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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.

African Farm News in Review

Democratic Republic of Congo: Cassava leaves are ‘green gold’ for woman farmer (by Jacques Kikuni Kokonyange, for Farm Radio Weekly)

After a long day under the hot sun, farmer Miriam Mutokambali walks home from the field with her children. Everyone carries a heavy bundle of green cassava leaves, or sombe.

Mrs. Mutokambali will sell the leaves in the market in Butembo, one of the main cities in North Kivu Province, where the vegetable is very popular.

Like many cassava farmers, Mrs. Mutokambali is pursuing this small but flourishing trade. She explains, “The war ruined our sources of income. By selling cassava leaves, we can survive until we can harvest our other crops.”

Until recently, people living near Butembo did not think of cassava leaves as a staple food. It was difficult to buy cassava leaves in the market. Vendors gave them away free, stuffed inside bags of cassava tubers.

But in recent times, life has been precarious. Many villagers have been displaced by conflicts. They have been forced to turn to foods they previously ignored, such as cassava leaves.

A woman trader at Butembo’s market explains, “Two years ago, we couldn’t give the leaves away. But today we can’t meet the demand.”

The leaves are affordable, even for those with few resources. It costs only 300 Congolese francs (32 U.S. cents) for enough leaves to feed a family of five. Many families not only survive on the leaves, but sell them to restaurant owners.

Angèl Nyirabitaro is a medical doctor. He says cassava leaves are a good source of protein. They are also a rich source of minerals, including iron, which is essential for good health and producing red blood cells.

Nutritionist Musubao Katembo recommends that cassava leaves be included in meals at least three times a week.

Mrs. Mutokambali is delighted to use this information as she travels door-to-door selling the leaves. She makes a good profit. She is able to promote the leaves to potential customers by saying, “You are safe to eat them at every meal!”

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Democratic Republic of Congo: Woman farmer replaces diseased bananas with vegetables (by Adeline Nsimire, for Farm Radio Weekly)

For nearly a decade, Rosette M’Chentwali and other farmers in her village struggled against the dizzyingly fast spread of banana bacterial wilt. Then one day, she decided she was sick of fighting the disease. Mrs. M’Chentwali made the tough decision to replace her bananas with vegetables.

Mugaruka Désiré lives nearby. His bananas are also blighted by bacterial wilt, but he disagrees with his neighbour’s decision. Pointing to Mrs. M’Chentwali’s garden, now dotted with amaranth, he says: “I am poor today because [my bananas] produce nothing now. But I’m not crazy enough to [uproot them] like my neighbour did.”

The decision to uproot her bananas was not one that Mrs. M’Chentwali took lightly. Widowed in 1984, she had fed and educated her four children by selling kasiksi, a local brew made from bananas.

She explains, “When he died, my late husband left me everything to support the family, including his banana plantation. I learnt how to brew kasiksi at my mother’s knee.”

Mrs. M’Chentwali was well known for her high quality kasiksi. She says, “My home was flooded with consumers when it was ready.”

When her bananas became infected by bacterial wilt, production fell to nothing. Mrs. M’Chentwali recalls, “I ​​could no longer produce kasiksi and we were really miserable. Eating became a luxury for my children.”

She had to sell her a large part of her belongings to meet her daily needs. Unable to wait for a treatment for bacterial wilt or a new, disease-resistant variety, she started experimenting with vegetables.

One day, Mrs. M’Chentwali harvested some amaranth from the small plot around her house. She recalls, “We feasted on these vegetables daily, but then I sold some at the small village market to get the money to buy some salt and palm oil.” She realized that growing more vegetables would earn her an income. But she did not have any vacant land near her home.

She says, “I realized that the land occupied by the sick and unproductive bananas could be used more effectively to grow vegetables.” So she uprooted the banana trees and planted more amaranth and eggplants.

Now she sells her vegetables twice a week at the local market and earns 15,000 Congolese francs, about $16 U.S. Her children are back at school, and eating is no longer a luxury.

Vegetables have changed Mrs. M’Chentwali’s life. She used to slake people’s thirst with kasiksi, now she is a vegetable trader.

But Mrs. M’Chentwali has not given up on bananas. Once the disease problem has been solved, she might renew her banana plantation by planting new suckers. She thinks she might divide her land in two – part for bananas, part for vegetables.

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Kenya: Women plant sunflowers to divert hungry birds (by Sawa Pius, for Farm Radio Weekly)

It was not an uncommon sight in one part of western Kenya ― women standing in their fields, throwing stones at birds. The women were members of the Namulo smallholder farmers’ group. And the birds were feeding on their sorghum.

The women had experimented with many methods of stopping the birds, but every one had proved labour-intensive, expensive and time-consuming. Hiring people to scare off the birds cost $85 U.S. per season.

But last year the women found a cheap and convenient solution – sunflowers!

Regina Khayundi is a founding member of the Namulo women’s group, based in the Nzola area of Bungoma County in western Kenya. She says they formed the group to save money and fight hunger, adding that land is scarce and that it is easier to rent land as a collective.

The women grow the gadam variety of sorghum because it matures early and yields well. This variety is particularly prized by Kenyan brewers for its sweetness. Unfortunately, its flavour also makes it very popular with birds.

When the women noticed that the birds liked sunflowers, they decided to take action. They planted sunflowers between the rows of sorghum in their half-hectare plot. When the two crops matured, the birds feasted on the big yellow sunflower heads and ignored the sorghum.

Lydia Barasa is another member of the women’s group. She says the sunflowers are a great distraction for the birds, and help the women protect their investment in sorghum. She adds: “We only spent 1,200 Kenyan shillings [$15 U.S.] to buy four kilograms of sunflower seeds to plant on this [plot], and the profit is overwhelming because our sorghum is not eaten at all by birds.”

Mrs. Barasa adds that sorghum is very productive and has a ready market, fetching more than maize in local markets. She says, “One 90-kilogram bag of maize is sold at 1,800 shillings [$20 U.S.], while a bag of sorghum sells for 4,000 [$44].”

The women’s group harvested 45 bags of sorghum from their half-hectare. Not only was their yield greater, they did not need to spend money on scaring birds away. The women will have enough food to eat, and more income than if they had grown maize.

Priscilla Onyango is another member of the Namulo group. She says, “[This] sorghum has chased hunger from my family. I encourage other farmers to use sunflowers and embrace gadam sorghum.”

