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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

East Africa: HIV-positive people turn to kitchen gardens during food price rises and drought (IRIN)

The small garden behind Agnes Oroma’s house is much more than a hobby. Mrs. Oroma, from northern Uganda’s Gulu district, is HIV positive. She believes her garden is one of the main reasons she remains in good health. She says, “Do not ignore that little space behind your house, it can do a lot to feed you cheaply and lessen your financial burden.”

Mrs. Oroma’s garden is ten metres by fifteen metres. Here she grows indigenous vegetables and tomatoes. She also proudly shows off a sisal sack in which she grows onions. This produce supplements her daily diet of beans, maize meal, and fish. Mrs. Oroma advises how money saved by growing your own vegetables can be put to good use.  She says, “that would enable you [to] spend on other essentials to keep you healthy on your daily ARV [antiretroviral] treatment.” 

More than 11.6 million people face starvation in the Horn of Africa. Millions more in the region are affected by rising food prices. Experts warn that people living with HIV are especially at risk. 

According to the UN World Health Organization, HIV-positive people need to consume at least 10 per cent more energy from food. Lack of food is a barrier to successful antiretroviral, or ARV, therapy. Many patients abandon their antiretroviral medicine or delay starting them until they can afford a more nutritious diet.

Francesca Achieng is a nutritionist at the hospital in Gulu. She confirms that nutrition affects HIV care. She notes, ” [Without adequate food] a patient cannot withstand the strength of ARV drugs because of its side-effects, the drugs … can destroy your body while they fight to reduce multiplication of the virus in your body.” When hospital staff began assessing nutrition levels, they realized that the patients were undergoing difficult times.

Mrs. Oroma and other HIV-positive people in Gulu have formed a group. Their goal is to become more self-reliant in food. This helps them to maintain a healthy diet and stay on their antiretroviral medication. Mrs. Oroma’s group of backyard farmers has grown to 30 in the past few months. 

Maurine Kilama has also begun growing vegetables. She says, “Food was my biggest worry for my treatment; I had become weaker because my body didn’t have the strength to withstand the potency of the ARV drugs.” Mrs. Kilama lost 6 kilogrammes in weight. But since she started her garden, she has regained 4 kilogrammes. She says, “Since I started growing these vegetables … I feel a lot of improvement and I have the strength to do other things.” She continues, “I now take my medication without worries because I know the food I grow can keep me going for another day.”  

However, for many HIV-positive people, already weakened by lack of food, working in a garden is not an option. They may find the work too tiring. Or they may be too weak to walk long distances to collect and carry water for the garden.

The limited health services in eastern Africa are often stretched to capacity. People living with HIV may not get the attention they need from overburdened health workers. Many people living with HIV rely on social or home-based care networks for support. Food and water shortages can present a challenge to the continuation of these support networks.  Some break up as a result.

But Mrs. Kilama is still in a position to help herself. She has not suffered the worst effects of the drought. She planted onions and vegetables between November and January. She says, “Growing them is easy provided you water them early morning and evening.” She harvested vegetables in March and even had some extra to sell.  The money helped her to buy food and pay school fees.

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South Sudan-Uganda: Farmers fear land mines (IRIN)

Farming communities along the South Sudan-Uganda border are afraid to till their land. After years of civil conflict, the risk of landmines and other unexploded ordnance is great. 

Roselina Achan lives in Ngomoromo in northern Uganda’s Lamwo district. She says, “Landmines are a big problem here; my sister was blown up in 2007 after she visited this village [Lelabur in Ngomoromo] in the hope of returning.” Mrs. Achan was speaking during the handover of a stretch of demined farmland in Ngomoromo on July 29, 2011. 

But while this stretch of farmland is clear, other land nearby remains dangerous. Cosmas Odwogo is a local leader. He says at least 19 people have been killed by landmines in Lelabur since 2000. Several cattle have also been killed. Mr. Odwogo says locals set fire to affected fields during the dry season in an attempt to explode the mines. But this proved futile. He adds, “We urgently need government intervention to clear our land so that we can return home and start cultivation.”  

The threat of landmines and unexploded ordnance has forced former residents of the Agoro, Ngomoromo, and Ogili areas in northern Uganda to settle in camps, away from their villages. 

Farmers on the South Sudan side of the border are also curbing their activities because of the landmine threat.  Ajweng Yubu lives in Laboni village. He says, “The situation is bad in Laboni and other places in South Sudan where landmines were planted along roadsides, water points, and farming areas.”

Rodger Lutalo is a program officer with the UN Development Programme in Kampala. He estimates that around 400 villages in northern Ugandan have been cleared of landmines since 2005. Some 5,000 landmines were detonated. But he notes that 329 “hazardous” villages remain.

The Ugandan government hopes the areas will be cleared by next year. But mine clearance is challenging.  Matti Nikkila is a senior technical adviser with the Danish Demining Group. He says, “Here, we are doing it [mine clearance] manually yet the vegetation is thick, making it hard to do the work.” 

According to officials, there is a need to scale-up mine risk education to help protect vulnerable communities. Even in areas which have been demined, officials recommend caution. Addressing the affected communities, Mr. Lutalo says, “It’s up to you to remain vigilant and report any suspicious objects lying on the ground.” 

Meanwhile, Mr. Yubu is still waiting to return to his fields. He says, “I don’t know when we will confidently walk and cultivate our land without fear.”

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Democratic Republic of the Congo: Committed to community radio (Syfia)

At first glance, there is no evidence of a radio station inside the colonial style building. Perhaps the two antennas on the roof and solar panels that provide electricity offer a clue. Inside, the entrance leads to an isolated room. The room looks more like a repair shop than a broadcast booth. There are two microphones on a round table. Converters, cables, and speakers are piled all around. Kasoki Tembo is busy preparing tonight’s program. The sound of a baby crying indicates that this is a family affair.   

