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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

Ivory Coast: Collapse of cocoa industry hurts farmers (RFI, BBC, IPS)

On March 7, 2011, President Laurent Gbagbo nationalized Ivory Coast’s cocoa and coffee industries. He decreed that only the State is authorized to purchase cocoa and coffee beans from farmers. Gbagbo made the announcement following Alassane Ouattara’s recent ban on cocoa and coffee exports.

In presidential elections in late 2010, Alassane Ouattara was proclaimed the winner. But President Laurent Gbagbo is refusing to leave office. Mr. Ouattara aims to starve Laurent Gbagbo of the funds that are keeping him in power. Côte d’Ivoire produces some 1.2 million tonnes of cocoa annually. The cocoa industry provides around 35% of the government’s revenue.  The political wrangling over cocoa are seriously affecting farmers and the national economy.

In practical terms, the cocoa industry in Ivory Coast has come to a standstill. Exporters have left the country and the banks are closed. With an export ban and European sanctions in place, cocoa farmers are without buyers. Cocoa prices have collapsed. Some of the estimated 700,000 small-scale cocoa growers have stopped harvesting their crops.

The only market is illegal cross-border trade. Countries such as Ghana, Togo, Mali and Sierra Leone are benefitting, as Ivorian farmers sell their perishable crop to black market buyers for a fraction of its market value. Millions of people  are suffering as their main source of income vanishes.

Read more: http://fr.allafrica.com/stories/201103080761.html http://www.ips.org/africa/2011/03/ivorian-cocoa-producers-cry-foul-over-sanctions/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12697032

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12677418

Podcast (March 17): http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00f8z96

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Zimbabwe: Farmers preserve local seeds but buy improved maize (by Zenzele Ndebele, for Farm Radio Weekly in Zimbabwe)

Like many farmers in Matabeleland South, Ernest Ndlovu often buys maize seeds. But he selects and preserves seeds from crops such as beans, sunflower and millet to plant in the next season. He explains, “In terms of maize, we buy a variety of seeds from the shops and we usually target the early maturity varieties. But for the best results, we use the traditional seeds.”

Mr. Ndlovu is a small-scale farmer in the Insiza area of the province of Matabeleland South, in southwestern Zimbabwe. He explains that in his area it is common practice for farmers to select the best crops and save them for next season’s seed.

Farmers in this area value the knowledge passed down to them on seed selection. They use this knowledge regularly. Farmer Robert Tshuma grows the beans his ancestors grew. He says that for crops other than maize, they use only seeds saved from the previous crop. He adds, “We usually plant traditional beans that have been planted in this area for decades now, dating back to the days of our ancestors..”

Mr. Tshuma also plants sugar beans and sunflowers on his small farm in the Matobo area. He says, “I have never come across any [commercial] seed variety of beans in this part of the country. Maybe it is because people always preserve seeds from the previous season.”

Although Matabeleland is largely a livestock raising area, farmers need to plant some crops. They share seeds and grow a number of varieties. Mr. Ndlovu explains, “We are an animal husbandry area, but we cannot afford not to plant crops. Agricultural extension workers advise us to focus on crops like millet, which we are not keen on planting because of birds that eat them when they ripen.”

Mr. Ndlovu says he tried millet for two seasons. He managed a good harvest the first season, but not the second. He says, “I used the seeds that I have received from another farmer. He had used them from a previous harvest. It’s a variety that is common here. I understand there is a variety that is not so [attractive to] birds. I will try it next time.”

Farmers often say they prefer traditional varieties because they are tasty. Mr. Ronny Sibanda is a farmer based in Filabusi, also in Matabeleland South. He usually buys maize seeds, but selects and preserves seeds such as beans, sunflower and millet: “I select seeds and preserve them in traditional ways like drying them and sprinkling them with ashes, as this keeps away pests. We preserve seeds, especially of those crops that are so tasty and so good.”

Other farmers prefer traditional varieties because they are always available. Mrs. Ntombi Sibanda is a farmer in the Gwanda area. A number of farmers in her community select and preserve seeds. She explains, “That is where we buy our seeds. They have their own methods of selecting and preserving seeds. We have accepted that this is the best way because it means that we don’t have to wait for seeds from shops, which are sometimes delayed coming into the market.”

While many farmers buy seeds of hybrid maize, it is clear that farmers in this region of Zimbabwe still value their own seeds and traditional methods of selection and preservation.

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Malawi: Farmers save time and money by preserving local seed varieties (by Gladson Makowa for Farm Radio Weekly in Malawi)

Mrs. Grace Mwalabu lives in Chikalogwe, Balaka District, in southern Malawi. On a warm day, she stands smearing cucumber seeds on the outside wall of her kitchen. She explains, “It is our tradition. I smear them one or two metres from the ground. The advantage is that the seeds dry quickly, do not rot and survive the dry season.” These and other local vegetable seeds cannot be found in nearby markets.

Hybrid seeds are popular in some areas of Malawi. They often yield more than local varieties. But they are expensive. Farmers need to buy them every year, so they are dependant on seed companies and distributors. They know that saving local seeds from harvest is cheaper and more reliable than buying hybrid seeds every year. With local seeds, they can be confident that they will have seeds exactly when they need them.

FAIR Malawi is an NGO in Malawi that works on food security issues. The organization promotes traditional methods of saving seed and preserving food. Mr. Mahala Nyirenda works with FAIR Malawi. Talking about modern varieties, he explains, “The seeds of farmers’ choice are not readily available at the time when farmers need them and have money. This is forcing farmers to plant late.” If farmers plant late and the rains are poor, yields are badly affected.  Mr. Nyirenda adds, “Farmers are now struggling to find money for seeds and food … We want farmers to be independent. We are encouraging them to choose those varieties of good quality − like early-maturing or high-yielding local varieties.”

Another way to develop independence from commercial markets is by preserving food. When the rainy season is over, vegetables can be grown only near rivers. These areas retain some of the moisture from the rains. Mr. Nyirenda says that in the past some extension officers discouraged farmers from preserving vegetables. But now FAIR Malawi is encouraging farmers to dry leafy vegetables and eat them all year round. The traditional way of preserving vegetables is to pluck the young leaves and drop them in boiling water for a few seconds. Few nutrients are lost in this method. Once they are dry, they can be stored.

