Reducing vitamin A deficiency with orange-fleshed sweet potato

Voice of women farmers
This project is part of the Her Farm Radio initiative
While all FRI projects are designed to be accessible and relevant to both men and women, Her Farm Radio projects place particular focus on the voice and knowledge needs of women farmers across Africa. Learn more.

 

Vitamin A  is important for fighting infections, growth, bone development and overall health, yet vitamin A deficiency is a widespread health challenge in sub-Saharan Africa. Approximately 250,000 to 500,000 malnourished children in the developing world go blind each year from a lack of vitamin A.  Globally, inadequate vitamin A claims the lives of an estimated 670,000 young children annually. Vitamin A deficiency also poses a health threat to pregnant women and new moms.

But there is a simple source of vitamin A: sweet potatoes. In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, sweet potatoes are a staple crop for farming families. However, the traditional African sweet potato is dull yellow – not bright orange like the ones we find in Canadian or American supermarkets. This is a problem because bright orange is the colour of foods that are rich in beta carotene – vitamin A. After 15 years of research, new varieties of African sweet potato have been bred (not using GM) that contain much more beta-carotene without affecting their taste or texture. This “orange-fleshed sweet potato” (OFSP) is a highly nutritious crop that has health benefits for pregnant women, new mothers and young children. Increasing the consumption (especially by children) of OFSP is an excellent approach to reducing vitamin A deficiency.

The challenge now is to get this crop to the farms and dinner plates of mothers, pregnant women and young children. The goal of this project is to promote the production and consumption of OFSP using participatory radio and ICTs. This three-year project is conducted in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Helen Keller International, The International Potato Centre and the Sweet Potato Action for Security and Health in Africa (SASHA). It aims to add OFSP to at least 500,000 rural households’ diets in Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, and Burkina Faso.

Youth around the world face mental health issues, but in some areas resources, support and treatment are inadequate. In Malawi, there was no word for depression in the local language of Chichewa, making it difficult to talk about youth depression. Farm Radio International, in collaboration with teenmentalhealth.org, Farm Radio Trust and the World University Service of Canada (WUSC), is changing that.

This project combines interactive radio programs – Mental Health on Air – with teacher-training, secondary school curriculum materials about mental health and training for primary health providers in the diagnosis and treatment of adolescent depression. The goal is to reduce the stigma about mental health disorders among young people, parents, teachers and communities and increase access to adolescent mental health care.

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The Mental Health on Air radio campaigns are supporting these efforts by starting a conversation on the stresses youth face, from relationships to sex and drugs. A radio drama illustrates these stresses and entertains the audience, while a participatory show engages youth and shares their point of view. School-based radio listening clubs ensure youth have a chance to share their views amongst each other as well. Radio is widely available in both Tanzania and Malawi, and the programs are becoming hugely popular among youth, with more than 500,000 tuning in.

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Thanks to our partners, teenmeantalhealth.org and WUSC, who have been involved in teacher and primary health care worker training, this project is having a huge impact: 81% of teachers are reporting a positive change in student attitudes towards mental illness and 96% have noticed a positive change in student behaviour. Teachers have also reported they are better equipped to support youth who may have mental health issues. With more than 200 primary health care workers in Malawi and Tanzania trained to screen for, diagnose and treat adolescent depression, youth now have access to the support they need when they need it.

Journalist Omar Dabaghi-Pacheco took a leave of absence from CBC Ottawa to travel to Malawi and Tanzania to document the impact of this project in a documentary called Mental Health on Air. The trailer is below and you can watch the full three-part series here.

Climate change is an immediate and unprecedented threat to the food security of hundreds of millions of people who depend on small‐scale agriculture for their livelihoods. It is contributing to changing and erratic rainfall patterns, flooding, drought, extreme weather events, deforestation, and desertification. Farmers must learn about and be supported in adopting new practices that help mitigate the impact of climate change – practices that conserve water, protect soil, produce crops in drier conditions, and quickly adapt to rapidly changing and quite unpredictable weather patterns.

In partnership with GIZ, Farm Radio International is working with a radio station in Northern Ghana to produce participatory radio programming on climate change adaptation in two local languages.  New ICTs such as SMS and interactive voice response are also being used to compliment the impact of the radio broadcasts.