Mr. Tembo is the founder of Kalembera radio. It’s a small radio station in Masisi, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The station has a range of about 40 square kilometres.

Mr. Tembo is in his fifties, with graying hair and a white beard. He is married with 15 children. And he is considered a pioneer of radio in the east of DR Congo. After taking several courses in communication, he began his radio adventure in 1986. He helped set up the first stations in North Kivu. For example, he contributed to the establishment of radio Star Goma, which was replaced by the National Radio Television of Congo (TRNC).

Now Mr. Tembo is technician, trainer, and journalist for Kalembera radio. The station operates with basic equipment in these times of digital broadcasting. But Mr. Tembo defends his station with passion. The most important thing for him is that the inhabitants of Masisi have the right to information and entertainment.

With few resources, but helped by his family, he brings information to people who have little access to media. A listener says, “Before installing this radio, we could hear foreign radio stations broadcasting on shortwave. But there was little information that was relevant for us. With Papa Tembo, we are informed about what is happening closer to home.”

However, some listeners complain about the way the radio is managed. One says, “I am a faithful listener of FM Kalembera, but I think the station is very poorly managed. With the father as director and journalist, the wife as technician and presenter, and children in various functions, it’s hardly professional.”

Mr. Tembo cites lack of resources to hire professionals. He emphasizes, “The most important thing for me is that people are well informed. But I cannot commit to take financial risks by hiring staff that I could not pay.” Despite these difficulties, Mr. Tembo is working hard to continue his radio adventure and communicate with his community.

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Burkina Faso: Women solve fuel problem with rice husks (by Inoussa Maiga for Farm Radio Weekly in Burkina Faso)

Boiling rice is an energy intensive activity. For years, the women of the rice processors union in Bama, Burkina Faso, used wood as energy. But this was very expensive. Mariam Sawadogo is president of the union. She says, “To parboil two tons of rice, we used at least 5000 CFA [around ten US dollars] of wood.”

There are around 300 women in the Sinignassigui Union of Rice Processors (in French, Union des Groupements d’Etuveuses Sinignassigui). Each year, they parboil nearly 1000 tonnes of rice which they buy from farmers. The women first soak the rice, then cook it partially. It is then sun-dried and husked, ready to be sold on the local market.

As well as the cost of wood, another issue faced by the women was the waste rice husks.  Mrs. Sawadogo says, “We did not know what to do with the rice husks. Even the producers did not want them for composting, because the husks do not break down easily.” The rice husks began piling up, making the union’s premises look like a landfill site. 

In 2009, a group of Canadian students from the University of Sherbrooke visited the women. This visit changed everything. Mrs. Sawadogo said, “We shared our problems related to energy. The students designed an oven that uses rice husks as fuel.” The students worked with a local blacksmith who then began to produce the oven.

The oven is 30 centimetres tall. The cooking pot sits on the metal top. The husks burn in a funnel-shaped combustion chamber. It is designed so that the husks burn efficiently, not too fast and not too slowly. The oven is sold in the market at 1500 CFA, around three US dollars.

Using this oven has radically changed the lives of the women. They no longer need wood. Now they parboil rice using only husks as fuel. Around ten of these ovens are in use every day on the union’s premises.

As the rice husks are free, the financial impact is considerable. Mahamadi Ouédraogo is director of the union. He says, “For each bag of 100 kg of parboiled rice, we gain an additional 700 FCFA [one and a half dollars].”  

Now, blacksmiths manufacture the ovens and sell them locally. They are very popular, as most households produce enough husks to power the ovens. Mrs. Sawadogo says, “Virtually all households in Bama use this oven to cook their meals.”

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Zimbabwe: Women grow better lives near the city (by Zenzele Ndebele, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Zimbabwe)

A group of about fifteen women crowd around a borehole, waiting to collect water for their gardens. It is a noisy scene here in Gwabalanda. This low-income, high-density suburb is about 14 kilometres north-west of Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe. On the edge of the suburb there is a vegetable garden about 100 metres long and wide.

Mrs. Siboinisiwe Gumede is one of the co-operative members who run the gardening project. She joined the co-operative because her husband earns little and they always have financial problems. Her life has changed for the better since joining. She explains, “My life has improved because I can now afford to make some income by selling produce in the local market and customers around the suburb. Now I do not have to wait for my husband’s salary.”

The garden has about 45 plant beds. Members grow a variety of vegetables including rape, sweet potatoes, cabbage, carrots and spinach. Each member tends their own vegetable beds, the number depends on how many each person can manage to water and weed.

There is a small hut at the edge of the garden. The hut is used as a guard room because thieves are a problem here. Project members were forced to employ a security guard over night because they were losing a lot of vegetables to thieves. Mrs. Gumende says, “We have a serious problem of thieves. As you can see, our garden is not fenced and we are really losing a lot.”

Despite this challenge, Mrs. Gumende thanks the city council of Bulawayo for allowing the women to use the vacant land for agriculture. She explains, “Very few city councils would allow people to farm in the cities.”

The garden project was initiated by Bulawayo City council about seven years ago. Bulawayo is one of the few urban councils in Africa with an agriculture policy. The aim of the project was to alleviate hunger, targeting the unemployed and people with low-incomes. Bongiwe Ngwenya is the spokesperson for the city of Bulawayo. She said, “We realised that agriculture plays an important role to us African people – even when we live in cities we still want a piece of land to farm.”

Mrs. Ngwenya also recognised the role that farming can play in nutrition. She said, “There is also the issue of nutrition especially to people living with HIV and Aids. They need a balanced diet and it becomes easier when they can have a piece of land to cultivate their own vegetables.”

Today the garden benefits a number of people like Mrs. Gumende. She has been working on this garden for the past three years and she has no regrets.