Mr. Nyirenda exhibited at the annual agriculture fair in Blantyre in 2010. He displayed a woven bag made from dried leaves on his stand. The bag held dried vegetables. He says, “My children do not know that our parents used to keep and preserve food in these leaf bags. It is bad. We are losing our tradition.”

Mrs. Mwalabu uses similar woven bags to preserve pumpkin seeds. She breaks open a well-matured pumpkin, scoops out the seeds and dries them on a bamboo plate. Then she puts the seeds in the leaf bag and hangs them in the kitchen.

She keeps other seeds in the kitchen, such as eggplant. She allows a ripe eggplant to dry while still on the bush. Then she collects the dried eggplants and hangs them in her kitchen. Smoke preserves the seeds and the rats cannot reach them.

Mrs. Mwalabu rarely sees eggplant or pumpkin seeds for sale in local markets. When they are present, people rarely buy them. She explains that farmers usually buy from their neighbours, or buy “… from someone they trust because different varieties have different flavours.” She says that local varieties which are sweet, tasty and have a long shelf life are now scarce. This is because the culture of preserving seeds and food is dying. She is happy that NGOs like FAIR Malawi are encouraging indigenous innovations and local techniques. She hopes this will bring back the nutritious local varieties she loves.

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Mali: Soaring grain prices worry farmers (by Soumaila T. Diarra from Farm Radio Weekly, in Mali)

From a  distance, the mud houses in the village of Gwélékoro appear to sit in the middle of the fields, which are bare in this dry season. Farmers gathered their harvests last November. Now they patiently wait for the next rains, expected between June and July.

But despite the apparent tranquility, farmers are worried. Life is difficult this year in this village 60 kilometres south of Bamako, the capital of Mali. Not only was the harvest poor, but cereal prices have jumped significantly. Farmers are keeping a sharp eye on the price of grain in local markets. They will need to buy grain when their own supplies run out.

High cereal prices are unusual in southern Mali. The region is one of the most productive in the country.

Karim Diarra is a 43-year-old farmer. He says, “In the market, grains are especially expensive this year. A kilogram of millet, for example, has not been sold below 100 CFA francs. It is a long time since I saw that. In other years, a kilo could be sold at 50 CFA francs. ”

Many farmers are keen to start working their fields again. Niènè Traoré says, “We’re expecting a hard time because the price of grain has gone up early. And we do not have many reserves for the rainy season [July to October], a time when prices of essential commodities skyrocket.”

The last harvests were not good. In the village of Hérémakono, a few kilometres away, farmers believe that the high price of cereals is partly due to the abundant rainfall. Their crops are not suited to high rainfall. Madou Koné is another farmer who expects difficulties: “Every year I can feed my family by farming. But for the first time I might need to buy grain at the market. That worries me because the prices will continue to rise.”

Other farmers believe that the high price of grain has nothing to do with the level of production. Baba Dramé is the village chief in Hérémakono. He is angry with the authorities. He believes they must act to keep prices at a reasonable level: “In Mali, the problem of high cereal prices is not caused by scarcity, but speculation. The authorities should control the cereal market with appointed stores selling grain at fixed prices.” The “appointed stores” that Chief Dramé refers to would sell only subsidized grain.

With a production of nearly seven million tons of grain, the 2010-2011 crop was very good, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. The rise in production has aroused the interest of big grain buyers. The Minister of Agriculture confirmed on national television that the World Food Programme (WFP) wants to buy 15,000 tonnes of cereal for distribution in Benin and Senegal.

For now, the Malian government has not taken action to control rising grain prices. While farmers pass the lean period and wait to start work in their fields, they can still make ends meet − but not for long.

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Mali: Sali Samaké’s journey from literacy class to weather reports (by Soumaila T. Diarra for Farm Radio Weekly in Mali)

Sali Samaké is known to many in the village of Tamala, in southern Mali, by her nickname, Salibléni. In the Bambara language, Salibléni means “Sali of light skin.” Her skin colour and her slender frame disguise her age. Sitting with her two daughters, she says, “I was born in Defar, a nearby village. I was married when I was 15. Today, I’m 56.” Sali never went to school. But she learned to read and write at the age of 30. She completed a four-year literacy course in Bambara, her mother tongue. With a shy smile, Sali says: “I remember at first I could not even recognize my own written name. Now I can read and write well.”

Like the other village women, Sali is busy throughout the year. During the dry season from November to June, she handles various jobs reserved for women. In addition to cooking, she searches for firewood and collects water.

Yet this mother of three children is no ordinary woman. The Malian government uses her to help farmers. She is one of 10,000 farmers across the country who were trained by the National Meteorology Service in 1999 to keep records of rainfall in their villages. Sali explains, “During the rainy season from July to October, after every rain, I measure the level of rainfall with a rain gauge located near the village. Then I call the National Weather Service in Bamako to tell them the data.”

The information sent by Sali complements data from all over Mali. These are used to make weather reports which are broadcast by national radio and television. The other part of Sali’s job is to provide advice to farmers through the agro-meteorological assistance program.

This program of the National Meteorology Service teaches farmers how to adapt their farming practices to disruptions in rainfall. According to Sali, the problem is that farmers in Mali do not know exactly when the rainy season will start. She explains, “Before, the rainy season began in May and ended in October. These days, it may rain once or twice in May, but the rainy season really begins late, usually in June or July.”

If the first rains fall in May, farmers believe they can plant. But this early rain is not consistent. The first seedlings die from lack of water. Farmers may be forced to plant their fields several times. Sali helps farmers deal with these changes in rainfall patterns. She advises farmers to wait and plant a little later when the rains are more reliable.

When farmers follow her advice, they avoid planting more than once. This saves time for other work.

Seydou Samaké (no relation) is a farmer in the village. He goes to Sali for information and advice. He says, “I followed a training with Sali on crop adaptation to unpredictable rainfall. But that does not stop me consulting her often. There are many other women doing the same work in Mali, but I think Sali has a better grasp on the techniques. ”

Since she has been doing this work, Sali has become a role model for women in Tamala. Rokia Coulibaly lives in the village. She says, “Many women from the village attended literacy classes with Salibléni. But it was her courage that enabled her to progress to the point that she now helps us improve our farming techniques through her work with the weather service.”

Sali is well-known in Tamala. She says, “Every time I go to the rain gauge to take readings, people ask me questions. Some follow me to the rain gauge because they do not want to wait to hear the weather report on the radio.”

In Tamala, Sali is known as the “rainmaker.” She is loved by all!

