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One of the keys to achieving food security in Africa is ensuring its millions of smallholder farmers are able to produce enough food for their families plus a surplus to sell in local markets.

To get a better idea of the challenge facing a typical African farm family, we’ve identified one through Farm Radio International, a Canadian organization that delivers information to farmers through 320 radio station partners in sub-Saharan Africa. We’re keeping track of her farm activities through the year.

The articles are written by Jean Paul Ntezimana, who works with Radio Salus, a station which reaches 90 per cent of Rwanda. Currently, he co-ordinates a radio program for farmers about land conflicts with Search for Common Ground in Rwanda, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that aims to help communities deal with conflicts in a constructive way. If you have questions or comments for our African farm family, you can provide them in the Post A Comment section at the end the original article.

She talks slowly with a low voice and does not move quickly as usual. However, she is not sick. She has just given birth to a baby boy, her third son.

Last Wednesday afternoon (Sept. 28) Justine Uwingabire gave birth to a baby boy in Kigali City. Niyonzima Evariste, her husband, smiles every time he picks up a phone call. He talks as he moves around in the hospital, changing phone sets to pick a new call.

He is answering phone calls from his friends and he answers calls from his wife’s phone because she is too tired to talk.

“She is now unable to talk on phone because she has just given birth to a baby boy,” says Evariste, smiling.

Justine Uwingabire says she expects to have to dial back her farming activities until next season following the birth of her new baby boy Sept. 28. (Farm Radio International)

Supported by Imbaraga Farmers’ Union, Justine delivered her third son in Hopital La Croix du Sud in Kigali, two hours’ drive from Kiramuruzi where she lives.

This is where we can find specialists,” Justine says to two women around her bed. I am lucky, I have given birth without complications,” she says. “I think after only one day I will go home.”

Friday afternoon, a car from Imabaraga Farmers’ Union picks up Justine to take her and her new child home.

At home

Following Rwandan customs, Justine moves from her regular bedroom to another room where neighbours can meet her to say hello to “the newcomer.”

There is a steady stream of women coming and going, some accompanied by children. Some women wash clothes, others are working in the kitchen, while others sit with Justine in her new room sharing juice and other soft drinks. People move in and out of the house. Men sit with Evariste, drinking some soft drinks.

One of her sons, Niyotwagira Prince, has come home to look at “a small white boy.” He can look at the baby and wants to touch. He asks many questions to his mum.

According to Rwandan culture, after eight days the newborn will be given his name. Neighbours will come and meet at Justine’s home in the evening. Many of them will be children of the village.

Justine will offer food and drinks. Everyone will have to give a name to the newborn. After, his father Evariste will give him a name which will be the official name of the child.

Farming activities slow down

Justine has suspended activities on the farm because of her pregnancy, and will not return to work for a while. She has had some others help plant her beans.

“I have sent some people to work on farm for me,” she says. “I know they will do as they understand, I have no choice,” she added.

I will wait for the next season. Now I cannot work. Children need care, immunization, et cetera. I will care for my child and reduce very much my activities on farm.”

Now, Justine has three sons. However, for now she does not want to say whether she would also like daughters.

Also in this series:

Following a farm family in sub-Saharan Africa, April 29, 2011

Our farmer visits France, Aug. 17, 2011

This year’s sorghum harvest is disappointing, Aug. 17

In Mali, farmers are benefiting from up-to-date information provided by various means of communication including the radio. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Recently, Molly Theobald, research fellow with the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet wrote about the work of Farm Radio international. In her blog she writes of how important and trusted radio is to the millions of smallholder farmers in Africa and how the information it brings is making real changes in their lives.

Read the blog.

The Nourishing the Planet project assesses the state of agricultural innovations—from cropping methods to irrigation technology to agricultural policy—with an emphasis on sustainability, diversity, and ecosystem health, as well as productivity. The project aims to both inform global efforts to eradicate hunger and raise the profile of these efforts.

Recently, we released our 93rd script package, based on the winning entries from our fourth scriptwriting competition on the topic of Healthy Communities.

We are pleased to be able to invite you to listen to two audio productions based on two of the winning scripts.

Thanks to the Gender, Equity and Rural Employment Division of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for supporting the audio productions.

The two scripts/audio recordings are:

Indigenous African leafy green vegetable, gboma.

1. “A community fights malnutrition with local leafy vegetables,” was written by Gabriel Adukpo from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in Koforidua, Ghana. In this script, a local extension worker helps villagers to reclaim the health and agricultural benefits of indigenous green leafy vegetables, commonly stigmatized as “poor people’s food.”

• Click here to listen to the audio production of the script produced by Gladson Makowa in Malawi:  “A community fights malnutrition with local leafy vegetables” audio production

• To read the script, click here.

2. “AIDS support group gives positive people a new lease on life!” was written by Filius Chalo Jere from Breeze FM in Chipata, Zambia. This drama shows how a local Zambian organization helps HIV-positive people improve their nutrition by supporting them to grow the ingredients for their own nutritional supplements.