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Kenya: How much relief can Purchase for Progress bring? (IPS)

Mourid Abdi Dolal and Wilson Rotich are both small-scale farmers who grow staple crops. But while Mr. Dolal sells his produce at the local village market, Mr. Rotich farms to feed the growing number of refugees in Kenya.

Mr. Rotich is from Kenya’s Rift Valley Province. He has a one hectare farm in Transmara village where he practices crop rotation with maize, beans and a couple of other leguminous plants. He used to make very little profit. Then he heard of the World Food Programme’s Purchase for Progress, or P4P project.

These days, he can sell his yield to the World Food Programme, or WFP, at the national market rate. It’s about five times more than what he can earn selling it locally. For every successful harvest, Mr. Rotich puts aside a share of the yield, which he sells to WFP through smallholder-friendly tenders. According to WFP, this is a new approach which sources relief food from local farmers instead of importing it from overseas.

Mr. Rotich says, “WFP officers told us to form farmer organisations through which they would [buy] our farm yields. This has helped my family because I am able to pay school fees and even foot hospital bills when one of us falls sick.”

Rose Ogolla is the public information officer for WFP Kenya. She says, “The project is meant to shore up the relief food supply chain as well as make agriculture attractive by offering farmers a ready market.” She explains that this is done through a contract or tender with farmers. 

To be eligible, a farmer needs to be legally registered with a cooperative organisation. He or she must be able to generate 56 metric tonnes of food from their small-scale farm, have proper storage facilities and a bank account.

But P4P does not reach or benefit all farmers. Mourid Abdi Dolal is a pastoralist in the North Eastern Province. He says he has not benefited from the P4P project because it has not reached this Province. This region is home to a growing number of drought refugees in the country and from Somalia.

Mr. Dolal has recently begun practicing small-scale horticulture in his drought-stricken Dertu village. He is able to harvest reasonable quantities of kale, tomatoes and cowpeas. But they only provide him with a small income, since he sells his produce to villagers at throw-away prices.

He says, “I would be happy if WFP reached out to us with subsidies because my village is about 50 kilometres away from the Dadaab refugee camp.” Currently there are about 400,000 people at Dadaab, the majority of whom have fled the drought in Somalia. Mr. Dolal says, “Our village is feeling the pressure due to a surge in displaced people fleeing from the drought.”

Ann Maina is advocacy coordinator with Africa Biosafety Network. Referring to Purchase for Progress, she says, “This is a good initiative because it encourages a home grown solution to the food crisis in the country and could prevent the country from importing maize laced with GMOs.”

Dr. Alfred Mutua is Kenya’s Official Government Spokesman and Public Communications secretary. He is not sure whether the country has the ability to feed the growing number of displaced people, despite the success of the Purchase for Progress project.

Kenya is facing another threat. The United States government is preparing to pull out of the WFP relief programme, which may mean a 40 percent drop in funding for relief food.

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Notes to broadcasters on rice husks

Rice husks (or hulls) account for about 20 percent of rice by weight. In rice-growing regions, rice husks are abundantly available, to the extent that disposing of rice husks can become an environmental problem. They decompose slowly, and are often thrown away as waste. This story is a good example of how to reduce fuel costs while taking advantage of a resource that would otherwise be wasted.

Parboiling rice is a tradition in West Africa. This rice processing technique reduces the number of broken grains at milling. It creates physical and chemical changes in the grain that make it more nutritious and easier to sell and cook.

For more information on rice husks and their potential uses, visit:

http://www.knowledgebank.irri.org/rkb/index.php/rice-milling/byproducts-and-their-utilization/rice-husk

Wikipedia has some general information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rice_hulls

Earlier this year, Farm Radio Weekly produced a short series on energy, with two stories on fuel-efficient cookstoves. Refer to the Notes to broadcasters on cookstoves here: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2011/06/13/notes-to-broadcasters-on-cookstoves/

The stories on cookstoves can be accessed here:

-Uganda: Stoves save fuel and forests (FRW 159, June 2011)

-Southern Sudan: Fuel-efficient stoves bring benefits (FRW 159, June 2011)  

In July 2009, Farm Radio International produced a script from Benin about parboiling rice:

-Parboiled rice is easy to mill, cook, and sell (Package 88, Script 11)

You may also be interested in adapting and using this script on rice:

-Growing and processing top quality rice will get you top money (Package 89, Script 8 )

The topic of cookstoves would make an engaging rural radio program, as it touches so many people’s lives. As it is most often women who do the cooking, make sure you include women in the program, through interviews and features. The adoption of new and efficient cookstoves has been hindered in some regions because those responsible for cooking were not involved in decisions and information sharing.

Try to find women who use different types of cookstoves, whether they are fuelled by gas, charcoal or firewood, and ask why the women use that type. Find out if they have experimented with other types of stoves or fuels. Ask them what are the most important factors they consider when choosing a cookstove.  You could even set up an experiment by asking one or more women to try a more efficient cookstove for a week, and then report their impressions on your program.

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Lorenzo Natali Journalism Prize

The 2011 Lorenzo Natali Journalism Prize is open for entries!

Established in 1992 by the European Commission (EC), the Lorenzo Natali Prize is awarded to journalists for outstanding reporting on human rights, democracy and development issues. The Prize is open to print, online or broadcast reporters worldwide. A special Radio Prize will be awarded.

All Prize winners will be honoured at an Awards Ceremony organized by the EC in December 2011. The deadline for applications is August 31, 2011.

For more information and to apply, visit http://lorenzonataliprize.eu/the-prize/.

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Malawi: Young farmer succeeds through compost making (by Mark Ndipita, for Farm Radio Weekly in Malawi)

Ten years ago, Harry Keliyala viewed farming as a tradition and a practice from his ancestors.  He says, “I was brainwashed that farming was for the poor and for those who did not go to school.” Mr. Keliyala could not produce enough food for his wife and children. For him, farming was a burden.