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Democratic Republic of Congo: Farmer recovers as DRC conflict ends (by Jacques Kikuni Kokonyange, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Tears well up in Micheline Kavuo’s eyes as she remembers everything she lost.

Ms. Kavuo is a farmer from Mamoundioma, a village 50 kilometres from the city of Beni, in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Like many other farmers in the region, she had to abandon her five-hectare plot when a Ugandan-backed rebel army invaded.

For three long years, she could not set foot on her farm. Forced to take refuge in the city, Ms. Kavuo found a job in a bakery which paid $50 U.S. per month. She had a hard time making ends meet.

She says, “I lost my cocoa plantation because those terrorists ravaged my farm. But today I am happy … to have recovered my land.”

She finally returned to her fields in June of this year, after the Congolese army pushed the rebels back across the border. She found nothing but withered cocoa plants. She says, “It looked like a hurricane had ripped through [the field].”

It is early in the morning but Ms. Kavuo is already at work, weeding her field. Her younger brother is beside her, pruning the few remaining cocoa trees with a machete. Little by little, things are returning to normal on the farm.

Like Ms. Kavuo, more and more farmers are returning to the countryside. The provincial government has begun to rebuild roads in rural areas to help farmers resume their lives. Police sweep the area for unexploded mines.

The government distributed improved seeds to help farmers who had lost almost everything. Ms. Kavuo planted cassava and plantains. Both are in high demand in surrounding towns.

She sold her first harvest only three months after returning to the farm. The proceeds allowed her to pay off some debts. She also rebuilt her dilapidated house. She says: “I profited from taking my harvests to the market in the city of Oicha. Buyers came to me … I felt like a princess because I am one of the few women who has been able to get back into farming after the end of the conflict.”

She is hoping to get a loan from a local farmers’ co-operative to diversify her crops. She says, “I also need the help of an agronomist so that I can prevent my banana trees and cassava plants from being attacked by parasites.”

Encouraged by her first harvest, Ms. Kavuo is daring to dream of bigger things.

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Uganda: Radio for justice and human rights in northern Uganda (by Adam Bemma, for Farm Radio Weekly)

A chime rings out from the radio speakers. A booming male voice intones: “This is Facing Justice, brought to you by the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, discussing issues of justice and human rights in northern Uganda.”

Facing Justice was a biweekly radio program which aired on radio stations across seven northern Ugandan districts. It was first broadcast in September 2009 and ended in 2013. During its four-year lifetime, the program helped rebuild a community shattered by two decades of war.

Tackling justice and human rights was a bold move for northern Uganda’s local radio stations. But an estimated 4.6 million Ugandans tuned in twice a week to Mega FM, Radio Rhino, Voice of Teso, Radio Palwak and Radio Pacis to hear about the reconciliation process.

In 2010 and 2011, the Northern Uganda Media Club, or NUMEC, took over production of Facing Justice from the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, or IWPR. The program was picked up and broadcast on a network of 12 radio stations. In 2014, its successor program is still going strong.

Simon Jennings is the Africa editor at IWPR. He says: “This radio show was a follow-up to the International Criminal Court’s 2005 indictment of Joseph Kony and LRA [Lord’s Resistance Army] commanders. The idea was to … monitor these developments and give people a voice and [an] insight into these complex processes.”

Mr. Jennings adds, “Radio is a key medium. Through it, we were able to reach a huge audience.”

Facing Justice was a 30-minute program broadcast in English, Luo, Ateso and Lugbara. It examined community topics such as the availability of health services, gender-based violence and access to clean drinking water.

But Facing Justice was not simply a radio show. IWPR trained freelance Ugandan journalists and staff at its partner radio stations, focusing on investigative reporting. Reporters were taught how best to tackle stories like the hunt for Kony. Internally displaced people were still returning home and this subject, in particular, was a sensitive one for many listeners.

Mr. Jennings says: “Some of the journalists IWPR trained have gone on to work as reporters in media houses in Gulu, Lira and Kampala. One reporter is now a correspondent for the national Daily Monitor newspaper in Uganda. In all, we trained 30 to 40 journalists.”

Moses Odokonyero is the chairman of NUMEC. He says: “Following the launch of Facing Justice in 2009, new training modules in investigative reporting and technical sound production for radio have raised the standard of reporting among the local journalists.”

He adds: “It has also equipped the journalists with [the] specific editorial skills necessary for them to choose topics and story angles relevant to the local audience.”

As the situation in northern Uganda improves, radio programming is responding. Earlier this year, NUMEC launched Voices for Peace, a peacebuilding radio program which continues where Facing Justice left off.

Mr. Odokonyero explains: “Voices for Peace, which will air throughout 2014, is acting as a much needed platform to share information on peace. [It aims to provoke] debate around post-conflict issues in northern Uganda, and thus contribute to de-escalating conflicts that could otherwise turn violent.”

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Côte d’Ivoire: Prison farming cultivates dignity (IPS)

François Kouamé wears his prison number like a badge of honour. Mr. Kouamé makes his way to a field where cassava and maize plants are starting to grow, passing two new tractors along the way. He proudly exclaims, “Look at those sprouts. It is a lot of work!”

Ivorian authorities have been searching for alternatives to overcrowded prisons and malnourished prisoners. And they may have found the answer — prison farming.

The Saliakro Prison Farm is the first of its kind in Côte d’Ivoire. Its 21 buildings provide accommodation for 150 prisoners sentenced to less than three years for non-violent crimes. Mr. Kouamé is serving a one-year sentence for cutting down trees on a cocoa plantation. In a former summer camp, he and other prisoners are learning new farming skills.

For Mr. Kouamé, the farm is a relief after six months of incarceration at Soubré State Prison. He says, “We were sleeping four persons in a space that could contain only one person. And we were granted only a bowl of rice per day.”

Now he eats three meals a day and sleeps in a clean room with 16 other prisoners. Each man has his own bunk bed, a closet, and plenty of space to move about.

Mamadou Doumbia is serving a two-year sentence for stealing computers. He spent 11 months in Agboville Prison, near the country’s economic capital, Abidjan, before being sent to Saliakro Prison Farm.

Agboville was an unpleasant place, according to Mr. Doumbia. He witnessed rapes, and says prisoners were malnourished and had problems with pests. At Saliakro, he says, “I feel … human again.”

