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The fall issue of Network News, the newsletter we produce three times a year to keep our supporters informed about our work, has been published. Learn about some of the things Farm Radio International has been up to in the past few months.

Some highlights include the launch of the Farmer Program e-Course, a new initiative called the Radio for Farmer Value Chain Development, the Rockefeller Foundation winning entry – FarmQuest, and donors who used the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary to make a special gift to Farm Radio International.

To read the issue, click here.

Jefferson Massah calls himself part of the Farm Radio International Family. As a rural radio journalist in Liberia, he uses skills that he learned from Farm Radio International training on a regular basis.

In fact, Jefferson recently wrote to tell us that he was named Development Journalist of the Year by the Press Union of Liberia. He won this award for a story about women in agricultural development in Liberia. As he explains:

I employed all the skills acquired from Farm Radio to produce a very good report from a rice processing center managed by group of rural women in central Liberia.

“I am very pleased to imprint my contribution to the ‘achievement column’ of Farm Radio International as one who has immensely benefited [from] its training program”,  he adds.

Jefferson participated in two Farm Radio International script-writing courses, in 2009 and 2010. And he is about to embark on our latest web-based course. While previous online courses have helped broadcasters obtain basic research and story-telling skills, the Farmer Program eCourse will serve a broader purpose. It will provide participating African broadcasters with the tools to design a more effective and engaging regular farming program.

This course is designed for broadcasters who want to start a regular, weekly or daily farmer program, or for those who want to hone their skills to improve their station’s regular farmer program.

We know that African broadcasters are dedicated to serving their listening audiences (mostly small-scale farmers) but many have never had the opportunity to learn the basics of researching the needs of their audience or structuring a program.

The upcoming Farmer Program eCourse will help African radio broadcasters do just that.

Key Topics for the Farmer’s eCourse include:

• Identifying your audience and addressing the needs of small-scale farmers (both men and women) in your area.

• Telling stories and structuring your program to present different kinds of information and use multiple formats.

• Identifying and finding the resources needed to sustain your regular farmer program.

• Gathering audience feedback.

To graduate from the training course, participants will be expected to submit a complete design for a regular radio program for farmers. The best designs will be eligible for one-time seed funding to help them produce the program designed during the eCourse.

The Farmer Program eCourse is being run with the financial and technical support of the Commonwealth of Learning. If you’d like to read more about the eCourse, or view some of the training modules that broadcasters will learn from, please visit:

In May1979, Farm Radio International founder, George Atkins, sent the first script package to 34 radio broadcasters in 26 countries. His idea was to share practical farm information in a world-wide exchange through the most assessable medium, radio. He sought out information about affordable and appropriate agricultural techniques, such as how to fertilize their crops with animal manure or compost, or how to raise oxen.

Today, more than 400 participating radio partners in 38 African countries help us to gather and share the practical information that goes into our radio scripts, news items and newsletters. Topics cover a wide variety of information important to the small-scale farmer including soil fertility, climate change adaptation, livestock health, and includes a variety of formats (interview, drama, spots, etc.). Scripts also include tips for broadcasters on presenting the information and adapting it for their own listening audience.

For over thirty years Farm Radio International has sent the script packages, free of charge, in English and French, to our partners in sub-Saharan Africa, where they are adapted to local conditions, translated into hundreds of languages, and broadcast to a potential audience of several hundred million people.

These scripts are also available on our website and are sent out electronically to our partners in Africa and to other organizations and individuals around the world that support small-scale agriculture and rural development. To view many of our scripts and resources online, click here.

Farm Radio International has for a long time wished to provide our radio scripts in languages other than English and French. We are now pleased to announce that some of our most popular scripts are available in Swahili and Hausa!

Using feedback from broadcasters, and focusing on scripts that were particularly relevant to the regions where each language is spoken, we chose fifteen scripts to be translated into each language. Some scripts are available in both Hausa and Swahili. Others are only available in one of the languages, depending on content and regional relevance.