But that all changed in November 2001. Mr. Keliyala says, “My attitude towards farming changed … when the extension worker visited this village and advised us to start making [compost] manure.” Mr. Keliyala, now aged 29, hails from Kamphampha village, in the northwest of Dowa District.

The extension worker guided Mr. Keliyala and other farmers to analyze the challenges they faced in farming. They determined that one of the problems was a decline in soil fertility.  They knew that to produce surplus food, they needed to fertilize the soil.

Following the extension worker’s recommendation, Mr. Keliyala made a lot of compost manure. This compost would complement the little chemical fertilizer he had. He explains, “I applied the manure in the maize garden and to my surprise I harvested more than what my family required for that year and I sold a few bags of maize.”

After experiencing a bumper harvest in 2002, Mr. Keliyala began to regard farming as a business. He shares the experience, “I witnessed myself that farming can sustain one’s life and can keep a family going.”

The following year, Mr. Keliyala increased the amount of compost manure he made.  He also started growing tobacco and diversified into livestock. He started with five goats, three chickens, and two cattle.

Mr. Keliyala explains that he learnt about diversification from the extension worker. He describes the benefits of diversifying: “Crops and animals complement each other. I use droppings of my animals for making manure and I use some crop residues as feed for animals.”

Raising livestock has improved Mr. Keliyala’s income and nutrition security.  He says, “I sell eggs and milk from the animals I rear and these give me more money to take care for my family. Milk, meat, and eggs also provide nutritious foods to my family.”

As the years passed, Mr. Keliyala’s life started changing for the better. He sold his tobacco for a good price, and noticed that other young farmers began to admire his success.

Advice from the extension worker was the turning point in Mr. Keliyala’s life. Today he boasts of assets which his community associates with rich people. He says, “I am now a model to many young farmers in my village. Currently I have 10 cattle, 73 goats, four pigs, a corrugated iron sheet house, two bicycles, a motor vehicle, and an ox-cart.”

Mr. Keliyala attributes his success not only to himself but also to extension workers, lead farmers, and fellow farmers. “I have benefited a lot from the advice of various stakeholders. I have learnt several agricultural technologies which have changed my farming beliefs, attitudes, and practices.”

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Uganda: Making money with mushrooms (Spore)

When Ismail Mulindwa finished high school in Uganda’s Mukono district, he knew just what he wanted to do. During school holidays, he had tried growing mushrooms using cotton seed husks. He was convinced it could be a profitable venture. He said, “We are farmers by nature. My parents are farmers, they saw potential in me and encouraged me.”

His instincts paid off. He now heads a thriving enterprise. He earns a good income and provides work for a team of outgrowers.

When Mr. Mulindwa started his enterprise, he bought mushroom spawn from Makerere University and the Kawanda Agricultural Research Institute. But he soon realized he would be better off on his own.

Mushroom spawn are like seeds for mushrooms. Determined to produce his own spawn, Mr. Mulindwa enrolled in a microbiology course at Makerere University. To perfect the technique, he signed up for another course at Baraka Agricultural College in Kenya.

Now 25, Mr. Mulindwa has built a spawn laboratory at his farm. He took out a loan from a private company to set up the facility. The cost was 15 million Ugandan shillings (about 5,000 American dollars). He paid back the sum on time, without great difficulty.

Mr. Mulindwa sells fresh and dried mushrooms to individual customers, supermarkets, and hotels. He also supplies spawn to farmers in Kenya and Uganda and the government’s National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS). He makes an average monthly profit of 1.5 million Ugandan shillings (about 550 American dollars). If he lands a big contract he can earn much more. He said, “I have the capacity to deliver 2,000 bottles of spawn a month.”

Mr. Mulindwa set up a network of outgrowers to help meet demand. He is even seeking to expand to meet the booming international market. Many of his suppliers are women. They borrow start-up money from microfinance institutions. Part of the attraction is the quick turnaround. Mushrooms can be harvested 20-30 days after planting the first spawn. And the crop is not restricted to seasons.

Namirembe Joanita is one of the outgrowers. She said, “I was scared of getting a loan but whenever I visited Mulindwa’s farm, I got encouraged. With mushrooms you start earning after just three weeks.” She invested one million Ugandan shillings (nearly 400 American dollars) but made the sum back within three months.

Mr. Mulindwa also teaches mushroom cultivation. His goal is to set up a teaching facility. This will allow him to share the knowledge and skills behind his business. He says there is still much untapped potential in the sector. He claims farmers could make even better profits if they used quality packaging and branding. The young mushroom producer says that owning a farm has taught him the value of hard work. But the results are well worth the investment. He said, “I sweat for my profit, but I benefit from it. I enjoy being my own boss.”

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Senegal: Youth find opportunities in fish farming (IPS)

Singing fills the air at the small dam in Sébi Ponty, about 40 kilometres from Dakar in Senegal. Young co-operative members sing while they pull in their fishing nets. As they draw the nets tight, gleaming fish leap to escape the tightening mesh. The spectacle is a delight for children watching on the banks.

Twenty-year-old Pape Ndaw is one of the men pulling in the nets. He says that many families have come to depend on the fishery since the dam’s rehabilitation in 2006. He says, “I earn more than 120,000 CFA francs (around 270 American dollars) per month when there’s a good catch. I’m supporting my elderly parents as well as my own young family.”

Aquaculture is a vital economic activity for youth in the area. All fishing activities are handled by a co-operative. Around 300 co-operative members are local youth.

The dam is half a kilometer long and about the same wide. In 2006, the dam was stocked with tilapia hatchlings. According to Senegal’s National Aquaculture Agency, it yields 50 kilogrammes of fish per day during each fishing season. The first fishing season begins in July. This signals three months of intense activity for residents of the villages around Sébi Ponty. In October, fishing in the dam will be forbidden for two or three months. This allows stocks to reproduce before another fishing season begins in December.