Ivorian authorities at the Ministry of Justice and supporters at French NGO Prisoners without Borders plan to use the Saliakro project to improve inmate conditions, reduce costs and help prisoners reintegrate into the community after serving their time.

Pinguissie Ouattara is the superintendent of Saliakro Prison and also manages the Dimbokro Prison a few kilometres away. He believes the new prison farm will have a positive effect on prison rehabilitation.

Mr. Ouattara says: “It is about more than feeding themselves … It is about learning new skills and being able to reintegrate and participate fully in society. This is about bringing an alternative to crime, and decreasing the crime rate.”

Though Mr. Kouamé was a farmer before he was sentenced to prison, the experience at Saliakro has been valuable. He has learned a lot from the agronomists since he arrived in December 2013. He says, “I have learnt here many things that will make my farm more profitable, notably by diversifying production.”

To read the article on which this story is based, How farming is making Côte d’Ivoire’s prisoners ‘feel like being human again,’ go to: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/how-farming-in-making-cote-divoires-prisoners-feel-like-being-human-again/

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Rwanda: Farmer adopts improved bananas and becomes role model (by Fulgence Niyonagize, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Laurent Mushingwamana uprooted all of his old banana trees and replaced them with new suckers. His neighbour, Mathias Ndikunkiko, could not believe his eyes. Mr. Ndikunkiko recalls: “When I saw him uproot all his trees, I thought he had gone mad. I asked myself, ‘How could he replace the plants which have fed us since our childhood?’”

Laurent Mushingwamana is the chief of Gitovu, a village in Karongi District, in the Western province of Rwanda. Bananas are the main crop in the region and Mr. Mushingwamana is considered a model farmer.

Mr. Mushingwamana explains how he began the process of improving his bananas. In 2006, Rwanda implemented a new policy of “agricultural regionalization” that encouraged farmers to specialize in crops that were most suitable to their climatic regions. Mr. Mushingwamana says: “I used to cultivate bananas traditionally, like the others. Then one day we had a meeting with other administrative authorities. We were asked to be the pioneers in developing our respective communities.”

Bananas were one of the crops chosen for Karongi District. Mr. Mushingwamana also grows beans and potatoes but chose to make bananas his main crop. In 2009, he decided to learn as much as he could about bananas. He recalls: “I went to nearby Rubengera to visit an Anglican church that grows bananas. This church is also a banana plant multiplication centre. I learned how and why I could improve my farming.”

Mr. Mushingwamana remained at the centre for a week. He returned home with planting materials for a new variety called FIYA. It was the increase in yield that quickly convinced his neighbours to follow his lead. Mr. Ndikunkiko, the neighbour who thought Mr. Mushingwamana was crazy for uprooting his bananas, says, “When I saw his yields, I immediately uprooted my own bananas.”

According to Mr. Mushingwamana, the new variety produces bunches of bananas that weigh a minimum of 80 kilograms. He says: “The largest bunches from the traditional variety only weighed between 20 and 30 kilograms. Each banana plant now earns me between 8,000 and 10,000 Rwandan francs [$11.50-14.50 U.S.].” Bunches from the traditional variety earned him barely 2,000 francs [$2.90 U.S.].

Mr. Mushingwamana is still leading by example. Agricultural extension officers regularly invite him to share his experiences with farmers from other villages. He shares his secrets with them, such as how to properly maintain plants and how best to apply manure.

In recognition of his efforts, Mr. Mushingwamana was presented with a cow by Karongi’s mayor. But his journey is far from over. He says, “I have just set up a banana farmers’ co-operative, which we’ll use to spread the best practices in banana production widely.”

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South Sudan: Women fearful in camps for internally displaced people (IRIN)

Julie Francis starts her self-imposed curfew at sunset. Since December 2013, the widowed mother of four has been living at the United Nations base outside Malakal, 40 kilometres from the Sudanese border.

Mrs. Francis is one of more than 17,000 people who came to the camp to escape violence in Malakal, the capital of South Sudan’s Upper Nile State. But the overcrowded camp has its own dangers, especially for women and girls.

Mrs. Francis hears drunken teenagers hound women walking on the site’s dark paths. She sees the holes men cut through the tarpaulin walls of the showers to peep and leer at women. She comforts survivors of rape.

She says, “It is too much. They attack us at … the toilets or at night where we collect water.”

There were twenty-eight reported cases of sexual assault in the camp in the first half of 2014, according to the Global Protection Cluster. But aid workers say it is probable that the vast majority of attacks go unreported.

Nor is the problem limited to this one camp. Since renewed fighting broke out in in mid-December, nearly 100,000 people have crowded into 10 camps in the eastern half of the country, all administered by the UN Mission in South Sudan, or UNMISS.

There are no official statistics, but humanitarian groups say sexual and gender-based violence is present to varying degrees in all the larger camps. Women and girls feel a growing resentment at the lack of action to protect them from rape, assault, harassment and domestic violence.

Nana Ndeda is the advocacy and policy manager for Care International. She says, “[Women are] getting very frustrated by the fact that UNMISS is not able to provide the kind of security that they would want provided.”

Malakal camp was established nearly nine months ago and Ms. Ndeda says it is high time that UNMISS, aid agencies and camp leaders figure out how to better protect women. As she points out, “There’s no end in sight to the [camp] world.”

In 2005, UN agencies and humanitarian groups produced a booklet entitled Guidelines for Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings. The booklet makes detailed recommendations on creating safe spaces for women to seek help, and provides guidelines for encouraging women and girls to be involved in improving their own situation.

But with the sudden, massive movement of people to hastily constructed camps, UNMISS employees have been unable so far to implement the UN guidelines.

Every night, Mrs. Francis pushes a bedframe in front of the entrance to her tent as soon as it gets dark. When she or her daughters need to go to the bathroom, they use a bag.

Mrs. Francis thinks the situation is unfair. She says, “People should take this seriously. There are still people who need to know that it is not right to rape.

To read the article on which this story was based, Women fearful in South Sudan camps, go to: http://www.irinnews.org/report/100591/women-fearful-in-south-sudan-camps

To read the handbook, Guidelines for Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings, go to: http://www.refworld.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/rwmain?docid=439474c74

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Tanzania: ‘Blast fishing’ destroying marine habitats (BBC)

Along the coast of Tanzania, you can hear the dull thuds of underwater explosions. Fishers are using explosives to maximize their catch. But the rich coastal marine life is being destroyed as more and more fishers turn to illegal methods to make a profit.