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Congo: From farmer to business woman (by Privat Tirbuce Massanga for Farm Radio Weekly in Congo-Brazzaville)

A horde of women attempt to buy cassava cuttings from a newly-arrived vehicle at the bus station in Pokola, in northern Congo. The cuttings are from Kabounga, more than 150 kilometres away. One woman stands out in the crowd, and commands the attention of the seller. Her clear voice rings out in discussion of the price. Her name is Elise Elenga. She is spokesperson for the women farmers in this square. She also acts as an adviser to the many women who ask for her guidance on how to diversify their economic activities, or resolve a dispute.

Although she grew up in the city, Elise Elenga blossomed in the small forest town of Pokola. Mrs. Elenga has moved from the city to the forest, and from farming to being a small-scale businesswoman. Today she combines farming  with her various business interests. But she never dreamed that her life would take this path.

Mrs. Elenga left Brazzaville to join her husband in Pokola twelve years ago. Since then, she has become a model female entrepreneur. She remembers her early days in agriculture: “When I arrived in Pokola, it was hard to get through the month with the money that my husband gave me. We had to buy everything. And the products were very expensive.” But then a friend gave her a piece of land. She decided to grow cassava to feed her four children. Soon, she had the taste for farming.

Another friend advised Mrs. Elenga to find more land and grow products to sell. Mrs. Elenga spoke to the local authorities: “They granted me a large plot and I planted cassava. In the third year, I sold cassava chips and cassava for making fufu. Financially, too, I was satisfied.”

With the money earned from farming, Elise began to trade various items. When there was no farm work to do, she made trips to Douala in Cameroon to buy supplies. She is well-known in Pokola as a vendor of cloth, shoes, baby clothes and clothing for men and women. Not to mention cooking utensils and agricultural implements. People stop by her house to request items they need.

Elise Elenga recognizes that farming is very difficult in Pokola. The town lies in the middle of the forest. Trees and stumps must be cleared before fields can be planted. She says, “Our difficulties do not stop there.”

She walks eight kilometres to reach her fields. It is a 16-kilometre round trip to collect and transport her crops to market. Sometimes she expects a good harvest, only to discover her crop is suffering from plant diseases such as mosaic virus. She explains, “This disease is plaguing our cassava plantations. That’s why we plant more than one field per year. You must have the willingness and courage to keep going each year.”

This small-scale farmer has big ideas. She hopes to buy land and build houses in the city. She wants to rent them out so that she and her family receive an income when she is retired. But for now she is satisfied with what she has achieved through farming. She says, “Thanks to agriculture, I can pay for my children to study in town. And I help my parents.”

When asked about the role of African women, Elise says: “For me, today’s woman should no longer cross her arms, even if her husband has a good salary. When the husband goes to work, the woman also should seek an occupation. She could have a field of cassava or bananas, a vegetable garden or a small business. I earn hundreds of thousands of CFA francs per month. With agriculture, I do not envy those who work in businesses or the public sector.”

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Zimbabwe: Women farmers face many challenges (by Zenzele Ndebele for Farm Radio Weekly in Zimbabwe)

Nobuhle Fuzwayo raises cattle in Fort Rixon, about 40 kilometres east of Bulawayo. But as a woman, she faces the challenge of being stereotyped by the traditional customs of the Ndebele people. She explains, “Only men are seen as owners of cattle. So even the cows that I have worked hard to rear should belong to my husband. It is hard for people to accept that I can also own cattle.”

Gender stereotyping is not the only challenge Mrs. Fuzwayo and small-scale farmers like her face. Mrs. Judith Maphosa is chairperson of the National Women Farmers. The women felt privileged to receive training. But often, training is not enough. Mrs. Maphosa says, “[Agricultural extension workers] have even taught us food processing, but we cannot implement that because the cost of acquiring machinery is just beyond us.” Mrs. Tholakele Dube is a small-scale farmer in the Kezi area, 50 kilometres north of Bulawayo. She struggles to find draught power to plough her fields. She explains, “A lot of us women don’t have cattle or donkeys to pull our ploughs. The best we can do is to hire tractors, but we don’t have the money. It is costly, especially when they charge for fuel.”

Of all the difficulties women face as farmers, Mrs. Dube said lack of money is the most common. Mrs. Judith Maphosa  says that banks will not loan money to women farmers: “There is no money for us female farmers because we do not own the land that we farm. They only consider cross-border traders. I am sure [that if] we had been traders of some sort, we would be getting this money. At the moment, accessing funds, especially from banks, is impossible.”

One effect of these challenges is that women farmers in Zimbabwe are struggling to adapt their farming practices to the changing weather.

Mrs. Maphosa notes, “The rain … is a great challenge to us. At the beginning of the rainy season, the meteorological department predicted that there would be above normal rainfall here. Their predictions were correct, but we failed to match our plowing and planting with the rain pattern.” Unfortunately, the women could not get the inputs they needed on time. The rain fell in the early part of the season. By the time the women received the inputs, it was too late. Mrs. Maphosa says, “Those who did dry planting will be able to harvest, but most of the women farmers in the rural areas will not harvest much.”

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Zambia: Rural women seek support on International Women’s Day (by Brian Moonga for Farm Radio Weekly in Zambia)

The booming economy in northwestern Zambia is helping more rural women venture into growing crops and rearing small livestock. Women know they can sell their produce to motorists and miners on the busy Solwezi-Mwinilunga highway. One of Africa’s largest copper mines is on this highway, near Lumwana.

A group of women formed the Kyawama Rural Women’s Club barely one year ago. The women all live a few kilometres from the highway. Club members are small-scale farmers who grow crops in their back yards. They sell their produce along the highway. The women formed the club to gain and share knowledge on farming and land rights, gender equality and many other matters that affect them.

Although still in its infancy, the 15-member club has managed to sensitize women in neighbouring villages on land rights and agriculture. Emelda Kaumba is the club’s founder. She says that this year’s International Women’s Day will motivate the group to help more women become aware of their rights, and sensitize them on household food security.

When asked what International Women’s Day means to the women in the group, Mrs. Kaumba says, “In the past we had no interest in learning how special days like the International Women’s Day could play a role in getting us organized. Now, for the sake of working together as a community, we want to commemorate this day by identifying potential partners that can help us strengthen our group.”

