From its earliest days, Farm Radio International has endeavoured to provide small-scale farmers with information about practical, low-cost, sustainable solutions to their daily needs. Through radio scripts and other services, we have shared information about, for example, techniques for enhancing soil fertility, protecting crops from pests, and improving family and community health. But it must be said: some things are more important to small-scale farmers than how they prepare compost or the seeds they plant. Topping the list is the need for secure access to land. If farmers can be dispossessed of the land they till at any time, they are forever vulnerable to poverty and hunger. And, with this threat hanging over them, what incentive is there to conserve the soil through tree-planting or terracing?
The recent food crisis has led to an increase in the acquisition of agricultural land in Africa by foreign governments or private companies seeking to ensure food security for their people, or simply to make a profit. Some say that this is nothing less than a second “Scramble for Africa”- a rush for the best African farmland, threatening the return of a kind of colonialism. Others counter that foreign interest in agricultural lands could generate income and employment for rural communities, if only local farmers and farming communities had more influence on the purchase or lease of their farmland. But that is currently not the case. The recent trend of “land grabbing” is causing small-scale farmers and rural communities to lose access to land and locally-produced food.
Is there a role for radio in helping farmers address the issue of land tenure? We think there is. Recently, we launched a new series of stories in Farm Radio Weekly on the topic of “land-grabbing”. We have recruited African reporters to interview farmers that are being threatened by land grabs, and finding out what they are doing about it. We are finding stories of farmers finding ways to have more influence over these transactions and to protect their access to land. As always, we are ensuring the principle of journalistic balance in our articles, but we are also remaining true to our mandate to be “on the side of the farmer”. I invite you to check these articles out (and all other Farm Radio Weekly stories, for that matter) by going to http://weekly.farmradio.org/.