as our only salvation … there should be unhindered access to it, but the … levies [are] driving poverty levels up.”

Anyone wishing to fish with nets or rods must pay $5 U.S. per day. Mr. Munsaka asks, “Where can the villagers get the $5 a day to pay to fish when almost all of them are living on less than a dollar a day?”

Commercial fishers from urban areas now dominate fishing on the Zambezi River. They can afford to pay annual fees of over $10,000 U.S. to local and national authorities because they sell their catch in urban areas at higher prices than local fishers.

Some locals fish without paying fees, or outside regulated fishing times. If they are caught, they often have to pay fines they cannot afford. The Parks Authority charges poachers $20, and fines those with unlicensed boats $50.

Many locals complain of being victimized by corruption even when they pay levies. Tracy Munenge belongs to the Zubo Balizwi Trust, a women’s fishing co-operative. The 34-year-old mother of two says, “The parks and council officials leave you to fish and, at the end of the day, take whatever you [have] caught, saying you were poaching.” A Parks Authority spokeswoman denies that their officials are corrupt. She says, “We are operating within our mandate.”

Francis Mukora works with the Zimbabwe Community Development Trust, an NGO that campaigns for members of disadvantaged communities. He says that preventing the Tonga from fishing the Zambezi contradicts government policy to empower its citizens.

Mr. Mukora adds: “This fuels poverty and food insecurity while depriving [locals] of highly nutritional but affordable food. While other people have been given farms [through the land reform program], people from Binga must be empowered through adequate access to the Zambezi.”

To read the full article on which this story was based, Zimbabwe’s Tonga Fishermen cut off from Zambezi Lifeline, go to: http://www.irinnews.org/report/100670/zimbabwe-s-tonga-fishermen-cut-off-from-zambezi-lifeline

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African Press Organization press releases − direct to your inbox

Have you ever found it difficult to keep up with a breaking story, or understand the underlying history of a news event? Do you need to source up-to-date and archived information, along with quotes and pictures?

The African Press Organization provides free content for journalists and ensures that news is delivered promptly to the African press. APO owns the largest archive of Africa-related news releases.

The African News Source, or APO-Source, is an online database of Africa-related news releases. It offers free access to tens of thousands of news releases categorized by country, industry and subject. Journalists can run searches by keyword, date, country, industry, subject, or company name. The database can be accessed through this link: http://appablog.wordpress.com/.

APO also runs a mailing list, and you can sign up for free. It distributes information, as it is released, about countries, topics, and institutions of interest via email. Most press releases come with verifiable links but, as always, check your sources!

To sign up for the mailing list, go to http://www.apo-opa.com/subscribe_form.php and fill out the form indicating your preferences. Then just click Subscribe.

For more information, go to: http://www.apo-opa.com/for_journalists.php?L=E

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Tanzania: Cattle trails become dangerous erosion ‘super-highways’ (by Agnes Daniel and Loomoni Morwo, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Jeremiah Chuma stares down into a chasm. He is standing only a stone’s throw from his family home in Ngarash, a village 30 kilometres west of Arusha. The three-kilometre-long and six-metre-deep korongo, or canyon, cuts across his land like a knife wound.

Mr. Chuma is a 49-year-old father of six who grows maize, beans, coffee and flowers on three and a quarter hectares of land. The land in front of his house used to be a passageway for livestock, but has become so eroded that it is dangerous for both people and animals.

Mr. Chuma looks north across the dry, dusty plains toward the green pastures of northern Tanzania’s Monduli Mountains. Over the last 20 years, wind and water have seriously eroded the clay-rich soils. Unfortunately, the environmental devastation doesn’t stop at Mr. Chuma’s doorstep. The korongo continues south, cutting through other farming villages.

Mr. Chuma says the problem was originally caused by locals who gathered their cattle here before moving the herds north to graze in the mountains. He explains, “Over time, the path became over-grazed and the soil started to erode … I give a warning to anyone who comes on my land, and I restrict any cattle from grazing here. Livestock have fallen in and died.”

Pastoralists such as the Maasai suffer financially when they lose animals; their livestock are their livelihoods.

Nestled in the surrounding hills is the village of Lashaine, where Orkeeswa Secondary School students have a bird’s eye view of the environmental impact caused by the many korongo which scar the landscape. Ellie Turner is the school’s geography teacher. She is encouraging her students to take an interest in climate change.

Ms. Turner says: “I’ve spoken to a lot of older people about the climate here. They say it has become much drier and the rains have been less regular … we get short, intense rainfall which [erodes] the topsoil.” The heavy rains wash away the tightly packed clay soil and vegetation, deepening the korongos.

The students visited farming communities as part of their environmental studies. They were tasked with finding out how the villagers are affected by the korongos, and what they are doing to counter the threat.