Anita Diagne Diouf sells fish products. She says the fishery offers real opportunities for young people in the area. And young women like her benefit as much as men in the co-operative. She says, “We share the income and get the same amount as the men.”

However, the dam has several obstacles to overcome, according to Senegal’s National Aquaculture Agency. The main challenge is the co-existence of various dam users. 

Amadou Camara is president of the dam’s management committee.. He says, “The market gardeners use water from the dam. The herders bring their animals here to drink, especially during the dry season.” He explains that this often creates tension between the managers of the dam and the farmers.

One worrying sign of poor co-ordination is that the dam is filling with sand. This is caused by overexploitation of the water. Babacar Ndao is the national minister with responsibility for small-scale water reservoirs. He says the government will soon begin dredging sand from the dam.

He is aware of other challenges faced by the co-operative, such as lack of fishing gear and access to finances. He promises, “The government will launch a program to improve the equipment and reinforce training of the various classes of users.”

Pape Ndaw looks forward to this support. The work at the dam is his only employment. But he does not sit and wait. He says, “During the off-season … when the fish are allowed to reproduce, I keep myself busy with poultry at the house.”

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Zimbabwe: Small-scale farmers still waiting to benefit from land resettlement program (by Zenzele Ndebele, for Farm Radio Weekly in Zimbabwe)

Elliot Ndlovu frequently visits the nearby Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement office in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. His goal is to claim his share of land from the government’s land resettlement program. Fifty-seven year-old Mr. Ndlovu says, “I have been on the waiting list since 2003, and each time I go to the lands office I am told there are no farms available − but other people are allocated land every day.”

Since independence, land has been a central issue in Zimbabwe. In July 2000, the government launched the Fast Track Land Reform program. After a controversial resettlement process, a war of words has erupted over land in the western region of Matebeleland.

Villagers are accusing the government of resettling people who are not from the region. Mr. Ndlovu and other farmers who hail from Matebeleland say they have been sidelined in the land resettlement program. They claim that the people who were resettled in the area are from other regions.

Alfred Sibanda is a 44-year-old small-scale farmer in Figtree, about 40 kilometres northwest of Bulawayo. He claims that, although he applied in 2003, he is yet to be allocated his piece of land. He says, “I regret not invading the nearby farm. Some of us behaved like good citizens. The people who were allocated land here come [from] as far as Harare.”

Mr. Sibanda says similar mis-allocations of land also happened in Marula, 20 kilometres from Figtree. He wonders why the government allocates land to outsiders, and leaves the traditional owners with nothing. He explains, “All this land up to Plumtree about 60 kilometres from here belongs to our forefathers.”

Mr. Sibanda’s grandfather is buried in the middle of a commercial farm 10 kilometres from his house. He says, “I do not have access to the land where my father was buried because the area was turned into a game sanctuary. I worked as a farm worker for the rest of my life and today I cannot benefit from the land reform.”

Many people believed that land reform would address the problem of land shortages. Gifford Moyo is a social commentator and member of an advocacy group in Bulawayo which fights for the rights of the Ndebele people. He warned that if the land issue was not handled properly, it might erupt into a serious conflict. He says, “The primary objective of going to war was to get back our land which was taken by the colonial regime. Now, if this government is failing to properly address the issue of land, the question is ‘Why did we go to war?’ ”

Methuseli Moyo is a spokesperson for the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU). He says it is very discouraging that all the prime lands in Matebeleland have been allocated to people outside Matebeleland.

Mr. Andrew Langa is ZANU PF’s chairperson in Matebeleland province and the Deputy Minister of Public Service. He says the land resettlement allegations are not true, stating, “Most of the people who claim that they did not benefit from land reform did not apply for the land. What I know is that there is no land for Matebeleland or Mashonaland people, but there is land for Zimbabweans.” He continues, “When we started the land reform, we never said we are going to resettle people according to their languages or where they come from.”

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Malawi: Women work to improve water supply (IPS)

Every morning, Ethel James rises at 4 a.m. and walks an hour to the only functioning borehole in the neighbouring village. She returns home with just one bucket of water, which her five children use to get ready for school. Then she begins work on repairing the gravity-fed water scheme in her village.

Mrs. James could not wait for the existing system to be fixed, so she joined the team of villagers in the repair effort. The system consists of a pipeline connected to a reservoir. Taps are connected to the pipeline, but there is no running water in the village of Kwilasha, southern Malawi.

The water system fell into disrepair in the mid-1990s when the government could no longer maintain it. With the assistance of Water Aid Malawi, an international charity that helps people access safe drinking water and good sanitation, the community has taken over ownership of the scheme that covers Kwilasha and 13 surrounding villages.

Villagers organized themselves into clubs, with women assuming leadership roles. Women are also involved in laying pipes and digging trenches. Community members are replacing old pipes with new and larger ones and expanding the network to reach more people.

The nearest alternative source of water is a river just 10 minutes away. But the river is dry at this time of the year. Even during the rainy season, Mrs. James avoids the river because of the crocodiles. She explains how the villagers manage: “So we just dig wells in the village. But that is also a problem because cholera becomes rampant since the water is unsafe. Now that it is the dry season, the wells no longer have water, so we rely on the borehole.”

Water Aid Malawi and the Machinga District council are now training the community in leadership, project management, fundraising, conservation and sanitation. Once the repairs to the water system are completed, it is expected to serve about 45,000 people, three times more than it served in the 1990s.

Mrs. James says that repairing the water system will make a difference to the lives of the women in her village, as they are the ones who suffer most during water shortages. She continues, “Now we’re learning every skill so that we [can] maintain the scheme ourselves and ensure a reliable water supply. Our work does not stop at digging trenches; we also join men in laying pipes and fixing the facilities.”