The Kyawama Women’s Club wants to network with pro-farmer NGOs. The club wants to learn basic skills in agriculture and sales. They also want advice on transforming the group into a small co-operative. According to Mrs. Kaumba, “As rural women, we are secluded also because of the long distance from provincial centres where most women’s organization is based. We hope that some women’s non-governmental organization will identify us as potential partners.” The club will participate in commemorations in Solwezi, a large town nearby. They will use this opportunity to pursue partnerships and support.

Women-led non-governmental organizations have mushroomed in Zambia. But they are based in urban areas. There is an outcry from rural areas which are cut off not only from the NGO network but from mass media as well.

Mrs. Kaumba explains why rural women need support: “Selling on the roadside is a game of chance. Most of the time, many of my colleagues here whose produce is displayed near the highway may not make a sale in two days.” When asked about her hopes for International Women’s Day, she says, “We hope we may explore methods of ensuring that we all gain from the market in transit. I sell a pineapple [for] 10 times less [than] the price it would cost, because most of us here lack information on finding new markets. I hope they will talk about that as well during the women’s day.”

Mrs. Kaumba says, “Women’s day should not only be for town dwellers; we need to move at the same level as [urban] women because we share a common challenge.”

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Burkina Faso: Farmers find ancient seed selection practices still relevant (by Adama Zongo, for Farm Radio Weekly in Burkina Faso)

Hadarou Déné farms in Tanama V2, a village about one hundred and forty kilometres from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. Mr. Déné grows maize, sorghum and cotton. For the last five years, the local agricultural extension service has offered improved seed varieties.  Mr. Déné says, “We receive improved maize and cotton seed from the county department of agriculture. We have seen good yields with these seeds.”

Seeds are a central concern for farmers. They represent farmers’ hopes for full granaries, for the next planting season, and for food security.  As Mr. Déné says, “Where will we be tomorrow? What use are our granaries if we have no seeds?”

But the extension service does not distribute sorghum seeds. Like other farmers in the village, Mr. Déné saves and plants local sorghum seeds. He says, “The sorghum seeds are the ones passed on from our parents. Each year, we use these seeds.” Mr. Déné carefully selects these local seeds at harvest time. Smiling, he explains, “Before harvesting sorghum, I go through my field and I choose the big ears that are ripe and dry. I cut them very carefully to avoid losing the grain.”

Every year, Mr. Déné stores his seeds in the granary. He says, “I keep them carefully in the granary, above the grain which we use as food.” Mr. Déné is aware that pests can attack the granary, but he believes they cannot reach the stored seeds. The granary is not treated, nor does it use any type of protection from pest attack. But Mr. Déné is quite confident. He says, “It is true that we do not use any treatments or protection measures. Pests could get in, but they only destroy a small amount of grain.”

Salfo Dabré is another farmer from the same village. After harvest, he selects the best ears of sorghum. He is careful to choose sorghum which is free of contamination. He ties the ears of sorghum together and hangs them in a tree in the middle of his yard. He has done this for years and never worries about losing the seed he has so carefully selected. With confidence, he says, “I do this to keep my seeds. They have never been destroyed by weevils or other pests. My parents did this. Today, I do the same as they did.”

Like Mr. Déné, Mr. Dabré stores his crops in granaries. But Mr. Dabré says that building a granary is a lot of work. He explains, “It takes wood, water, clay bricks, straw and all sorts of other materials to build a granary. It is a lot of materials to assemble!”

The farmers in Tanama V2 continue to plant local sorghum varieties. Their selection and storage methods are traditional, tried and tested, and they work. These ancient practices continue to provide villagers with a secure supply of seeds.

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South Africa: Traditional seeds help Sekhukhune District fight hunger (by Fidelis Zvomuya, for Farm Radio Weekly in South Africa)

Lindiwe Zono is a member of the Phadima Agricultural Association in the Sekhukhune District of Limpopo province, in northwestern South Africa. The association has started a seed bank to preserve and increase their supply of traditional food plants.

Sekhukhune is a poor district, bordering Zimbabwe to the north and Botswana to the north-west. It is dependent on agriculture. The effects of climate change have been felt in recent years. Farmers have had to cope with droughts, floods, soil degradation and water sources clogged with silt.

Mrs. Zono says that seed saving was once an almost sacred duty among the Pedi, the largest ethnic group in the province. The seed bank builds on this tradition. It aims to make use of and promote traditional crops such as sorghum, millet, cowpeas, maize, and pumpkin. It began in 2000 and covers seven villages.

Mrs. Zono explains: “By setting up a seed bank, we aim to pool resources together so that we can increase [our] stock of traditional food seed varieties that are environment-friendly, [and] do not need expensive fertilizers or pesticides to flourish.”

The members of the association farm organically. They plant crops that withstand drought. The farmers use hoes and cattle-drawn ploughs to prepare their fields. Project members trade seeds with each other to find varieties that they wish to plant on their farms. They share knowledge and note their crops’ performance. Mrs. Zono adds, “We identify the crops and document some of the information and their growth on our own.”

Farmers in this district do plant hybrid seeds. But those who plant traditional maize varieties are now reaping the benefits, while those who opt for hybrids are counting their losses.

Clarice Madonsela is another association member. She says that the association encourages farmers to identify healthy crops in the field and mark them for seed. The marked crops are then harvested and stored separately from grains meant for food. She says, “Our traditional kitchen is the best storage place for seed grains because we use firewood for cooking. The smoke produced by the fire, and the slightly higher temperatures in the kitchen, helps to dry and preserve seeds.”

Mrs. Madonsela says that they are now food secure. She believes that this is a result of secure access to seeds through the use of traditional storage and planting methods.

Mrs. Zono calls on government and research institutions to assist the farmers by introducing innovative ways to preserve seeds. She explains; “We fear that the effects of climate change, floods, drought and burning of crops may ultimately make particular seed varieties become extinct, rendering farmers seedless, if we do not act swiftly.”

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Cote d’Ivoire: Cocoa farmers suffer from export ban (IPS, IRIN, BBC, RFI, Afrik News, Wall Street Journal)

Cocoa farmers in Cote d’Ivoire are bearing the brunt of a ban on the export of cocoa beans. On January 23 this year, Alassane Ouattara called for a month-long ban on cocoa and coffee exports. His aim is to starve Laurent Gbagbo of the funds that are keeping him in power.

In the presidential elections in late 2010, Alassane Ouattara was proclaimed the winner. But incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo is refusing to leave office.