The students spoke with Martha Lesian in the village of Ngarash. The 42-year-old mother of nine has lost five cows, two calves and part of her farmland to an encroaching korongo.

Mrs. Lesian says, “My farmland has been reduced because of the erosion. I was growing maize on one acre of land. It was enough to feed my family. Now I have to buy two bags of maize every month.”

She told the students that two people have died in the korongo. A girl who attended the village primary school fell in during the rainy season and drowned, and a woman on her way to the market in Monduli took a shortcut through the steep korongo, but fell in and died.

Mrs. Lesian says: “I warn children playing near it to stay away. I also warn people trying to cross it, especially during the rainy season. But many don’t listen.”

Residents in the nearby village of Lashaine have built bridges over the steepest parts of the korongo. Mr. Chuma showed students how he and other villagers have planted minyaa trees and embraced counter-erosion measures such as building soil dams inside the korongo.

He says: “The [tree] roots help bind the soil, thus trapping it and decreasing the depth of [the korongo]. Also, the trees give off an unappealing scent to cattle, discouraging them from coming near.” The community hopes that these efforts will prevent the damage from getting worse.

Agnes Daniel and Loomoni Morwo are students at Orkeeswa Secondary School in Monduli, Tanzania. They were assisted in researching and writing this article by Farm Radio International volunteer, Adam Bemma.

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Mali: From radio repairmen to radio station proprietors (by Meli Rostand, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Twenty years ago, Soungalo Traoré owned a radio repair workshop and employed a young man named Paul Coulibaly as his apprentice. The men lived in Zana, a village 140 kilometres east of Bamako, the capital city of Mali. Though the village is remote, it is now well known, thanks to the presence of Radio Etoile de Zana.

One day, Mr. Traoré sat down in his workshop to repair two radio sets. While working on the first set, he realized that the other radio was broadcasting the same program through its speakers. He was surprised. But after some experimentation, he realized that the set he had been working on contained a broadcasting device – and the second set was receiving its signal.

He made a thorough study of the system, and was inspired to build a transmitter that could send radio signals over a range of several hundred metres. At first, he was the object of the villagers’ ridicule, but his broadcasts soon captured the attention of the entire village.

This was the birth of Radio Etoile de Zana. The station started with music; villagers paid 25 or 50 West African francs [$0.05-0.10 U.S.] to request songs.

A pastor who lived in Bamako heard about the new radio station while on a trip back to Zana, his home village. He suggested that the two men request assistance from the Association Chrétienne pour la Communication au Mali.

The Association approved their request and equipped the station with modern tools – a transmitter, keyboard, pole, antenna, solar-powered batteries, solar panels and cassette players. In exchange, the station agreed to contribute 10% of its income to the Association. The village got together and contributed a two-room building to house the new station. Radio Etoile de Zana now broadcasts not only to Zana, but to several other villages within its 50-kilometre range.

Mr. Traoré’s former apprentice Paul Coulibaly was appointed Station Manager, thanks to his basic knowledge of French, and he ensures that the station is well-managed. Soungalo Traoré is Director of Programs and Technical Departments. He also hosts the main farmer program, Faso Dembe.

In July and August 2014, Meli Rostand conducted research for Farm Radio International at six radio stations in Mali and Burkina Faso, including Radio Etoile de Zana. His work is part of FRI’s African Radio Research Program Initiative (ARRPA). In 2011, FRI conducted research at 22 radio stations and organizations in five other countries, while Meli’s work concentrated on Francophone stations in Mali and Burkina Faso. Through Meli’s research, FRI hopes to get a clearer picture of the conditions under which farmer radio programs are created in Francophone West Africa, of the strengths of the radio stations and the challenges they face, and of how to better support our broadcasting partners.

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Malawi: Farmers use Mandela cocks to dry and preserve groundnuts (by Mark Ndipita, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Linesi Banda tries to pick up a sack of unshelled groundnuts at her home in Chiosya, a village 19 kilometres north of Kamwendo trading centre. But the sack is too heavy. She calls her husband to help her carry it out of the house. Together, they load the sack on their bicycle and take it to Kamwendo market.

Groundnuts are always in high demand at this market in Mchinji district, 100 kilometres west of Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe.

Mrs. Banda started growing groundnuts on her two hectare plot in 1995. But as time went by, she wanted to quit. She received very low prices for her poor quality, ungraded groundnuts. Post-harvest losses and infection with aflatoxin ate up her profit.

Mrs. Banda says: “Before 2010. I did not know how to harvest, dry, grade or store my groundnuts, and that was why I was bringing poor quality [produce] to the market.”

She learnt about good management practices in 2010 at a field day organized by Farm Radio Trust and government extension workers, as part of an Irish Aid project. She explains: “I was impressed to learn from other farmers who were drying groundnuts using a Mandela cock in order to avoid aflatoxin [and] loss of weight, and for protection from rain, sun and animals.”