Monalisa Nkhonjera is program officer responsible for communication at Water Aid Malawi. She says the involvement of women in “rough and dirty” jobs such as fixing pipes means they can maintain the scheme themselves. They will not need to rely on their husbands or others for help.

Each household contributes the equivalent of 13 cents a month to buy accessories and construct new water points. The community has organized a water user association. The association has a bank account with money that is set aside for the day when Water Aid Malawi hands over the facilities to the community.

Mrs. James thinks the water supply scheme will not collapse again, mostly because women are no longer spectators in the project. She now knows how to repair a tap and where to buy spare parts for the system. She says, “We are doing all we can to learn everything, so that we are able to maintain it ourselves even when the men are not there. An efficient water supply will help us look after our families well.”

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Madagascar: UN Special Rapporteur urges review of sanctions (RFI, African Press Organization)

Olivier De Schutter, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, recently urged the global community to re-examine sanctions against Madagascar. Following a mission to the country, he commented that sanctions are one of the reasons Madagascar is “…on the brink of a major humanitarian crisis.”

Many international organizations have suspended aid to Madagascar since elected president Marc Ravalomanana was toppled in a coup in March 2009. Prior to the political crisis, international aid had accounted for half the country’s budget and funded many development programs. At a press conference in Madagascar’s capital in July, Mr. De Schutter said, “Given the lack of progress and that we don’t see a solution on the political horizon, we need to re-examine the impact of these sanctions on the civil population.”

He continued, “It is not acceptable to take them [civilians] hostage under the pretext of wanting to influence the behaviour of the country’s leaders.”

UN figures show that 76.5 per cent of Madagascar’s population lives under the poverty line and 35 per cent of the rural population are hungry. Mr. De Schutter added, “All food security indicators are in the red.”

Mr. De Schutter noted that before the political crisis, Madagascar was showing potential for developing ecological agriculture. He said, “We know that the system of intensive rice cultivation, a pure Malagasy invention, allows to double, triple or even quadruple [rice] yields.”

Madagascar is currently importing 100,000 to 150,000 tons of rice annually. But, according to Mr. De Schutter, “A national strategy to support this type of ecological production could make the large island self-sufficient in rice in three years.” However, he noted, for this to happen, “the authorities must decide to act.”

For more details on this story, visit: http://www.starafrica.com/en/news/detail-news/view/madagascars-hungry-population-is-taken-179470.html

For more information about the office of the Special Rapporteur: http://www.srfood.org/

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Composting human waste is a healthy way to reduce disease and feed the soil

Human waste is rarely referred to in conversation. But it is a resource that, when treated and used carefully and properly, can be an effective fertilizer. Collecting and using human waste can also improve general cleanliness in communities and reduce exposure to disease and illness.

This script tells the story of how ECOSAN toilets were used in a prison in Burkina Faso. The compost produced from human waste was used in the prison’s vegetable garden. ECOSAN toilets solved sanitation issues, as well as saving money on fertilizers. Kpénahi Traoré from Burkina Faso wrote this prize-winning script as part of our recent package on healthy communities.

Read the full script here: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/93-1script_en.asp

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South Sudan: Women hope independence brings better maternal care (IPS, Al Jazeera)

Jessicah Foni, aged 36, has eight children. But she lost two babies at birth due to the lack of medical facilities where she lives. She hopes that maternal health care will improve in the newly-independent Republic of South Sudan. She says, “I come from a very remote village that is far away from any medical facility. I have lost two children due to problems related to delivery. Our new government should build hospitals close to us so that we can access medication.”  

South Sudan has one of the highest maternal and child mortality rates in the world. Earlier this year, the UN stated that one in seven South Sudanese women is likely to die because of complications from delivery. Just 10 per cent of South Sudanese women have access to health professionals during childbirth.

Grace Joan, aged 26, is a mother of five. She has never delivered any of her children in hospital. She says, “When my time is due, I just call a neighbour who helps me deliver my children.” She also has high hopes for better health care in South Sudan. She says, “I am happy that we have our freedom, which will enable the government to provide health facilities to all people so that women and children do not die of preventable diseases.”  

Dr. Abdinasir Abubakar is the medical officer in charge of the World Health Organization office for South Sudan. He says that the harsh living conditions, coupled with very limited access to basic health services, contribute to the poor health of the population. Dr. Abubakar says only 25 per cent of South Sudanese have access to medical facilities.

The most common diseases reported in health facilities are preventable diseases like malaria and diarrhea.  Preventable diseases are common and dangerous in children. Dr. Abubakar says, “Preventable infectious diseases and malnutrition are the most common causes of morbidity and mortality for children under five years of age.”  

The newest country in Africa has big plans. Dr. Olivia Lomoro is the Under Secretary in the Ministry of Health. She said the government has drafted a five-year National Health Framework, in collaboration with the World Health Organization. The framework commits government to addressing the acute shortage of medical personnel and facilities. A new hospital is planned for the capital city of Juba, and new medical schools will open in each of South Sudan’s ten states.

In the short term, South Sudan’s health care system cannot cope with the demand. According to Medecins Sans Frontieres, an international medical NGO, about 80 per cent of the medical care in South Sudan is provided by international aid groups. Many South Sudanese in rural areas must walk for days to reach a clinic.

For women like Jessicah Foni and Grace Joan, new health care facilities in their new country cannot come soon enough.

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Mali: Traditional healers join fight against malnutrition (IRIN)

No one can tell 64-year-old Fatoumata Kané anything new about the plants and tree bark around her town of Banamba in western Mali. But the traditional healer recently learned something new: how to detect malnutrition by measuring a child’s upper arm. 

Many families bring ailing children to Mrs. Kané each week. She is renowned in the region for her healing powers. But now she refers suspected malnutrition cases to the public health centre. Mrs. Kané believes that traditional and modern medicine can function well together. She says, “I have practiced for more than 20 years now; the gift I have for healing is not going anywhere. But modern medicine can complement it, and vice versa.” 