Fishers light explosives and toss then overboard. The explosions generate underwater shock waves which stun fish and other marine creatures. Any fish that float to the surface are scooped up with nets and taken to the fish markets.

Experts say one blast is enough to kill everything within a 20-metre radius. But the explosions also destroy underwater coral systems, home to countless fish and other marine animals.

One worried fisherman prepares his wooden boat by the beautiful, calm waters of the Indian Ocean. His small vessel is one of the many that ply the thousands of kilometres of coastline. He says: “Blast fishing destroys the fish habitats underwater where fish reproduce. The number of fish has drastically reduced. We are not able to catch many fish like before.”

He and his colleagues have informed the police about blast fishers, but the practice continues. There is a secretive and apparently sophisticated network in place. Arrested dynamiters may be bribing officials to avoid prosecution. The fisherman says, “If they find out that you reported them they … threaten to hurl explosives on your boat, so sometimes we are scared to report them.”

Baraka Mngulwi works in the government department of Fisheries Resource Protection. His department faces a huge challenge. Mr. Mngulwi says that the punishments for blast fishing ─ up to five years in prison and a further 12 months for possession of explosives ̶ are not a deterrent. One blast can enable a catch of up to 400 kilograms of fish and a profit of $1,800 U.S. The temptation is just too great.

SmartFish is a fisheries program funded by the European Union. The program says that Tanzania is the only country in Africa which still practices large-scale blast fishing.

Michael Markovina works for SmartFish. He says that, after a series of blasts, coral reefs resemble a war-torn city. Mr. Markovina believes that blast fishing will turn Tanzania’s coastal waters into a barren wasteland.

Every morning, fishermen haul their catches to hundreds of traders in Dar es Salaam’s busy fish market. Demand outstrips supply, and auctioneers quickly sell the catch to the highest bidders.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to spot a dynamited fish. One trader says she can identify blasted fish by their loosened scales. She says, “We don’t buy them. Because of the impact of the blasts, they rot very fast … Some buyers and sellers don’t know that, so they buy them.”

Bala Gomwa is an auction officer. He says, “If you are not experienced, it’s very difficult. Out of 60 auctioneers, maybe two or three can tell.”

Mwanya Sleiman is a former blast fisher who now campaigns against the practice. He lost both hands when an explosive detonated before he could throw it overboard. He says: “My motivation was just the money I got from selling the fish, but I didn’t know about the impact it would have on me or the underwater environment.”

Mr. Sleiman urges others to learn from his experience. He explains, “I want the future generation to find a conserved Indian Ocean so that they can also enjoy the resources.”

To read the article on which this story was based, Blast fishing destroying Tanzania’s marine habitats, go to: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-29049264

For more information and resources about blast fishing, go to: http://www.tnrf.org/en/dynamitefishing

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Cameroon: Job seeker begins new life with donated cow (by Anne Mireille Nzouankeu, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Mary Nfor Ngwa begins each morning by visiting her cows. She checks their stalls, and she strokes and talks to them. As she feeds one of her cows, she says, “This cow has changed my life. My hopes are renewed.”

Mrs. Nfor Ngwa taught for nine years in a private elementary school in Bamenda, the capital of Northwest Region. But the school closed in 2009 after a fire. There was no money to renovate, so the school could not reopen. Mrs. Nfor Ngwa lost her job. Unable to find another teaching position, she returned to her home in Santa, a village 25 kilometres south of Bamenda.

A neighbour invited Ms. Nfor Ngwa to join a local group and add her name to the waiting list for a donated cow. She remembers that day well. She recalls, “The suggestion made me smile. As a graduate teacher, I did not see myself as a cowherd. I regarded it to be a backward step.”

The NGO Heifer International had started a cow donation scheme in a nearby village. The idea attracted a group of young people in Santa so much that they adopted it for themselves.

Peter Mbu had received a donated cow a few years earlier than Mrs. Nfor Ngwa, and encouraged her to become a cowherd. He explains: “The cow donation system relies on the fact that a person receives a dairy cow from a community member. When the cow gives birth, that person gives [the calf] to another female member of the community, and so on.” Farmers receive a cow free of charge, provided that they agree to pass on a free heifer calf. Before they can receive a cow, they must provide suitable housing for the animal.

So Mrs. Nfor Ngwa signed up. She says, “About six months after I registered, I received a dairy cow, and I said to myself, ‘What am I going to do now?’”

With the help of her group members, Ms. Nfor Ngwa has adapted to her new life. She makes a better living than she did as a teacher. She says, “I have gradually expanded my herd. I sell the calves. I also sell yogurt made ​​from the cows’ milk. I recently bought a freezer with the income from my cows.”

Despite her new occupation, Mrs. Nfor Ngwa has not forgotten teaching. With a broad smile, she says: “I would like to start classes in the holidays to teach young people the love of farming, and to challenge their belief that farming and livestock-rearing are reserved for those who have failed elsewhere.”

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South Sudan: War veterans plant for peace (IPS)

Along the fertile banks of the White Nile, a war veterans’ co-operative is planting a garden for peace and a food secure future in South Sudan. The garden is like a cornucopia in a country facing a potential famine.

Wilson Abisai Lodingareng is the founder of the Werithior Veteran’s Association, or WVA, in Juba, the capital city of South Sudan. He explains: “I have seven active members in the group, all former SPLA [Sudan People’s Liberation Army] troops. I call them when it’s time to weed the garden. I visit once a day, each morning, to check the health of the crops and to see what’s ready for the market.”

The WVA members grow one and a half hectares of vegetables on the banks of the Nile River, six kilometres outside Juba. Mr. Lodingareng says it was a struggle to obtain this prime but idle agricultural land. Many international investors had also expressed interest. It took him almost three years to acquire a lease from the community which owns the land.

Simon Agustino is the program officer at the Mennonite Central Committee, or MCC, in South Sudan. He remembers Mr. Lodingareng visiting the MCC office to ask for assistance with a proposal. Mr. Agustino recalls, “The veterans had no hope and no way to provide for their families. People thought he was wasting his time with digging. But he didn’t give up.”

MCC provided Mr. Lodingareng with capital to lease the land, pay for training in fruit and vegetable production, and buy farm supplies and tools.

Mr. Agustino says, “Finally he got land. [It] is now yielding and his crops are being sold at the market … more veterans are considering joining.”