In the Mandela cock method, farmers stack groundnut stalks in a circle on top of a platform, with the pods facing upwards. This allows the pods to dry should they get wet, saving them from aflatoxin infection and other damage.

George Kasokola is the agricultural extension worker for the Kamwendo area. He says: “Aflatoxin was the biggest problem groundnut farmers were facing, but now there is a lot of awareness. We are encouraging farmers through field days and radio to protect the crop – from harvesting, drying, and grading up to storage.”

Scolasitika Six is a groundnut farmer from nearby Kumangilira who also attended the field day. She says: “I learnt many things, including [the] Mandela cock. We were advised to listen to Farm Radio Trust radio programs from Mudzi Wathu community radio and other radio stations, in order to learn more on groundnut farming.”

Mrs. Banda also listened to the radio programs with keen interest. She first used a Mandela cock to dry her groundnut harvest in 2011. She says: “My groundnuts that year had less aflatoxin, and the weight was amazing. I also observed less post-harvest loss because rats, termites and other livestock failed to eat the pods.”

Elasimo Ali is another groundnut farmer who learnt best practices for growing groundnuts by listening to the radio. He says, “With the Mandela cock, I am able to protect my produce and make profits from [only] two acres.”

Now that she is earning a profit, Mrs. Banda is better able to support her family. She says, “Before, I used to earn [$50 U.S.] in a year on [two hectares], but now I get [$800 U.S.] because I always sell high quality groundnuts. I am now able to send my children to school and I have managed to build a house.”

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Africa: Dividing farmland a threat to food security (IPS)

When Kiprui Kibet pictures his future as a farmer, all he sees is the ever-dwindling size of his small plot.

Mr. Kibet farms in fertile Uasin Gishu County in Kenya’s Rift Valley region. He says, “I used to farm on 40 hectares but now I only have 0.8 hectares. My father had 10 sons and we all wanted to own a piece of the farmland.” The family harvested 3,200 bags a year on 40 hectares, but Mr. Kibet produces only 20 bags, and sometimes less.

The United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization, or FAO, states that a majority of Africa’s farmers now grow food on less than one hectare of land. In Kenya, Uganda and Zambia, the number of people with one hectare of farmland has decreased by 13 to 17 per cent in the last decade. Experts say that subdividing land is becoming a significant threat to food security.

FAO says that small-scale farmers account for at least 75 per cent of Africa’s agricultural output. But according to a 2012 USAID report, 25 per cent of young adults who grew up in rural areas did not inherit any land because there was no land to inherit.

Titus Rotich is an agricultural extension officer in Kenya’s Rift Valley region. He says, “Farmlands are becoming so small that with time, farming will no longer be economically viable … land is only used to set up a homestead, and to grow a few backyard vegetables and rear a few chickens.”

Large-scale land purchases may also be contributing to the problem. Allan Moshi is an expert on land policy in sub-Saharan Africa. He says investors are rushing to East and Southern Africa and buying up huge tracts of land. He warns, “Large-scale land acquisition not only reduces available land for locals, but what is available to the locals still has to be subdivided [because of] land inheritance.”

Isaac Maiyo works for Schemers, an agricultural community-based organization in Kenya. He says, “Small-scale farmers still produce more than big farms. Big farms often lie idle. Investors hoard them for speculative purposes, but food is only rarely grown on this land.“

Some African countries have enacted laws to prevent land from becoming too fragmented. South Africa’s Agricultural Land Act prevents the “subdivision of agricultural land to the extent where the new portions created are so small that farming will no longer be economically viable.” The Kenyan Agriculture Act states that agricultural land should not be subdivided below 0.8 hectares. But many farmers do not know the law exists.

Mr. Kibet says: “We subdivide not based on what the law says, but based on the number of dependents who want a share of available land, particularly where land inheritance is concerned.”

To read the full article on which this story is based, Africa’s Dividing Farmlands A Threat To Food Security, go to: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/africas-dividing-farmlands-a-threat-to-food-security/

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Burkina Faso: Feathered grain thieves force farmers to harvest early (by Nourou-Dhine Salouka, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Farmers in the village of Pém are panicking. For the last few weeks, birds have been ravaging millet fields in and around Aribinda, a town in northern Burkina Faso. Farmer Boubacar Maïga says he first spotted the birds in the fields at the end of September.

The birds may be small in size, but they are causing major damage. They are destroying crops throughout the village, stripping the plants of all grain. Mr. Maïga says, “These birds are a calamity. They attack the millet as the ears are ripening.”

Bassirou Koura also grows millet. He says, “This year I will not harvest a single ear because of the birds.”

Local farmers have tried to prevent the birds from reproducing by cutting down trees to destroy nests. They are also using scarecrows to frighten the birds away. But they have had little success.