For example, you can now read script 86.1 Local water committee helps villagers, but especially women and children

in Swahili: 86.1 Kamati za maji zinasaidia wanavijiji, hususan wanawake na watoto;

and in Hausa: 86.1 Kwamitin ruwa na gida na taimaka wa yan kyauye, samma ma mata da yara.

Visit these links to view and download all the translated scripts:

Rex Chapota of Farm Radio Malawi

Radio is the only place where the Minister of Agriculture

and the small farmer meet,

says Rex Chapota, Executive Director of Farm Radio Malawi. He sits in a small office with Farm Radio International staff here in Ottawa, Canada explaining the powerful possibilities associated with radio. Not just radio; but radio that values farmers and gives them the chance to express their opinions and concerns.

Mr. Chapota worked directly with Farm Radio International (FRI) for almost four years, leading the Malawi office in cutting edge research to discover the effectiveness of rural radio in Africa (see the research results here). The work was so good in fact, that a home-grown Malawi-based NGO called Farm Radio Malawi spun off of FRI in 2010. It still remains a close partner for FRI but operates as a separate organization on the ground, staffed by Malawians who understand very well the realities of working in the small Southern African country.

Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s agricultural extension systems across sub-Saharan Africa were all but dismantled. Decreases in funding and shifts in policy away from government social programs led to a problem: over-burdened government agencies that were charged with serving small-scale farmers. It is not uncommon to see one extension agent serving 2,000 farmers in many countries. This situation is unsustainable and where we see radio as a way to reach out to isolated, and often information hungry, farmers.

Mr. Chapota sees a change in the way Malawi approaches communication for development:

Our research has really raised a demand for radio. We are starting to see a re-investment in radio as a means to serve farmers over great distances. Not only that, but the government (of Malawi) is now coming to us as a partner. They are learning from us how to engage with farmers. It is no longer just about using the medium for awareness-raising, but how to involve a large portion of the population in the conversation.

Through the African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFRRI), Farm Radio International learned that participatory radio campaigns aimed at informing and engaging farmers can actually lead to dramatic increases in the adoption of appropriate agricultural practices. In Malawi several campaigns focused on one-to-one maize planting and organic manure. These are the types of changes that can have a major impact on food security for millions of farmers.

Mr. Rex Chapota will be speaking at the Farm Radio International office in Ottawa, Canada on Monday June 18, 2012, sharing his experience in working with small-scale farmers in Malawi. He will examine the explosion of interest in rural radio in Malawi and the transformative effects it can have on policy formation as well as ultimate changes in food security for farmers. Please join us!

RSVP on Facebook

Malian farmers examine sorghum before the harvest. Thanks to educational radio programs, they have learned to protect their crops from striga.

Five years ago, nothing grew well in Barafo Théra’s family farm, which lies in the community of Damy in Mali. Nothing, that is, except for a weed called striga. Striga is a parasitic plant that attaches itself to the roots of host plants, sapping them of nutrients. What this means for farmers like Mr. Théra is finding their staple crops such as millet and sorghum yellow, stunted, and withering. This leads to poor or non-existent harvests and, all too often, hunger.

Striga affects two-thirds of the land that African farmers devote to cereal crops, overtaking the very crops that families rely on for their staple food. The weed is so pervasive that many experts consider it the greatest obstacle to food security in Africa. It’s so hated that it’s earned the nickname “witch weed.”

Year after year Mr. Théra, his wife Worowé Kamaté, and their four children, faced poor harvests and food shortages due to striga. But everything changed the day he met with a local farmers union.

“Talking is good, but you will understand me better if you see my field today,” Mr. Théra says as he leads Farm Radio International writer Mariam Koné past their family compost pit. They have four acres of farmland. Here his family grows millet, sorghum, fonio, and sesame. Thanks to composting and other farming techniques that he learned from the farmers union, the fields are a healthy green and free from striga. The couple now produce plenty of food for their family, with a small surplus to sell for cash.

The farming techniques that allowed Mr. Théra and Mrs. Kamaté to save their crops from striga are low cost and relatively simple to learn. These include practices like intercropping legumes with cereal crops and penning livestock to provide a ready supply of manure fertilizer. However, knowledge about these practices has been slow to spread. That’s where Farm Radio International comes in.