The WVA veterans are members of several South Sudanese tribes. The association’s work demonstrates that agriculture is one way for people to look beyond tribal differences and work together. The group has transformed their field from a wasteland of long grasses and weeds to a garden bursting with leafy vegetables and herbs.

The co-operative started by growing okra, kale, mulukhiyah (jute leaves) and coriander. Mr. Lodingareng says, “These … crops [mature] quickly, within one to two months. Okra is harvested every three to four days.”

Mr. Lodingareng sees the group expanding into surrounding land which is currently fallow. He says, “I’m looking at … crops like maize, potatoes, carrots and eggplant. The first year has been a struggle. The next year should be much better.”

According to Mr. Agustino, many SPLA veterans engage in crime rather than finding work. But Mr. Lodingareng refused to turn to cattle raiding or robbery. He has a vision for the future of South Sudan. He says: “I did my part to put my country on the path to self-determination. Now my approach is to work hard. Me, I will do anything that can pull me out of poverty and improve my situation financially.”

He believes it’s never too late to take up farming. He says, “The political climate has discouraged many from planting this season. But if everyone planted gardens, things will improve.”

To read the article on which this story was based, War veterans planting for peace in South Sudan, go to: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/war-veterans-planting-for-peace-in-south-sudan/

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Zimbabwe: Elderly farmers neglected by government and NGOs (IRIN)

Girazi Mukumbaa farms in Wedza, about 160 kilometres southwest of the capital, Harare. The 64-year-old is “old school” when it comes to agricultural practices. He uses cow dung to fertilize his maize, relies on local herbs to treat his cattle, and avoids chemical fertilizers.

In recent years, Mr. Mukumbaa’s crops have repeatedly failed during dry spells. He would like to raise chickens or pigs to help sustain his family, but his age is proving to be a hindrance; community-based organizations think he is too old to merit assistance.

Wonder Chabikwa is the president of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union, or ZCFU. He says that younger farmers receive better support from NGOs. Young people are perceived as more energetic and easier to communicate with. Older people are often ignored, even though many households are dependent on their care and guidance.

The United Nations defines elderly people as those who are aged 60 and above. According to the UN Population Fund, six per cent of Zimbabwe’s population, over three-quarters of a million people, are elderly.

David Phiri is the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s sub-regional coordinator for southern Africa and Zimbabwe. He says: “Elderly persons make a great contribution to household food production in rural areas. They face the heavy burden of looking after [extended] families, as younger persons leave home to look for jobs elsewhere.”

Agricultural and food production experts say elderly people still make a significant contribution to household food security through farming. But older farmers are excluded from mainstream support programs such as those promoting techniques for adapting to climate change.

Mr. Chabikwa says older farmers, like younger ones, need training on soil management, adapting to climate change, marketing and diversification. He adds that households headed by elderly farmers are often more vulnerable to food shortages.

Many elderly people did not benefit from Zimbabwe’s fast-track land redistribution program, begun in the year 2000, when 4,500 white-owned farms were redistributed to about 300,000 small-scale farmers.

Innocent Makwiramiti is a Harare-based independent economist. He says: “This means that most [elderly farmers] remain farming on tired soils in largely dry areas that require much fertilizer and water, and [need] a great deal of farming support.”

Mr. Mukumbaa does not understand why he is routinely bypassed by officers from the Agriculture Ministry’s extension services and NGOs. He says: “Young men and women who have been told why there are so many droughts these days have no time to explain these things to old people like me. They say I am too old and therefore cannot understand a thing.”

Mr. Chabikwa says: “The irony about smallholder farming in Zimbabwe is that government and other stakeholders generally do not acknowledge the contributions that the elderly make to food production for families and the nation.”

To read the article on which this story was based, Zimbabwe’s neglected elderly farmers, go to: http://www.irinnews.org/report/100566/zimbabwe-s-neglected-elderly-farmers

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West Africa: Early treatment brings light to Ebola gloom (IRIN)

More than 1,400 have died as a result of the Ebola crisis in West Africa since the disease was first recorded in March of this year. But although medical scientists have not yet identified a cure, some of those who sought treatment early have recovered from the virus.

Current Ebola treatments mainly relieve the symptoms. They ease the headaches, fever and muscle pains triggered by the virus, and cope with the vomiting and diarrhoea.

Julie Damond is the spokesperson for Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF, in West Africa. She says, “We can’t do anything else because there is no treatment for the virus. The only thing we can do is help the body fight the virus and develop immunity.”

A patient’s body can sometimes rebuild its defences and restore health. According to the World Health Organization, or WHO, nearly half of the patients in the current West African outbreak have recovered.

It’s not clear why some people die and others recover. Ms. Damond says, “It is impossible to know when a patient is admitted whether they will recover or not. It’s not about age or gender.” But it appears that the earlier the disease is tackled, the better the chance of surviving.

Those who are most at risk of contracting Ebola are the doctors and nurses who treat patients, and the families who look after sick relatives at home. More than 120 health workers in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone have died of Ebola during the current outbreak, according to WHO.

These deaths have caused panic, causing the already weak health systems in the area to become more dysfunctional than ever. Some families are shunning hospitals, seeing danger rather than an offer of help. Liberia and Sierra Leone have declared the outbreak a national emergency and are using quarantine measures to prevent further spread. It is now illegal to keep Ebola patients away from treatment centres in Sierra Leone.

Distrust of governments and public institutions is difficult to overcome. But, while Ebola is a serious and often fatal disease, some people have returned to their communities after completely recovering in treatment centres.

The stories of patients who have recovered from Ebola may offer hope and bolster trust in conventional medical approaches to the disease, and the preventive measures that aim to avoid risky exposure to Ebola patients.

Melvin Korkor is a 44-year-old Liberian doctor who recently recovered from Ebola. Dr. Korkor tested positive for Ebola in July. He and five nurses were transferred to the capital, Monrovia, for treatment. Unfortunately, all his colleagues died.

Dr. Korkor says: “[I received] the same treatment that was given to the other Ebola patients. There was no special treatment because I am a doctor… [but] today I am back home and reunited with my family.”

When Dr. Korkor returned to his community, some of his neighbours were afraid to go near him. But Larry Tonnie is one neighbour who is encouraged by the doctor’s recovery. He says, “We are glad to have him back. Now we know that there are people who can get cured of Ebola once you check yourself in on time.”

MSF spokeswoman, Ms. Damond, says, “What we have seen in this outbreak is that when people come early to be treated, they have a better chance of surviving. This is a message we are trying to get out there so that people understand.”