The European Union, along with the United Nations and the African Union, recognizes Alassane Ouattara as the rightful winner. The EU has imposed financial sanctions on institutions seen as backing Mr. Gbagbo in an effort to force him to leave office. EU-registered vessels are barred from docking at the ports of Abidjan and San Pedro. Multi-national companies have suspended cocoa purchases.

Blaise Ouraga is a farmer from the cocoa belt of San Pedro. He says, “Growing conditions this year have been ideal for a good harvest.” But, he adds, the cost of transport and food has risen in the last couple of months. According to Mr. Ouraga, “A ban is the latest headache.”

At first, many farmers supported the ban. Maurice Savadogo is a cocoa farmer in the eastern town of Abengourou. He says, “The majority of us are smallholders from the north or centre of the country. These are the people who feel the ban is all part of the process of a revolution.”

But other farmers are protesting the ban. A number of farmers burned a dozen bags of cocoa outside the EU offices in Abidjan. They are asking the EU to lift the ban, arguing that the post-election crisis is not the fault of the growers. Blandine Gloudoueu is a cocoa producer from Duékoué, a city in the west part of the country. She attended the protest. She asks, “I am just a simple producer … what do I have to do with this policy?”

Coffee and cocoa generate about 40 percent of the country’s export earnings. There are about 900,000 cocoa growers in the country, and an estimated six million Ivoirians rely on cocoa production to survive.
Farmers are already having problems financing and storing the next crop, due to be harvested between April and May. Warehouses are overflowing with unexported supplies. Local and international banks are no longer trading or financing cocoa purchases.

Some growers say they will seek new buyers in China or Russia. Others feel they must sell for half the price recommended by the coffee and cocoa board. Fulgence N’Guessan is president of the Union of Cooperatives of Côte d’Ivoire. He explains, “Farmers don’t have the conditions to keep beans for more than about three weeks. Some prefer to sell at a low price rather than risk not being able to sell mouldy beans at all later.”

Other farmers are threatening to burn their cocoa. Zabi Youan is a grower from Vavoua. He warns, “I will burn my produce. Because I can’t fathom selling my produce for paltry sums, considering all the hard work I put into it.”

Whatever happens, cocoa beans are likely to find a way out of the country. Traders and analysts believe that cocoa will cross into the neighbouring countries of Ghana, Liberia and, through Burkina Faso, into Togo. Kona Haque is an agricultural commodities analyst in London. She predicts, “We are going to see a big jump in smuggling.”

Mr. Savadogo, the cocoa farmer supporting the ban, says, “… if the ban is extended until March, things will be enormously difficult for us. At the end of the day we are just planters; we feel very vulnerable.”

Cocoa prices are rising sharply. As it becomes more difficult to get the beans out of Cote d’Ivoire, traders are paying premium prices. This week Ouattara announced an extension of the export ban until March 10. Following the announcement, cocoa prices reached their highest level in 32 years. Many predict a social and economic disaster if the ban and the political crisis continue.

Here is some further reading on this issue:

Cocoa Prices Jump As Ivory Coast Extends Export Ban: http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20110222-713079.html

Ouattara to extend Ivorian cocoa ban: spokesman: http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE71L0FE20110222?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews
Briefing on the humanitarian situation: http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportID=91922

Updates will appear on news services as the situation changes. Please check on:
http://af.reuters.com/news/country/?type=ivoryCoastNews
http://www.bbc.co.uk/search/news/ivory_coast?video=on&audio=on&text=on
http://www.afrik-news.com/ivory-coast
http://www.rfi.fr/tag/cote-divoire

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Online course: ‘Reporting on refugees and displacement’

The AlertNet website provides a variety of services and tools for journalists and broadcasters. If you broadcast in a region where there has been conflict or people have had to leave their homes, you may find this online course informative: “Reporting on refugees and displacement.” In clear and easy steps, it provides facts, figures and definitions, and will help you explain the stories behind the numbers. It is global in scope, but does have sections relevant to Africa. The course is free of charge. You may work through the course at your own pace and when you choose. It should take about 30 minutes to complete.

Access it here: http://www.trust.org/alertnet/alertnet-for-journalist/e-learning/reporting-on-refugees-and-displacement/

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Hello everyone,

After our short publishing break, we are happy to welcome a number of new subscribers: Merline Yoyo Fankou Dougoua from the Faculté des sciences de l’Université de Yaoundé in Cameroon; Joanitah Birungi from Your Farm Uganda, in Uganda; Jacques Saintelus from 4VEH Radio – Living Hope Mission in Haiti; Robert Chaciga Baguma from Straight Talk Foundation in Uganda; Rodrigue Zinsalo from Agriculture qui sauve in Benin; Marcel Ramahavita from Ministère de la Population et des Affaires Sociales à Madagascar in Madagascar; Patrice Kiziba Yafali from Radio Mutanga in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Jean Pierre Kentsa from Kristagi in Cameroon; Pauline Kalumikiza from Farm Radio Malawi in Malawi and Sevor Mawuli Kodzo Ericson from Ohawu Agric College in Ghana.

We are pleased to bring you two new stories this week, written especially for Farm Radio Weekly.

From Congo-Brazzaville, we hear how an unusual form of transport enables farmers to reach markets, and therefore produce and sell more. Farmers and traders use the motorcycle-wheelbarrow to carry heavy loads to market along difficult roads in this forested region.

Our second story is from Madagascar. In this country, some farmers have begun to store their crops in solidly-built granaries. They pay a small maintenance fee, but many no longer have to buy rice during the lean period. Instead, they sell it for a good price.

In our action section, we hear from colleagues in Ivory Coast about how the recent political crisis has affected radio stations. Some stations are playing a role in the situation, broadcasting information and responding to events.

We are still keen to hear about the most interesting interview you did last year. As we mentioned a few weeks ago, we plan to share broadcasters’ practices, stories and experiences. We’d love to hear about a memorable interview, or a story of how you coped when things went wrong. Tell us who the interviewee was and why the interview was so interesting. Did they evade questions? Talk too much? Give controversial or surprising opinions? We look forward to hearing your stories: farmradio@farmradio.org

Many greetings,
-The Farm Radio Weekly team

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1. Congo: The ‘motorcycle-wheelbarrow’ prevents harvest loss (by Privat Tiburce Martin Massanga for Farm Radio Weekly in Congo)

Over the last two years, a small vehicle known as the “motorcycle-wheelbarrow” has changed the lives of farmers in Pokola. The vehicle has three wheels and features a large bucket on the back. Before the motorcycle-wheelbarrows arrived, many producers abandoned their fields because they were unable to get their produce to market. But with its help, farmers now lose fewer of their crops after harvest. Many farmers have increased their productivity.