Through a partnership with the same farmers union that helped Mr. Théra and his family, a local radio station, and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Farm Radio International is spreading the word on effective techniques to combat striga to hundreds of thousands of Malian farmers. We are also gathering resources so that we can reach farmers in Burkina Faso with similar educational radio programs that explain steps to fight striga.

Vambiè Théra, who hails from the community of Pérakuy in Mali, was one of the farmers reached by the educational programs. He had heard about striga, but didn’t think of it immediately when his crops quickly withered one year. Instead he consulted traditional spiritualists who advised that his crop was cursed and that he should make animal sacrifices to return good fortune to his fields. He carried out the prescribed rituals to no avail – his harvest was half of what he expected, meaning food shortages for his family.

His luck finally changed for the better when he turned his radio dial to Farm Radio International partner Radio Moutian while it aired an educational program about striga. He quickly learned that striga was worse than he imagined, but that it could be controlled. He took careful note of the methods to prevent striga – methods which also promote good soil health, since striga thrives in poor soil environments.

Now every night, my family listens to the next part of the story on Radio Moutian. And I’m not the only one – just ask the radio station – (the striga program) has become their flagship show,

says Vambiè Théra. Armed with the information on how to prevent striga, he’s already taken steps to prepare for the upcoming planting season and reclaiming his family’s food security.

Spring 'Network News' 2012

This story is featured in the latest issue of our newsletter, Network News. Click here to read more.

Farm Radio Weekly (FRW) is our news and information service for rural radio broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa. It started in 2007 with the vision of Doug Ward, the President and Chair of the Board of Directors for Farm Radio International, to provide resources to our African broadcasting partners on a more regular basis. After all, many years of producing radio programming for the CBC had taught Doug just how much quality material it takes to keep engaging shows on the air.

Now FRW delivers the latest agricultural news stories of relevance to small-scale farmers to the inboxes of more than 2,200 subscribers each week. It is a service that hundreds of radio stations across Africa rely on for information and inspiration for their agricultural programs.

Zenzele Ndebele, Zenzele Ndebele, a production manager for Zimbabwe Community RadioZimbabwe Community Radio

In May, we celebrated a landmark as the 200th edition was published. On this occasion, Zenzele Ndebele, a production manager for Zimbabwe Community Radio, told us what FRW means for him and his station:

My experience with Farm Radio Weekly has been great because I now follow farming news from most of the African countries. I am now aware of the challenges faced by African farmers, and most of the times the challenges are similar to those faces by Zimbabwean farmers. These are challenges like climate change and markets.

To read his profile, click here.

Read the 200th issue of FRW here.

And a BIG thank you…

FRW news bureaus continue to focus on farmers

In 2010, funding from the Canadian Auto Workers Social Justice Fund (CAW-SJF) allowed Farm Radio International to take the unprecedented step of opening two FRW news bureaus in Francophone and Southern Africa. These bureaus are entirely dedicated to engaging African journalists to tell the stories and share the perspectives of African small-scale farmers. We are delighted to share the news that the CAW-SJF is renewing their support with a grant that will enable us to continue the work of these news bureaus.

To mark International Women’s Day, this week’s issue of Farm Radio Weekly, features stories of four remarkable women. Featured in this International Women’s Day blog, is the story about Farm Radio International broadcast partner, Ugochi Anyaka, who went to the town of Mpape, just outside Abuja, Nigeria, to research what would become her award-winning story. There, she met with John, the originator of a unique method of manufacturing briquettes.

As Ms. Anyaka explains in her audio report, Saving the Trees for Paper Briquettes, John is the brains behind a project that uses waste paper to manufacture briquettes. The briquettes are an alternative fuel to traditional firewood. In the report, John explains, “Briquettes are made of paper which you soak into water for two hours, and you press it into the briquette maker and it comes out in the form of bread and you start using it like charcoal.”