To read the full article on which this story was based, Silver lining in Ebola gloom, go to: http://www.irinnews.org/report/100540/silver-lining-in-ebola-gloom

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Uganda: Urban residents turn to vegetables and chickens to improve their lives (by Adam Bemma, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Ruth Nalunkuma sits on her front doorstep and gazes at her kitchen garden. The 47-year-old mother of five grows fruit and vegetables in a garden outside her tiny home in Kigoowa, a suburb eight kilometres northeast of central Kampala.

Mrs. Nalunkuma says, “I grow spinach, pumpkin, passion fruit, onions, spinach and dodo [amaranth] in my garden. Unfortunately, I recently lost my eggplants due to disease.”

The widow shoos away one of her four grandchildren and slips on her sandals. With a skip in her step, she escapes her cluttered home to tend to her plot. Mrs. Nalunkuma provides for her family with what she harvests from her four-by-two metre square, 30-centimetre high raised bed.

She raises her right hand high above her head, saying, “I want to build a fence up to here to keep the goats out because they come and eat my vegetables.”

But Mrs. Nalunkuma is not just a gardener. Behind her home, a chicken run is shaded by banana trees growing in the muddy, red soil. The chicken run houses 35 layer hens, which she expects will produce enough eggs to earn her some much-needed income.

She explains: “I just started poultry farming. I have 35 chickens in this pen and another 35 chicks in my house. I hope to start selling the eggs at the market in the next few months.”

Ten years ago, Mrs. Nalunkuma was working as a registered nurse for Kamwokya Christian Caring Community, or KCCC, a Catholic organization. She learned about farming and, since retiring, has grown and sold crops to meet her family’s needs. Her example has encouraged others in the community.

Cathy Nakasi is Ms. Nalunkuma’s former supervisor at KCCC. She says: “Thanks to [Mrs. Nalunkuma], we now have many women engaged in peri-urban agriculture. It’s a great business opportunity, one I’m considering myself.”

Juliet Ndagire is the host of CBS Radio’s Buganda farming program. She has also adopted poultry farming to increase her income.

The journalist and mother of two lives in Bwebajja, a suburb southwest of Kampala, where she keeps 600 chickens. Mrs. Ndagire raises broiler chickens and layer hens, and sells the meat and eggs.

She says: “I now deliver my eggs directly to consumers in Bewbajja and Kampala. The cost of living has gotten much higher. This helps supplement my income as a journalist.”

Unlike Ms. Ndagire, Mrs. Nalunkuma has no external income to supplement. Although she still volunteers for KCCC, the work is unpaid. She is pinning her hopes on her small-scale poultry operation, expecting that it will provide her with a comfortable future.

Ms. Nalunkuma says: “I do what I can with the little space I have. One day I hope to have a one-acre farm on the outskirts of Kampala, but I will keep growing fruits and vegetables in the city to feed my family.”

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Malawi: Fodder trees bring hope to dairy farmers (By Mark Ndipita, for Farm Radio Weekly)

It is four o’clock in the morning, but Chrissy Kimu is already warming water to wash her two dairy cows’ udders. She pours lukewarm water into a bucket, then wakes her husband to help her in the cowshed.

Mrs. Kimu is a small-scale dairy farmer from Chilenga, a village about 90 kilometres south of Lilongwe. Dairy farming has become her main source of income, and allows her to support her family.

Back in 2007, she almost gave up the dairy business. High feed costs were eating up her profits. She recalls, “I lost hope since I could not manage to buy expensive feed from shops, and I started experiencing a decrease in milk production.”

Rather than quitting, she was advised by an extension worker to plant “fodder trees” in her maize field. The seeds and leaves supplemented her cows’ diet and improved milk production. She no longer had to rely on expensive commercial dairy mash feeds.

A 50-kilogram bag of commercial dairy feed costs about $25 U.S., and each cow can finish one bag a week.

Within two years of planting the fodder trees, things had started to change for the better. Mrs. Kimu was incorporating the leaves and seeds from the maturing fodder trees in her cattle feed. She says: “[These trees] are incredible because they have rekindled hope in my family life. When I started feeding them to my cows, I started experiencing an increase in milk production.”

Mrs. Kimu planted the white-ball acacia (Acacia angustissima) and a Mexican species known as Leucaena pallida. She mixes dried leaves and seeds from the trees with salt, maize husks, soya and other ingredients to make feed.

Before the fodder trees, each cow produced between eight and 15 litres of milk a day. Now, their yields have nearly doubled and Mrs. Kimu is making a profit.

In 2010, she joined a local milk bulking group, which buys milk from farmers for 25 U.S. cents a litre. Because of the increased milk yields, Mrs. Kimu now makes about $300 U.S. per month.

She says, “Other farmers in the group were amazed seeing how [much milk] I was able to sell … without buying feed from the market.” Several group members planted fodder trees for themselves after seeing Mrs. Kimu’s success.

Levisoni Chimpesa is also a dairy farmer. His cows mainly eat maize husks and other crop residues. He planted fodder trees last year after seeing Mrs. Kimu cash in. His trees are still immature but he’s looking forward to the coming years. He explains: “Because I do not have proper feeds, I get 10 to 15 litres of milk from my cow per day, which is low compared to what Mrs. Kimu gets.”

Alfred Siliwonde is the agricultural veterinary officer for the area. He says poor feed management often affects milk production. Many farmers depend solely on crop residues in the dry season and grass in the rainy season.

Mr. Siliwonde adds: “Now that they have seen the benefits of fodder trees … it is very important to encourage farmers and equip them with knowledge and skills in managing these trees.” He advises farmers to take good care of the fodder trees. After the maize harvest, the trees are often exposed to damage by bushfires and roaming livestock.

Mrs. Kimu advises dairy farmers who are struggling with high feed costs to plant fodder trees. She says: “Some farmers are over-relying on expensive purchased feed [and] as a result they do not make a profit. Farmers should plant [fodder trees], which have helped me to pay school fees and buy an ox cart.”

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Congo-Brazzaville: On an island of fishers, the only farmer earns more money than most (by Privat Tiburce Martin Massanga, for Farm Radio Weekly)

It is ten o’clock in the morning. On l’île aux raphias, an island in the majestic Congo River, a fishing village is bustling with activity.