It is seven o’clock in the morning. Fog envelops nearby houses. A small crowd gathers at the crossroads. Women carry empty baskets on their backs, and men have hoes and machetes. Young men stand near plastic jerry cans filled with water. They are waiting for the motorcycle-wheelbarrows which will take them to the fields. These people will spend the day working on the land. They will then take their produce to town to sell: manioc, bananas, yams, vegetables, tarot, corn, peppers and sweet potatoes.

Jean Paul Kamana is a farmer. He is well-known in Pokola, a town which grew around the timber industry in the tropical forests of the northern Congo. Mr. Kamana was among the first to own a motorcycle-wheelbarrow. It is the only type of transport used by farmers here. Its special place and value in local farmers’ lives is explained by the large bucket on its back.. The motorcycle-wheelbarrow carries people as well as agricultural products. Farmers now easily reach fields several kilometres away.

Mr. Kamana first saw the vehicle being used by a nearby timber company, carrying construction workers’ tools. He realized that it was very convenient, and thought it might be useful for him. He says, “It inspired me to carry my tools this way, and to use it to take my produce to market.”

He thinks the motorcycle-wheelbarrow offers several advantages. For example, it can easily move large volumes of agricultural products. It saves a lot of travelling time, and Mr. Kamana no longer has to physically carry his produce. The vehicle can carry two or three labourers at a time to help him work in his field. He says, “It is a very useful machine. But there is no shop selling these bikes here. You have to order it from dealers who go to Douala in Cameroon, more than 1500 miles from here.”

According to Mr. Kamana, the main problem with the vehicle is the supply of spare parts. Everything must come from Douala. If it breaks down, the owner may wait several weeks for repairs.

Mr. Kamana remembers the difficulties before the motorcycle-wheelbarrow arrived. He says, “We were carrying our crops in wheelbarrows and pushing them on sand or mud for several miles. Or we would carry produce in baskets on our backs, sometimes under a scorching sun or in the rain. It was too painful to carry.” But today, he says, “You can even go to a field 20 kilometres away without worrying.”

Mr. Kamana bought the motorcycle-wheelbarrow primarily for his own use. But he also loans his vehicle to other farmers so that they too can take their products to market in Pokola. Women traders also take the vehicle to the fields to buy goods from farmers. They return immediately to the market to quickly resell the produce.

Today, a number of producers and co-operatives are using motorcycle-wheelbarrows. As a result, more and more agricultural products from the forest zones reach the market. Thanks to this strange-looking vehicle, farmers no longer lose so much of their harvest.

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2. Madagascar: New granaries guarantee food security (by Patrick A. Andriamihaja, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Madagascar)

Over the last two years, a small vehicle known as the “motorcycle-wheelbarrow” has changed the lives of farmers in Pokola. The vehicle has three wheels and features a large bucket on the back. Before the motorcycle-wheelbarrows arrived, many producers abandoned their fields because they were unable to get their produce to market. But with its help, farmers now lose fewer of their crops after harvest. Many farmers have increased their productivity.

It is seven o’clock in the morning. Fog envelops nearby houses. A small crowd gathers at the crossroads. Women carry empty baskets on their backs, and men have hoes and machetes. Young men stand near plastic jerry cans filled with water. They are waiting for the motorcycle-wheelbarrows which will take them to the fields. These people will spend the day working on the land. They will then take their produce to town to sell: manioc, bananas, yams, vegetables, tarot, corn, peppers and sweet potatoes.

Jean Paul Kamana is a farmer. He is well-known in Pokola, a town which grew around the timber industry in the tropical forests of the northern Congo. Mr. Kamana was among the first to own a motorcycle-wheelbarrow. It is the only type of transport used by farmers here. Its special place and value in local farmers’ lives is explained by the large bucket on its back.. The motorcycle-wheelbarrow carries people as well as agricultural products. Farmers now easily reach fields several kilometres away.

Mr. Kamana first saw the vehicle being used by a nearby timber company, carrying construction workers’ tools. He realized that it was very convenient, and thought it might be useful for him. He says, “It inspired me to carry my tools this way, and to use it to take my produce to market.”

He thinks the motorcycle-wheelbarrow offers several advantages. For example, it can easily move large volumes of agricultural products. It saves a lot of travelling time, and Mr. Kamana no longer has to physically carry his produce. The vehicle can carry two or three labourers at a time to help him work in his field. He says, “It is a very useful machine. But there is no shop selling these bikes here. You have to order it from dealers who go to Douala in Cameroon, more than 1500 miles from here.”

According to Mr. Kamana, the main problem with the vehicle is the supply of spare parts. Everything must come from Douala. If it breaks down, the owner may wait several weeks for repairs.

Mr. Kamana remembers the difficulties before the motorcycle-wheelbarrow arrived. He says, “We were carrying our crops in wheelbarrows and pushing them on sand or mud for several miles. Or we would carry produce in baskets on our backs, sometimes under a scorching sun or in the rain. It was too painful to carry.” But today, he says, “You can even go to a field 20 kilometres away without worrying.”

Mr. Kamana bought the motorcycle-wheelbarrow primarily for his own use. But he also loans his vehicle to other farmers so that they too can take their products to market in Pokola. Women traders also take the vehicle to the fields to buy goods from farmers. They return immediately to the market to quickly resell the produce.

Today, a number of producers and co-operatives are using motorcycle-wheelbarrows. As a result, more and more agricultural products from the forest zones reach the market. Thanks to this strange-looking vehicle, farmers no longer lose so much of their harvest.

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Zambia: Small-scale farmer worries about rising food prices (by Brian Moonga, for Farm Radio Weekly in Zambia)

Jason Mumbi has been farming for nearly a decade in Kabwe’s Chamuuka area, north of Lusaka. When asked about increasing food prices, he replies, “High food prices are … a challenge for me as a cash crop grower.”

Mr. Mumbi operates a small maize mill as a family business, and is thinking of expanding. But the persistent increases in food prices are the main stumbling block for him. He spends most of the family’s earnings on food and school fees for his three children. Instead of growing more cash crops, he has had to reduce the size of land he cultivates as he cannot afford seed.