Local authorities are advising farmers to harvest their millet early. Mamadou Maïga is the mayor of Aribinda. He says: “There’s nothing we can do to counter these birds. They move constantly and reproduce very quickly. We can only suggest to farmers that they harvest their crops quickly.”

Boubacar Maïga laments, “I have lost a third of my harvest. It could have been worse if I had not gathered it in early.”

Other farmers do not believe in harvesting early. Boureima Dicko asks, “What’s the point of harvesting unripe ears? An early harvest might only lead to a cartload of grain.” Mr. Dicko chose to abandon his field. The 50-year-old farmer says, “Aside from using the stalks as hay for my horse, I do not know what else to do.”

Local farmers are preparing for famine. Mr. Boubacar says, “We are used to disasters, but this is beyond anything I have experienced. We will starve this year if no one comes to our aid.” He does not know how he will feed his family of ten. His son, Ousmane, says, “I’m going back to Segou in Mali because there is nothing to do here. I’ve lived there before.” He hopes to find work in Mali again.

The coming months will be difficult for those in the area. The mayor, Mamadou Maïga, says: “In years of plenty, crops in the Sahel only provide enough food for eight months. This year, the harvest will be exhausted after three months. It is necessary that the government implements programs quickly to distribute grain or sell it at subsidized prices.”

The mayor has already instructed the regional head of agricultural technical support to tour the area and report on the situation. But it is not only Pém that is affected. People in the nearby villages of Bossou, Koutougou and Nassombou are experiencing the same misfortune. Boubacar Maïga says, “As we are not the only ones affected, I hope the government will hear our call.”

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Congo-Brazzaville: Turnips are ticket to profit for market gardener (by Privat Tiburce Martin Massanga, for Farm Radio Weekly)

The sun slips behind dense foliage as the day draws to a close, but a few golden rays penetrate the dense canopy of trees. The sun’s rays illuminate a large clearing planted with fruit trees and beds of vegetables. Despite the lateness of the hour, people are still at work.

Joseph Claude Milongo is operating a noisy, motorized water pump that provides a steady stream of water to the dozens of vegetable beds in his field.

His fellow gardeners refer to him as the “Turnip man.” Mr. Milongo earned his nickname because he is the only farmer in the area who grows turnips. The vegetable was introduced to Congo-Brazzaville about four years ago by Chinese settlers, who eat a lot of turnips.

Mr. Milongo explains: “The turnip is a very attractive plant. It can be grown throughout the year, whatever the season.” Turnips do not need a nursery bed because the seeds can be planted directly in the soil. An added bonus is that farmers do not need to dig over seedbeds, which saves time, money and labour. Mr. Milongo adds, “After 45 days they are ready to harvest. We sell both the leaves and the roots.”

He grows turnips to increase his income. His dream is to own his own small farm very soon. He says: “After 15 years of farming, it’s [only] now that I am making good profit margins. [After I have paid for] seeds, manure, soil preparation and so on, I have enough left over to live on and plan other projects.”

Unlike tomatoes, eggplants or endives, turnips are easy and cheap to grow and hardy. Most of Mr. Milongo’s buyers are West African, Chinese and Arab immigrants.

He says: “I can buy a box of [turnip] seeds for 5000 Central African francs [$9.60 U.S.]. I plant them in amongst the tomatoes, eggplants and peppers in ten seedbeds, 20 metres long and one metre wide. I also grow seven beds which have only turnips in them. From that, I earn 250,000 francs [$480 U.S.] after 45 days.”

Mr. Milongo used his profits to buy land near the town of Ngabari. He hopes to one day set up a small family farm there.

He has been desperate for several years to own his own farm. Like many other small producers, he has squatted on derelict land near Brazzaville. But he was constantly in fear of being expelled from the site.

The 50-year-old father of six works with his wife, Patricia Kiembé. Her main role is selling their produce at the market in Brazzaville, where she maintains good prices and good relationships with their customers. She says, “It was I who convinced my husband to grow turnips.”

The couple discovered the crop at a nearby Chinese-owned farm. Mrs. Kiembé observed that people at the market were interested in turnips for their therapeutic properties – the vegetables are thought to be good for the heart and intestines. There was strong demand from the Chinese community, both for food and as part of traditional medicines.

So they seized their opportunity. The couple bought the water pump with their first-year profits. Mrs. Kiembé adds, “Slowly but surely, our situation is developing for the better, and soon we will have our own farm where we can start to raise pigs.”

Mr. Milongo believes they are off to a good start. But he still faces huge difficulties, especially in the dry season when he cannot draw water from the wells. Sometimes he has to wait hours before he can resume irrigating. But despite these challenges, Mr. Milongo is full of confidence. He concludes: “If I can continue to generate these profits, in two or three years I’ll have my own farm.”

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