A patch of fine white sand hugs the outskirts of the settlement. Silhouetted against the verdant greenery beyond the sand, a man is almost shouting into his phone: “Hello! Yes, it is me, Célestin, on the phone! Yes. I have tomato, chili and okra plants that will be ready for harvest in two days! How much? And when will you arrive?”

The man with the phone is Célestin Botando. Both fisherman and market gardener, the father of seven is trying to acquaint potential customers with the produce available from his two hectares of vegetables.

Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr. Botando is the only farmer in this island fishing community. His tomato, okra and chilli plants grow and mature quickly, and his produce is highly valued in the Brazzaville markets.

He explains, “I ​​chose these plants for reasons of both time and space.” Mr. Botando has only a few months to work his land. During the dry season, the river waters retreat and expose a large tract of land. When the rains return, the island is mostly flooded.

Mr. Botando says, “I can only practice farming between May and September. But that’s enough for me to make a profit.”

For the last two years, he has farmed during the day and fished at night. He is proud of his double life. He lives this way in order to earn enough to pay his children’s school fees and meet the needs of his family in Kinshasa.

Mr. Botando had found it difficult to make ends meet as a fisher because the fish catch drops at the onset of the dry season. But his vegetable sales now offset the seasonal decrease in his income.

He feels fortunate to have an alternative activity during the dry season. He can sell a basket of okra for 10,000 Central African francs [about $20 US], and is able to harvest enough to sell at least 15 baskets a week.

Bonaventure Okombi is the head of the fishing village. He says: “[Mr. Botando] has an advantage in not having to clear his land. He made his fields on land that the river left him. We are proud of his initiative. Maybe it will inspire other fishermen to better occupy themselves at this time of the year.”

Mr. Botando’s niece, Bibi Ilunga, has been helping him since the beginning of the current growing season. She says: “We only have problems when irrigating. We need motorized pumps to make life easier … Can you imagine? We have to water all these plants by hand, morning and evening, and walk quite a way to the river to get the water.”

Ms. Ilunga is disappointed that farming is only an option in the dry season, noting that vegetables bring in more money than fishing. She would prefer it if the farming was year round.

The additional income from his farm helped Mr. Botando to set up a shop which sells goods such as kerosene, soap and canned foods. His only worry is that immigrants from the DRC like himself might be expelled from Congo-Brazzaville. But, he says with a smile, “If we’re not expelled, I think next year I will have more productive fields than these ones here.”

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Zimbabwe: Laying hens change former squatters’ fortunes (by Nqobani Ndlovu, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Vote Munda used to sleep in a bush near the Bulawayo suburb of Trenance. He lived in plastic shelters and survived by panning gold, doing odd jobs or selling scrap metal he scavenged at refuse dumps.

In September 2012, Mr. Munda moved to a permanent shelter. His family was one of the nearly 200 squatter families relocated by the Bulawayo City Council from their squatter camp and to houses in Mazwi new village, a few kilometres west of Bulawayo.

Mr. Munda recalls: “Life was a daily struggle when we started staying at Mazwi, as we had no source of income. There is no gold panning at the village like at the Trenance squatter camp.”

Joel Siziba is another former squatter. He says they had to gather and sell firewood illegally to survive at the new village. Poaching firewood carries a $20 U.S. fine or a sentence of community service.

Mr. Siziba says things were so desperate that they contemplated returning to the squatter camps. There, at least, they could survive on the gold panning that had been their primary source of income.

Albert Mhlanga is the Member of Parliament for the local constituency. He says he was touched by the plight of the former squatters, and managed to get the NGOs World Vision and Masakheni Trust to intervene by helping the squatters start a poultry project.

In late December 2013, the NGOs built three large poultry runs, and in January donated 3,200 laying hens as a start-up.

The project nearly failed. Nearly 1,000 chickens died from disease and from mineral toxicity caused by badly mixed feeds. In the first few months, government veterinary services provided little or no assistance.

But these problems have been resolved and things are looking up. Mr. Mhlanga reports, “We went out of our way to look for experts to teach them proper poultry farming methods.”

The poultry runs are solar-powered to provide artificial daylight in the early morning and evening. Hens require 14 hours of daylight to produce eggs. If day length drops below 12 hours, production decreases and frequently stops.

Mr. Munda says, “This is our new way of life. We sell the eggs to residents at the nearest high-density suburbs.” They sell a tray of 24 eggs for $4 U.S. and share the proceeds amongst the 12 ex-squatters who participate in the project.

Lethukuthula Bhebhe is one of those participants. She says, “I never thought I would be a poultry farmer.” But, says Mrs. Bhebhe, they have to fetch water from five kilometres away. There are no donkey- or ox-drawn carts or even wheelbarrows to ferry the 20-litre jerry cans of water.

She says the poultry farmers need 360 litres of water every day for their laying hens. The project is trying to persuade the donors to sink a borehole for the new farmers.

Mr. Siziba says, “It is not much, but it’s better … this is a legal way of surviving compared to firewood poaching.” He adds, “Things can only get better.”

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Uganda: Farmer profits by branching out into selling sweet potato vines (by Adam Bemma, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Perpetua Okao pulls a ringing mobile phone out of her pocket. She responds to the caller, “Yes, I may still have some vines. How many do you need?”

Mrs. Okao tucks the phone back into her pocket. She explains: “I’m the chairperson of Atego Farmers Women’s Group. We’re not only women farmers. We also have five men in the group. All members grow orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.”

The 63-year-old mother of 10 is a farmer in Atego village, about three kilometres from Lira, in northern Uganda. She grows orange-fleshed sweet potatoes to eat and sell. But she also makes money providing other farmers with the potato vines that are required to plant the crop.

Monica Acan is a broadcaster at Radio Wa, a radio station which targets people in the Lango sub-region, which includes Lira. She is both the host and producer of the Saturday night program, Wa Farmer, which means “Our Farmer” in the local Luo language.

Ms. Acan says: “Perpetua [Okao] is a vine multiplier, which means she grows the crop and [then] sells [the potato vines] to other farmers in the area. She’s the only woman around doing this.”

In July 2013, Farm Radio International and Radio Wa teamed up to launch Poto Wa Tin [Our Garden Today], a program which airs live every Monday evening. It is edited and re-broadcast on Friday afternoons.