He says, “I grow mostly vegetables and I used to use my profits from my mill business towards buying seed and chemicals to help me grow my cash crops. But now it’s becoming difficult. I have reduced my farm from growing on an acre to half the area.”

According to Mr. Mumbi, the high food prices are not beneficial for small-scale farmers. He explains that, despite profiting from the booming demand for vegetables and the increased price of food, he eventually incurs the same high costs. He buys food which is not grown on his farm, and has to purchase non-food items which are increasing in price.

To add to his woes, electricity prices in Zambia are set to increase by 14 percent this year. The Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation needs to expand the country’s main power generation station to keep up with domestic demand. As Zambia’s economy grows, so does the need for electricity.

Mr. Mumbi and the farmers who use his maize mill live on a tight budget. They are simply trying to make ends meet. Mr. Mumbi says some small-scale farmers are already reducing the amount of maize they bring for milling. Soon he will be forced to double the milling fee to meet the increased cost of electricity. He fears many farmers will not be able to afford this.

Zambia’s staple food is maize. Households commonly buy 25-kilogram bags, which now cost about 15 US dollars. Mr. Mumbi fears that an increase in electricity costs will mean higher food prices and the loss of his milling business. His livelihood is under threat.

He says, “Because I grow my own veggies, it’s easier and cheaper [for me] compared to other farmers. I grind my own maize meal in the back yard and we can eat it with the vegetables from my gardens. It’s a little easier; but I know very soon it will be difficult to even grow my own maize and mill it.”

Zambia’s agriculture sector has grown in recent years. Close to 90 per cent of the sector’s production comes from subsistence farmers. But critics say the high costs of production and of doing business are likely to block small-scale farmers from growing into commercial farmers.

Mulambo Hachima is a consulting economist. He says, “Unless small-scale farmers are given vast tax concessions as in the mining sector, where [small] scale operators have recently become medium entities, we expect farmers to continue incurring high costs of production as fertilizer prices, fuel and even other essential goods go up.”

Mr. Mumbi calls on the Zambian government to take measures to protect small-scale farmers against soaring food prices. He says, “It’s essential that they introduce a recommended retail price for food because energy costs will keep increasing, and at one point we will be unable to feed our families or even buy seed and other inputs to continue farming.”

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DR Congo: Teachers take up farming to supplement their salaries (Syfia Grands Lacs)

Oscar Semivumbi walks to school each morning with his satchel in hand and a hoe over his shoulder. Mr. Semivumbi is a teacher at the Institute of Matanda in Masisi, North Kivu province, eastern DR Congo. He explains, “I go to school early in the morning. After school, depending on the time of day, I join my wife to work on the farm.” He says he needs to farm because his teaching salary won’t get him through the month.

He is not the only teacher to practice two trades. Manabi Francis is a history teacher. He explains how he survives: “I harvested four bags of beans. I sold three bags for 36 dollars and kept one bag as seed for next season.” Some parents bring him gifts of food, such as beans, potatoes, bananas, and chickens. “But these provisions do not cover all our needs,” he adds.

Farmers displaced by wars have recently returned to the region. Many schools resumed classes in 2008. But many parents cannot afford to send their children to school in this agricultural area. Previously, those with livestock sold milk or cheese. But many animals have been stolen.

Unable to earn a living, teachers are leaving rural schools in North Kivu for the city. With fewer qualified teachers, the quality of education suffers, and student numbers have dropped.

In Katanga province in the south of the country, teachers have tackled similar problems by getting their students to work for them. In Kanyama, students work for two days a week in their teachers’ fields. Neither students nor parents are happy with this arrangement. Daniel Ruben Tchibanga is a 12-year-old student. He says, “Our teacher requires us to work in his field every Friday and Saturday from 6 am to 4 pm. The other days of the week, we do not study enough. Because the most important thing for him is his field of cassava and maize, not our studies.”

Parents are angry. They say is it exploitation. The local parents’ association complains that teachers are getting students to do “common chores.”  But the kids cannot say no. They are afraid to fail. Mamba Sango is a student. He says, “Our teacher keeps a register to note who is working in his field. I don’t like this. I came to study, not to do chores!”

One teacher, who gave his name only as KW, does not deny these facts. Instead he tries to justify his actions. “With my low salary (20 000 Francs, or 22 dollars a month),” he explains, “I’m unmotivated. My students help me grow crops on my two acres of land. This is my main source of income.”

It is forbidden for teachers to use students’ time  in this way. Legally, students can be asked only to do light work such as cleaning classrooms. Placide Ngandu is Head of the Sub-Division of Primary, Secondary and Vocational Education in Kanyama. He announced that he will open a disciplinary file against teachers who compel pupils to work on their fields.

The Security Committee of Kanyama even addressed this issue during a meeting. But they made no recommendation. Local groups are calling for authorities to improve teachers’ wages and working conditions, and stop the exploitation of students.

Meanwhile, teachers try to find the time to work in their fields to make ends meet.

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Botswana: Bushmen granted water rights (Mail & Guardian, Survival International, OSISA)

In late January, Botswana’s Court of Appeal granted Kalahari Bushmen access to water on their ancestral land. This overturned an earlier high court judgment that prevented them from using a borehole on which they rely.

The Kalahari has been the Basarwa Bushmen’s home for tens of thousands of years. The Bushmen are traditionally hunter-gatherers. Since the 1990s, the Botswana government has tried to move the Bushmen from their ancestral land into newly created reserves.

The appeal court judges found that the Bushmen have the right to use their established borehole, and to sink new boreholes. Ordering the government to pay legal costs, the judges also found that the government’s conduct towards the Bushmen amounted to “degrading treatment.”

The government argued that the Basarwa’s presence in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is not compatible with preserving wildlife. However, new wells have been drilled for wildlife, while luxury tourist lodges have been built in the disputed territory. Botswana’s government also approved a 3 billion dollar diamond mine in a Bushmen community.

Basarwa activist and resident Amohelang Segotsane says, “I am happy with the judgment but not completely happy. Government was supposed to give us water without going through the legal process.” Mr. Segotsane said they want to be treated as citizens and enjoy the same rights as others in Botswana.

Jeff Ramsay is a coordinator for the Botswana Government Communications and Information System. He says the government will respect the appeal court’s decision: “We are a nation that is governed by the rule of law and always have been. Of course we will respect the decision of the courts.”