Oumou Sangaré is a local health agent who works with Helen Keller International, a health-focused NGO.  In the fight against child malnutrition, NGOs are tapping into the public trust granted to traditional healers and local elders.

Mrs. Sangaré said she first approached Mrs. Kané because too many malnourished children in Banamba were not getting the medical attention they needed. 

Mrs. Kané was hesitant at first, but then agreed to talk. They met several times to talk about children’s health. Mrs. Sangaré explained to Mrs. Kané the role she could play in detecting malnutrition and helping children get the care they need. “Now she’s had training and she’s helping us detect cases of malnutrition.” 

When illness strikes in sub-Saharan Africa, many people’s first move is to visit the local healer.  A doctor in Sierra Leone, who requested anonymity, said, “It is always people’s first choice here. It’s a custom people are addicted to.” 

As well as being a custom, it is often the only health care people can afford or access. In some countries in Africa, 80 per cent of people depend on traditional medicine for primary health care, according to the World Health Organization.

Traditional healers and older women already have people’s confidence. Vanessa Dickey is senior nutritionist with Helen Keller International in Mali. She thinks that collaborating with local healers means that more children who need medical care will get it. Ms. Dickey says, “Targeting just mothers can get us only so far. People are going to listen to a traditional healer or a grandmother.”

Traditional medicine is effective for many ailments. But health workers say that child malnutrition is untreatable with traditional medicine. If a parent does not understand the signs, symptoms and causes, various other conditions might be suspected.

Nurses and doctors say it is common to see families consult both a traditional practitioner and a doctor. 
The Sierra Leonean doctor says, “It can be OK if people go to both, but only if the traditional healer is competent and knows the limits of his or her capabilities.” 

Ms. Dickey agrees that it is not a question of ruling out traditional practitioners. She says, “They can continue to do follow-up. [But] we do urge them not to give malnourished children herbs or teas to consume.” She explains that the body of a malnourished child is really “in chaos.” Some plants, which might not harm another person, could be dangerous for a malnourished child. 

Seeing a recovered and healthy child is the most powerful publicity. Mrs. Kané says, “My role is to lighten mothers’ hearts by helping heal sick children.” The collaboration works because everyone wants to see sick children recover. As Mrs. Kané says, “When a child is healthy, the mother is relieved and things go better in the household.”

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Republic of Congo-Brazzaville: Elephants prevent farming in Bomassa (by Privat T. Massanga, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Congo Brazzaville)

Bomassa is a village deep in the forests of northern Congo. Walking along the path towards the village, a visitor is struck by the lack of agricultural fields. The area is fertile, but there are only a few fruit trees to be seen. Villagers do not take advantage of the good soils, or the waters of the Sangha River. The main reason is the large and intrusive population of elephants. 

Bomassa is located on the edge of the Nouabalé Ndoki National Park, on the border with Cameroon and the Central African Republic. Many people sit around idly here.  In the part of the village known as Bon coin, men, women and children sit in huts. Some drink palm wine or alcohol made from maize; others just busy themselves with doing nothing. 

Gaston Gbobolo is village chief. He says, “As you can see, everyone in the village is sitting around. Apart from fishing and hunting at night, we have no activities during the day.” When asked about the reason for this lack of activity, Gaston Gbobolo replies, “Here, you cannot grow crops due to elephants. Plantations are ravaged each year. You cannot maintain a garden or field for several years.” As a result, villagers’ diets lack variety. Fishing and hunting is seasonal: when the Sangha River is low, fish are scarce. Hunting of forest animals is banned or regulated according to the season.

The situation is the same in the town of Kabo, about fifty kilometres from Bomassa. Otsangué is a 70-year-old man who lives in Kabo. He noticed the problem more than a decade ago. He says, “Before, we were not faced with the problem of elephants. I moved here almost 50 years ago. It is only in recent years that we are starving because of the elephants.”

The number of elephants in the region has increased thanks to conservation efforts in the national park. Today, the elephants live in the same area as humans. This closeness threatens the survival of the village. It is almost impossible to grow anything. People rely on neighbouring countries for food. Staple foods such as cassava, plantain and maize can be bought in Cameroon or the Central African Republic. But the nearest villages are two days away by canoe. And when goods reach Bomassa, they are sold at two or three times the original price. 

The Wildlife Conservation Society is an international NGO involved in managing the park. Some time ago, it offered the villagers alternative activities such as snail farming. But the activities were not well-planned and failed. While the villagers are fond of eating snails, they did not see the need for snail farming as it is easy to find snails in the forest.  

As a last resort, people have turned to the authorities. Farmers suggested culling a significant number of elephants. Jean-Claude Metsampitso works with the Ecosystem Management Program of the national park. For him, this is not the solution. He believes that, “The killing of fully protected animals is not an option.” 

The villagers are frustrated with the elephants, but more so with the government. Otsangué is disappointed at the official response. He explains, “What annoys us most is the silence of our authorities. One gets the impression that they [would] prefer to see us starve because the elephants are more important to them than we the people of this land-locked area.” Tourists visit the national park, and the villagers receive some of the money generated. But it is only enough for basic needs.

Despite everything, the villagers refuse to abandon their land. Gaston Gbobolo says, “We cannot leave our village because of the elephants. Our history is here.” But how long can they carry on?

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Burundi: Tea producers sell to private company against State advice (Desiré Nshimirimana for Farm Radio Weekly in Burundi)

The normally calm tea-producing hills of Burundi lost their calm in recent months. The reason: refusal by tea producers to sell their products to the Office de Thé Burundais (OTB), the longstanding state-run buyer of tea. They prefer to sell to Prothem, a local private company that buys tea leaves at a higher price.