• Click here to the audio production of the script produced by Gladson Makowa in Malawi: 

AIDS support group gives positive people a new lease on life!” audio production

 • To read the script, click here.

If one of every five people who were reached by an advertising campaign on the radio actually bought the product being advertised, the marketing world would be astonished. But that is exactly what has happened in a Farm Radio International project just completed in sub-Saharan Africa.

International development work faces two extremely tough and closely related problems. The first is to actually make a difference in the lives of the poor and the second is to measure that difference.

Farm Radio International has addressed both problems. We have made a significant difference to farmers and their families, and we have measured it. We have hard data, repeatable across sub-Saharan Africa, which shows the power of farm radio programs when they respect the voices of famers themselves.

Thanks to more than 30 years of support from our small army of donors, we were able to gain the knowledge and reputation which led to this research. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation realized that we were the only organization in the world with the knowledge and background to measure whether a well-designed radio program could bring knowledge to the rural poor that they would actually use.

With their funding we designed and executed a development and research project. It lasted more than three years and covered five countries. We worked alongside 25 radio station partners to produce a new kind of rural radio program. One in five farm families who lived in villages reached only by the radio signal, and with no other intervention from the project team, made the decision to try out the practices they heard about in these new radio programs.

“This is impressive,” says Dr. Marianne Banziger, the Deputy Director General of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, on seeing our preliminary results.

Click here to read the full article and to read the latest issue of Network News (winter edition).

The first time I entered the studios of Radio Ada 13 years ago as a volunteer, my passion was to serve my community, the Dangme-speaking people, through news and programs using the local language and culture. Here I am today as part of a team of Whole Radio Station Trainers, a dream beyond dreams.  These are the words of one of the participants, Kofi Larweh, from Ghana.

The “whole station” training, which took place in the last week of March, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, focuses on building a range of broadcasting skills, including: farm radio programming design, management skills, and using ICTs for agricultural communication. The participants will later conduct similar trainings themselves in radio stations in their own countries. The ultimate goal of the trainings is to improve farm radio programming and the lives of farmers.

Kofi values the experience that his fellow trainees – from Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania and Ethiopia – bring to the table. The variety of ideas on production and management from different socio-political backgrounds broadens his outlook: “When I look at the years ahead, this experience, taking place in an international institution for livestock research, in humility reminds me that a healthy cow dies with grass in its mouth.”

As part of the course, the participants visited Oromiya Radio Station in the Oromiya Region of Ethiopia. The participants spoke highly of the course: Hilda Kileo is Radio Manager of Boma Hai Fun, owned by Hai district council, near Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. She says,

The training is important to me, because the world keeps on changing and there is [a] need for broadcasters to update their knowledge. My radio station will improve … the way we … produce programs for farmers.

Mulu Berhe works for Ethiopia Radio and Television Agency as a program researcher. She says the training is a refresher. But she feels that it was also an eye-opener on how to improve their radio programs, especially by providing a more effective platform for farmers. She wants to be part of the solutions to farmers’ concerns.

Doug Ward, Chair of the board, with the participants of the 'Whole Station Approach training.

The training was organized by Farm Radio International (FRI), and is being facilitated by David Mowbray, FRI’s Manager of Training and Standards, and Doug Ward, Chairperson of the FRI Board.

Kevin Perkins along with Farm Radio staff member, Mobido Coulibaly, are welcomed by farmers and village leaders in Fana village, Mali

Radio Canada International (RCI) conducted an interview with Farm Radio International’s Executive Director this past January 2011.  Listen, as Carmel Kilkenny from RCI’s The Link, talks to Kevin about Farm Radio’s work using radio to help increase food security for millions of smallholder farmers in Africa and examples of  participatory radio campaigns for which it won the 2010 ALINe Farmer Voice Award.

Press play to hear the full interview or copy the following link into your browser:

http://www.farmradio.org/audio/radiocan.mp3

http://www.farmradio.org/audio/radiocan.mp3

Ottawa, Ontario March 1, 2011 – Grace Amito was bitter when her manager at Uganda’s radio station Mega FM assigned her to the farm broadcast. “He told me all the other programs had been taken up by my fellow presenters since I was away.”

That was in 2002, when Grace says she didn’t have “a single clue on farming.” Today she says her farm listeners are now part of her family and her life.

They trust me so much. I cannot hesitate to receive them in my house whenever they travel to town and fail to find their way back to their villages. Others want me to be their surety whenever they seek loans from commercial banks.

Grace is host of “The Farmers and the Animal World,” a daily program for Ugandan farmers, who like millions of others in Africa often have no other source of farm extension information except radio.

From March 1-12, she will be in Canada to speak and to formally receive the George Atkins Communication Award, named after the famous CBC farm broadcaster who founded Farm Radio International, an Ottawa-based NGO that provides radio scripts and training to more than 360 partner radio stations in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Grace is a skilled, courageous, and creative broadcaster, highly committed to helping small-scale farmers in northern Uganda rebuild after years of civil conflict. We are proud that she is a partner in the Farm Radio International community,” says FRI’s executive director Kevin Perkins.