In 2002, the Bushmen were forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve by the Botswana government. The Bushmen took the government to court. In 2006, another court allowed the Bushmen to return to their desert-like homelands. However, the government reacted by banning the Bushmen from using a well which it had capped during the eviction. This forced them to travel outside the reserve to access water.

Despite the lack of water, some Bushmen remained, surviving off rainwater and melons, and fetching water from outside the reserve.

Stephen Corry is the director of Survival International, a UK-based NGO which has supported the Bushmen through the legal process. He says, “This is a great victory for the Bushmen and also for Botswana as a whole. We hope it will be embraced as such by the authorities and not be seen as just an obstacle to their attempts to get the Bushmen off their lands for diamond mining.”

Read more about the Appeal Court ruling at these two sites:

http://www.mg.co.za/article/2011-01-28-kalahari-bushmen-win-appeal

http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/6925

The Bushmen have their own website: http://www.iwant2gohome.org/index.htm

Read more about the Bushmen here: http://www.survivalinternational.org/tribes/bushmen

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Malawi: Intercropping helps farmer Phiri buy ox-cart (by Norman Fulatira, for Farm Radio Weekly in Malawi)

Mathews Phiri is a smallholder farmer living in Mlwale village, eight kilometres from Zomba, in the south of Malawi. For over eight years, 24-year-old Mr. Phiri and his wife Annah have farmed a small area of land, and made little profit. They cannot afford to buy inorganic fertilizer.

Malawi’s Farm Input Subsidy Program aims to assist vulnerable small-scale farmers. But there are many farmers who, like Mr. Phiri, face hunger but do not qualify for the government subsidy. Now, a new study suggests an alternative for these farmers. It found that farmers who rotate maize and legume crops can cut their fertilizer use in half without reducing maize yields.

Mr. Phiri wanted to avoid becoming dependent on inorganic fertilizers. So, two years ago, he took the advice of an extension worker. Mr. Phiri now plants maize and pigeon peas at the same time of year, on the same piece of land. This practice is known as intercropping. His maize yield has gradually improved over the two-year period since he began intercropping.

Mr. Phiri harvested 18 bags of pigeon peas in 2010. He sells them to large-scale vendors at 27 US dollars per 50-kilogram bag. With the proceeds, Mr. Phiri has managed to buy an ox-cart. He uses it to carry organic manure to his garden.

When asked about his success, Mr. Phiri explains, “I started planting maize alongside pigeon peas soon after I got the advice from the extension worker of my area, Mr. Franklin Nyirenda. It has worked perfectly well for me.”

Since the subsidy program started in 2004, Mr. Phiri benefited twice. But in 2007 he was left out of the subsidy program. So he began looking for alternatives, and decided to grow pigeon pea. Now he does not need to rely on subsidies. He uses manure, practices intercropping and watches his yields increase. Mr. Phiri says, “You know, not every peasant farmer gets subsidized fertilizer … in the past I used to groan whenever my name was not on the list of beneficiaries.”

Mr. Henry Msatilomo is the Agriculture Development Officer in Zomba District. He says that many smallholder farmers now realize the importance of intercropping. Mr. Msatilomo explains that intercropping helps farmers increase their yield while at the same time improving soil fertility. This is especially the case when one of the crops is a legume, like pigeon pea.

The scientists who conducted the study on crop rotation found that slow-maturing and shrubby legumes like pigeon pea and mucuna spend more time in the ground producing nitrogen. And the ground stays covered longer, another benefit for the soil. Dr. George Kanyama-Phiri is co-author of the study. He says that rotating with legume crops complements, but does not replace, fertilizer use.

Although Mr. Phiri is intercropping, rather than rotating his crops, he has already benefitted from planting legumes. He is proof that farmers can save on fertilizer costs by planting pigeon peas, at least in the short term.

Dr. Kanyama-Phiri cautions that local differences in farming practices may affect the benefits of legumes. For example, in the southern region, farmers construct maize ridges later in the season. This may expose legumes to damage from sun or hungry goats.

Before Mr. Phiri started intercropping, he sold his maize to get cash for his family’s needs. But with intercropping, he no longer has to do this; he can rely on the proceeds from pigeon peas. For Mr. Phiri, buying an ox-cart is a major achievement. And it’s all because of intercropping.

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Rwanda: Health fund for cows (Syfia Grands Lacs)

Farmers in southern Rwanda recently launched a health fund for their cows. Triphonie Mukagasimba is a member of the management committee that organizes the savings scheme. She says, “If a health care fund has worked for us, why not try it for cattle?”

Many  farmers in Save, in the Gisagara region of Rwanda, received improved cross-bred dairy cows through the government’s One Cow per Poor Household Program, which began in 2006. This program aims to give good quality livestock to over 250,000 of the poorest households by 2020. The animals supply farming families with milk, meat and manure.

Six months ago, a group of farmers who had received cows started a joint savings scheme. Together, they save enough money to help them cover costs when their cows fall sick. Cattle deaths have dropped dramatically.

Mr. Kamanzi is a local farmer who raises cattle. According to him, cross-bred cows produce more milk, but are sick more often than local cows. He says, “It is difficult [for the cross-bred cows] to adapt to the climate and some farmers still do not know how to raise them.”

Seventy-six farmers launched the health care fund for cows. That number has since risen to over 100. They help and support each other to care for their animals. Mrs. Triphonie remarks, “Now the cows are treated quickly. Before, farmers gave them traditional medicines as they could not afford anything else. Some cows would die.” She says that the cost of caring for cows is high for a single producer.

Each farmer contributes 2000 Rwanda Francs (around three US dollars) per year. The farmers pay in several instalments during the year to allow the poorest to raise the money without too much difficulty. Mrs. Triphonie explains, “The contributions mean that the farmer is able to pay for medicine for his cow every time it is sick during the year.” Farmers who are not part of the savings groups pay five times more for medicines.

Nshimiyimana Théogène is the veterinary officer in Save. He confirms that in the past four months, only one cow out of 16 died of disease. Before the savings scheme, ten cows died over the same length of time. Mr. Habimana is a farmer from the same region. He says, “When a cow is sick, the farmer calls the vet directly, who treats the animal. The health care fund pays for the whole bill. Cows are not dying as before.”

The fund is managed by farmers themselves through a management committee. Farmers also share their experiences in preventing animal sickness. The members plan to open a veterinary pharmacy that will allow them to access drugs quickly and cheaply. Neighbouring districts plan to copy their initiative.

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