In Burundi, 78% of tea plantations are owned by small-scale farmers. Tea is the second biggest cash crop in the country after coffee. It accounts for 10 to 15% of the national GDP. Growing tea is an important source of income for more than 60,000 households in upland areas.

Générose Sindakira is a tea producer in the Kibimba hills, in the central province of Mwaro. He explains, “I will sell my tea to whoever gives me the most money. Between the 200 FBU (US$0.16) offered by Prothem and the 140 FBU (US$0.12) offered by the OTB, the choice is clear. Just let us sell our tea to whomever we want and stop sending police officers after us.”

Last April, police fired shots in the air in a tea-producing region in central-western Burundi to scare off tea leaf traders who were dealing with Prothem. The discord began when Prothem opened a processing plant in April of this year.

Producers see many advantages in selling to Prothem. Their leaves are processed more quickly and they get a better purchase price with no holdback to repay farmer loans. On top of that, weighing and calculating is more accurate, farmers are paid more quickly, and Prothem provides service on weekends.

Juvénal Nsavyimana also grows tea. He bitterly remembers when he used to deal with OTB: “Every time, they retained 30 FBU per kilogram for loan repayment. We never knew when [we] were finished paying. They gave us other credits before we even finished paying the first. Even more revolting was how they would, for example, note that you had 10 kilograms on your seller’s sheet even though the scale indicated 10.5 kilograms.”

Competition is fierce between Prothem and OTB purchase points in Gatare, ten kilometres from the processing factory. In two hours, OTB buyers purchase two kilograms while Prothem’s buyers get 50. “Ever since our competitors are taking the tea leaves from us, we’re bored waiting for customers who do not come,” said an OTB buyer who requested anonymity. Customers continue to bring tea leaves to the OTB, but most are just waiting to pay off their fertilizer debt before switching to Prothem.

This switch worries the government. They are afraid that OTB-run plants will not survive. Odette Kayitesi is the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock. Last May, she said, “This is unacceptable and we call on the Minister of the Interior to crack down and suspend the activities of this [Prothem] plant that threatens the operation of our plants.”

But no official action has been taken so far. Local police have been told by government officials to chase away Prothem trucks that try to purchase and collect tea along village roads. But farmers now supply the Prothem factory by bringing their leaves in baskets which they carry on their heads or on their bicycles.

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Somalia: Farmers and pastoralists fleeing drought need both short- and long-term solutions (VOA, BBC, Al-Jazeera, The Guardian)

Kaltun Nur is an elderly Somalian woman. She fled her home in western Somalia to seek help in Mogadishu. Mrs. Nur says, “We endured hunger and we waited for the rains. Our livestock died and we had a farm. We were forced to sell so we can travel to Mogadishu. By that time, we were eating grass.”

Mrs. Nur is not the only one to flee her home. Fardosa Farah says she walked for 25 days to get to the Dadaab refugee camp in neighbouring Kenya. She explains, “This drought wiped out everything we had. If there’s anybody willing to remain there [Somalia], then I think it is just attempted suicide.”

While some walked, others like 56-year-old Hussain Mohamed Ibrahim travelled on an overcrowded truck, along with his two wives and nine children. Mr. Ibrahim lost all 40 of his cows to the drought. He says he had no choice but to leave. He sold his only camel to fund the journey to the Kenyan border.

This is the situation faced by tens of thousands of Somalis who left everything behind to seek help in Mogadishu and in refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia. The drought has been described by the United Nations as the worst to strike the Horn of Africa in six decades.

Relief is slowly trickling into a countrya wracked by war and drought. On July 13th, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Children’s Fund confirmed that a shipment including “medicines, nutrition and water-related supplies” was flown into the town of Baidoa. The aid is destined for severely malnourished Somali children, according to the Voice of America news agency.

Earlier this onth, the Islamist group al-Shabab stated that it welcomed the return of humanitarian groups to the areas it controls. In 2009, UNICEF had suspended air deliveries because of threats from the group. The World Food Program also withdrew in 2010, but is looking to return to al-Shabab-controlled southern Somalia.

While immediate relief is very much needed, more will need to be done. Nigel Harris is CEO of the NGO Farm-Africa. He says that short-term emergency relief has to be provided in conjunction with longer-term strategies that enable people to cope with drought and failed harvests.

Changes to weather patterns in recent years mean that farmers in East Africa are increasingly unable to predict when or if the rainy season will begin. Mr. Harris says farmers must be supported to adapt to a rapidly changing environment.

For example, Farm-Africa is currently working with communities in Kenya. They are advising them on which crops to plant, and encouraging farmers to move away from maize. Maize doesn’t grow well with too little or too much water. Instead, they advise farmers to grow millet, sorghum or pigeon peas, which are more resilient in dryer climates.

In Ethiopia, Farm Africa is introducing drip irrigation to avoid wasting water and ensure that water is better directed to the root of the crop.

Political solutions are also needed to improve farmers and pastoralists’ lives. Ongoing fighting has reduced Somalis’ ability to cope with disaster. Paul O’Brien has worked in Somalia for 25 years and is overseas director with Concern Worldwide. He says, “Where there’s conflict, you don’t have stable communities.”

Concern Worldwide transfers cash donations of 50 to 100 US dollars to those in need. According to Mr. O’Brien, it is not an absence of food that causes the problem, but rather lack of access to food. This is often the case during severe food shortages. Many in the arid regions hit by the drought watched their animals die from lack of water. The severe drought meant that pastoralists like Mr. Ibrahim and his family who fled to Kenya were unable to sell their animals when times got tough.

But it’s not just the combination of climate change, consecutive bad harvests, rising food prices and conflict that affects farmers and pastoralists so heavily. Claire Hancock is disaster management project officer for East and Central Africa with the NGO Tearfund. She says that, for real improvement to occur, longer-term issues such as access to markets, soil erosion, and land tenure must be addressed.

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