Mega FM used radio broadcasts through 2004 to 2006 to facilitate peace talks that helped end the war in northern Uganda. A program called “Dwog Cen Paco” (come back home) targeted Lord’s Resistance Army fighters and encouraged them to lay down their arms.

Over time, they listened to the messages channeled through the program and they started coming out of the bush and were granted amnesty, says Grace.

Since 2008, Grace has been working closely with Farm Radio International to produce a hugely popular radio program on beekeeping and honey production. To show their gratitude for her programs, farmers stop by to leave gifts of pails of honey in the Mega FM lobby.

Grace Amito will visit Canada from March 1-12 and will be giving talks in Ottawa, Guelph, Toronto and Montreal.

 -30-

Contact: Brenda Jackson

Farm Radio International

613-761-3646

brenda@farmradio.org

www.farmradio.org

About Farm Radio International:

Founded in 1979, Farm Radio International is a Canadian charity with the mission of supporting broadcasters to strengthen small-scale farming and rural communities in Africa. Farm Radio International researches and produces radio scripts on rural development issues and distributes them to over 360 radio broadcasters who interpret and use the scripts to provide their listeners with practical information about farming, land management, health and other issues. Farm Radio International also develops training opportunities; researches farm radio strategies and facilitates networking among and between broadcasters.

Winnie Asege, chairperson of Dakabela Rural Woman Development Association, speaks to a journalist

Food security is back in the headlines along with some hard-to-answer questions about how to achieve Millennium Development Goal 1. One of the solutions can be found in technology adapted for use on small farms in Africa. Gary Humphreys reports in an article featured in the February 2011 Bulletin of the World Health Organization on the work that Farm Radio International is doing.

When Winnie Asege’s crop was hit by cassava brown streak disease a few years ago she was faced with two problems. “She had very little to eat and nothing to sell,” says Emily Arayo, Uganda national coordinator of the African Radio Research Initiative, a project run by Canadian nongovernmental organization Farm Radio International. This is food security, or rather food insecurity, at its most basic: a woman standing in a field looking at rotten tubers and wondering how she and her children are going to survive.

Click here to read more.

Everywhere in the world, people understand that water is life. Especially in rural areas. But water is also a resource, and sometimes a commodity. Thus, it is subject to the same kinds of problems as other resources and commodities. One of these problems is corruption. And because water is so critical, because water is life, corruption in the water sector threatens lives and livelihoods. That’s why it is critical for broadcasters and citizens to be informed and to speak about water corruption in their communities, and to learn how to help communities ensure that their water resources are preserved and distributed fairly.

Farm Radio International’s 92nd script package is sponsored by the Water Integrity Network (WIN). WIN is a Germany-based non-profit organization that promotes anti-corruption solutions in water, sanitation and water resources management worldwide. WIN worked closely with Farm Radio International staff to shape this script package, as well as four Farm Radio Weekly articles which deal with water integrity.  Also included in the package is the broadcaster newsletter, Voices.

The water sector includes individuals, companies, organizations and public agencies that manage water resources and deliver water to users such as consumers and businesses. It includes large infrastructure projects such as dams and larger irrigation systems, as well as smaller projects to bring drinking or irrigation water to small communities. Water integrity means that individuals and groups in the water sector behave in accordance with moral principles and standards. The principles, standards and the behaviours consistent with them create a preventive barrier to corruption.

The first script in the package is entitled Water, a basic human need, but a privilege to the voiceless. It tells the story of a community that is struggling towards good governance of its communal water system. The community faces challenges, including users who connect illegally to the system, and how to ensure that all users and system operators are aware of and abide by their rights and responsibilities.

Another script in the package is entitled Water is life. Share it. It dramatizes a situation in which a village introduces a communal irrigation scheme but not all are willing to share the water equally. Through several entertaining and often humorous scenes, the village struggles towards a more equitable distribution of their precious water.

To read the comprehensive issue pack and all 7 scripts, and the Farm Radio Weekly-exclusive articles click here.   To read the newsletter, Voices, click here

Past scripts on water:

While Farm Radio International has published many scripts over the past 30 years on water resources, the issue of corruption in the water sector is new for us. You can find our scripts on water resources by clicking here.

Farmers in a village in Uganda remember George Atkins

It was one year ago today, that Farm Radio International founder, Dr. George Atkins, passed away. The support of farm broadcasters by this unique Canadian organization started as his idea and came to life through his single-minded passion, drive and hard work over three decades. The staff and Board of Farm Radio International continue to strive to live up to his vision.

In early 2010 African farmers were informed of the death of George Atkins. In Uganda, Mali and Tanzania farmers remembered George at village gatherings where they reflected on the work he began to help farmers across Africa.

I am happy that we have visitors in our village. However, I am also sad that our elder, who worked hard to help us has passed away. I send our condolences to the family. Our prayers are with them and may God rest him in peace.

– Farmer from a women’s group in Kitete village in Tanzania

While farmers across Africa may not know George Atkins by name, the legacy of his vision has touched millions. This is truly something to celebrate.