At the end of each program, Ms. Acan reads Mrs. Okao’s phone number on air, as well as those of three other vine multipliers in the region. Ms. Acan says: “On the show, I promote orange-fleshed sweet potato, its nutritional aspects, the agronomic practices, as well as marketing and value addition of the crop. It airs in the evening so women farmers returning from the fields can tune in to listen.”

Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, like carrots, pumpkins and other orange-fleshed foods, are rich in beta-carotene, a compound that the body converts to vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for human growth and development, and also helps maintain the immune system and good vision.

Mrs. Okao feeds the fleshy orange potatoes to her children. She is convinced that they benefit from the sweet, tasty tubers. She advised a friend that the woman’s sick baby twins would benefit if the mother added the nutritious potatoes to her children’s breakfast porridge.

Mrs. Okao reports: “I’m happy to say the twins are both very healthy now. Besides porridge, you can also make bread and juice with orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.”

Mrs. Okao flips through a ledger book with the names and details of farmers who have purchased bags of vines from her, some on numerous occasions. She receives calls from all across northern Uganda. Farmers from as far away as Pader, Kitgum and Gulu have purchased vines.

Mrs. Okao says: “Since I started vine multiplication last year, I have distributed orange-fleshed sweet potato [vines] to 380 farmers. It has improved my household income. I was able to buy pigs and a cow and pay my oldest son’s school fees at a teacher’s training college.”

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Sierra Leone: Farmers evading Ebola leave crops to rot (Bloomberg)

Brima Kendor is a plantation owner and spokesperson for the local chief in Kissi Tongi, a village in the Kailahun District of eastern Sierra Leone. He says: “Ebola has left with us with a high number of orphans who cannot take care of themselves and family plantations. This is the time to rehabilitate the cocoa farms but we can’t do that now.”

The Ebola outbreak is forcing farmers and their families to flee cocoa, rice and peanut plantations across eastern and northern Sierra Leone. Kailahun District borders both Guinea and Liberia, whose citizens are also experiencing the hemorrhagic fever that has no cure or treatment.

Edmond Saidu is the district agriculture officer in Kailahun District. He says the cocoa harvest will suffer this year and that farmers will likely leave peanuts and rice in the fields.

According to the World Bank, agriculture contributes nearly 60 per cent of the economy in Sierra Leone. But abandoned farms threaten to halt economic recovery in a country struggling to rebuild after a ten-year civil war left its infrastructure in ruins.

More than 900 people have died in West Africa since Ebola was first reported in Guinea in March of 2014, according to the BBC. The World Health Organization, or WHO, believes that the virus will probably spread for four more months in West Africa.

Control of the disease is being hampered by traditional burial practices, poor hygiene and a lack of adequate medical care, according to WHO. Sierra Leone had recorded 146 deaths and 435 confirmed cases of Ebola by the end of July, according to the Ministry of Health.

Henry Yamba Kamara is the managing director of Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Company, the state-owned producer and buyer. He says some international companies have refused to visit the Kailahun area to buy cocoa.

Mr. Kamara says, “The buyers have refused to go in. The outcome will be either the cocoa will rot, or nobody will be there to buy.”

Kailahun District, where most of the Ebola cases have been confirmed, is the largest producer of cocoa in Sierra Leone. Agriculture is the major economic activity in the district.

The district agriculture officer in Kailahun, Mr. Saidu, says: “This is the ploughing season, especially for swamp rice cultivation, and this is also the time for the first harvesting of cocoa in the rains.” But, he says, there is not much activity in the fields at the moment.

To read the full article on which this story was based, Ebola Orphans Flee Sierra Leone Farms as Cocoa and Rice Rot, go to: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-25/ebola-orphans-flee-sierra-leone-farms-as-cocoa-and-peanuts-rot.html

The World Bank is working with the World Health Organization, the United Nations and other development partners to support the governments of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to contain the spread of the Ebola virus. To hear or download an audio clip about the situation on SoundCloud, go to: https://soundcloud.com/worldbankafrica/ebola-tackling-the-outbreak-in-west-africa

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Zimbabwe: Contaminated water forces vegetable farmers to change crops and irrigation techniques (By Vladimir Mzaca, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Killian Moyo earns his living from lettuce, carrots, tomatoes and cabbages. He sells his produce to communities in Bulawayo. But recently he discovered a serious problem: his source of irrigation water is contaminated.

In May 2014, Zimbabwe’s National University of Science and Technology conducted tests on water sources in the Nyamandlovu area of Bulawayo. The tests found that river water was contaminated with bacteria and heavy metals that are harmful for human consumption.

Mr. Moyo lives in the Nyamandlovu area. Like most local farmers, he irrigates his small plot from the Khami River. But he and many other small-scale farmers have been instructed to stop using river water for agriculture. If Mr. Moyo is to continue farming, he will have to find alternative sources of water.

Mr. Moyo was surprised and disappointed by the test results. He says: “This is the worst news ever. My specialty has always been market gardening. It will take a miracle for me and others to pull through.”

People have stopped buying his produce. He explains, “When word came out that our produce is contaminated, prices dropped and people avoided our produce. My tomatoes went bad without finding a buyer.”

A report by the National University of Science and Technology attributes the contamination to raw sewage flowing into the Khami. It is estimated that half of the sewage produced by Bulawayo’s 1.5 million people flows untreated into the river.

Fortune Musoni is the local catchment manager at the Zimbabwe National Water Authority. He says it could take up to 100 years to decontaminate the area. He explains: “The situation is dire. The river and boreholes close by are affected. About 200 farmers who use this water for irrigation are also affected.”

Mexen Mpofu also farms in Nyamandlovu. Because he suspected there was a problem with the river water, he set up a drip irrigation system. But the system is expensive and has eaten into his profits.

Mr. Mpofu says: “I used to water vegetables and at some stage the leaves would turn yellow. I sought advice and the indication was that the water was the issue. [But] Not all of us can afford drip irrigation.” Mr. Mpofu thinks he will be able to recoup the money he invested in the system, as he will benefit from increased market share as other farmers stop growing vegetables.

Mr. Moyo sought advice from water experts and was told to switch to maize and wheat. But he is not happy. He understands that maize and wheat would not be affected because farmers do not irrigate these crops, but worries that he will make less money. While he can grow vegetables all year round, maize and wheat are harvested only once or twice a year. He fears he will have to lay off some of his workforce.

Mr. Moyo says: “I invested a lot of money into my plot. I will engage water experts to find a lasting solution. There must be a way around this. I am thinking of having water harvesting systems [put] in place.”

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