Ugochi Atrophy with the UNEP award

Ugochi Atrophy, a broadcaster from Farm Radio International partner Aso Radio in Nigeria, with her UNEP award

Ms. Anyaka’s story won first prize in the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Young Environmental Journalist Award. The 29-year-old says the award is “the greatest moment of joy” in her career. Indeed, Ms. Anyaka’s report beat out more than 120 entries from journalists all across Africa.

The UNEP award “aims to showcase excellence in the field of environmental reporting and nurture new talent that will help to shape opinion on the environment in Africa, and beyond, in years to come.”

Ms. Anyaka explains that her story “was done to show the opportunities in a changing climate – and not just the woes. It also seeks to show the conflicting viewpoints about the Clean Development Mechanism.” (The Clean Development Mechanism is a tool within the Kyoto Protocol to mobilize additional funding in developing countries for investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency.)

Ms. Anyaka, a self-proclaimed eco-journalist, can be heard on Aso Radio’s airwaves every Thursday at 9 a.m. as the host of Green Angle, a show that delves into environmental and climate change issues.

To listen to Ms. Anyaka’s award-winning story, click here.

To learn more about Ms. Anyaka and her eco-journalism, you can read her blog, Eco Nigeria, or follow her on twitter: @UgochiAnyaka.

To read the UNEP press release about the Young Environmental Journalist Award, click here.

From all of us at Farm Radio International, congratulations Ugochi!

The African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFRRI) was a 42-month action research project implemented by Farm Radio International (FRI) in partnership with World University Service of Canada (WUSC), and with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The following are the results of this multi-year, multi country research project that are among the first in-depth studies of rural radio in Africa. The first report outlines our use of a newly developed methodology called the Participatory Radio Campaign. The second report presents our analysis of market information services (MIS) and their effectiveness on the radio. The last report presents our results from integrating newer ICTs with radio to create more effective farm radio programs.

Download Report #1:  Participatory Radio Campaigns and food security Download Report #2:  Marketing on the airwaves Download Report #3:  The new age of radio

Fatogomo Sanago interviewing a farmer at the market in Fana, Mali.

Wednesday is market day in the town of Fana, Mali. There’s a busy energy in the air as farmers, traders, and other villagers gather to buy, sell and talk. In the middle of it all is Fatogoma Sanago, program director at Radio Fanaka. He uses his digital audio recorder to capture the sounds of people bargaining and chickens clucking. Fatogoma uses these recordings, along with interviews and information about market prices, for his program Aw Ni Sugu, or “Thank you for being at the market.”

Farm Radio International has named Fatogoma the 2011 recipient of the George Atkins Communications Award. The award recognizes rural radio broadcasters for their outstanding contribution to food security and poverty reduction in low-income countries. Fatogoma is responsible for all programming on rural issues at Radio Fanaka. He is also a presenter. Read more…

Nelly Bassily, Farm Radio International staff, at the launch of Barza, Novemeber 11, 2011.

On November 11, at the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) International Forum, Farm Radio International was proud to launch BARZA, an exciting new social networking site for African radio broadcasters. As more and more African broadcasters are using the Internet, the potential to connect these broadcasters online – to help them share scripts and other radio content with each other, and develop their broadcasting skills – has also grown. That is exactly what Barza does. “Barza” is a Congolese Swahili word that means ‘meeting under a tree’ – an apt name for this new social network.

In addition to sharing radio scripts, broadcasters can share radio programs, access resources for their shows for farmers, participate in discussion groups, and participate in on-line training activities.

As Doug Ward (Chair of the Board for Farm Radio International) put it:

in the 1980’s and 1990’s Farm Radio International provided a one-way ‘top down’ service, sending radio scripts out to broadcasters for them to use in their programs. With the launch of Barza, we now offer opportunities for peer-to-peer sharing across a large network of broadcasters. It’s an exciting new era.

We would like to thank the International Development Research Center as well as the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) for supporting this initiative. We would also like to thank Digital4Good, a web development company based in Cape Town, South Africa, who worked with the Farm Radio International team to develop Barza.