We would like to thank the German government for the support in implementing this project.

Voice of women farmers
This project is part of the Her Farm Radio initiative
While all FRI projects are designed to be accessible and relevant to both men and women, Her Farm Radio projects place particular focus on the voice and knowledge needs of women farmers across Africa. Learn more.

Small-scale African farmers are among the most vulnerable to hunger, despite the fact they typically produce 70% or more of their countries’ food supplies. Many factors contribute to this problem, but an important part of the solution is to share knowledge of how to derive more benefits from the agricultural “value chain” that small-scale farmers are connected to. By choosing the right planting materials, harvesting at the right time, processing and storing produce carefully, and negotiating with different buyers, small-scale farmers can cultivate more food for their families and generate more income from the produce they sell.

Farm Radio International is helping farmers obtain more value for the efforts at every stage of the value chain with a new five-year initiative called Radio for Farmer Value Chain Development.  This project will help small-scale farmers realize improved food security and income by using participatory radio strategies for enhancing their participation in select value chains such as groundnuts, poultry, and cassava. This is a multi-country project in Mali, Tanzania, Ghana and Malawi.

Canada FlagThis project is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.

Voice of women farmers
This project is part of the Her Farm Radio initiative
While all FRI projects are designed to be accessible and relevant to both men and women, Her Farm Radio projects place particular focus on the voice and knowledge needs of women farmers across Africa. Learn more.

Maize (corn) is the third-most important cereal crop for direct consumption (after rice and wheat), and is one of the most popular staple crops in Ethiopia. Yet conventional maize alone cannot provide all the nutrients needed for a healthy diet.  In fact, when household diets are heavily dependent on maize and lack variety, childhood growth is often stunted and malnutrition is a persistent problem  (CIMMYT, 2010).

To address this issue the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) used conventional crop improvement methods to develop a variety of maize that offers a complete protein to the children and livestock that eat it. Called “quality protein maize” (QPM), this non-transgenic bio-fortified cereal has been proven to reduce problems of stunted growth and malnutrition among children.  With funding from the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, CIMMYT is implementing a major 5-year initiative in Ethiopia designed to help maize farmers learn about and produce this high-protein food crop to enrich their household diets.

CIMMYT has invited Farm Radio International to contribute to the success of this project by working with Ethiopian radio stations to develop programs in maize-growing regions about nutrition, the benefits of a diversified diet, and the option of growing QPM on their farms.

For more information please see: http://apps.cimmyt.org/english/wps/news/2010/apr/kernels-qpm.htm

Canada FlagProject undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada.

Voice of women farmers
This project is part of the Her Farm Radio initiative
While all FRI projects are designed to be accessible and relevant to both men and women, Her Farm Radio projects place particular focus on the voice and knowledge needs of women farmers across Africa. Learn more.

 
The focus of FRI’s work with broadcasters in Africa is usually food security and farming. However, there are many factors to rural life in Africa that contribute to healthy, productive and food secure households: farming is just one of them. Other issues, like child and maternal health, are also critically important.  In Burkina Faso, for example, infant mortality is 81 per 1000 live births and the maternal mortality rate is 307 per 100,000. Major reasons for this are malnutrition, weak maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) services, malaria and nutritional deficiencies (mainly iron, iodine and vitamin A). Radio can play an effective role by sharing knowledge and giving voice to rural mothers and their families.

The Project d’Amélioration de la Santé des Mères et des Enfants (PASME) project in Burkina Faso is a great example. PASME is a three-year project being implemented with funding from Canada’s Muskoka Initiative by our strategic partner – World University Service of Canada (WUSC).  We are offering our expertise in participatory radio to bolster communication at the community level in one health district in Burkina Faso. We will work with one community radio station to engage local communities in active discussions on air related to maternal, newborn and child health, and give women and their support networks the information and tools necessary to ensure a healthy pregnancy, birth and childhood for their children.

Canada FlagThis project is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.

Farmer Program e-Course

Farm Radio International has been offering distance education programs since 2007 on scriptwriting and participatory research. Part of this program is an 11.5-week free online training program first offered in 2011 in partnership with  Commonwealth of Learning (COL).  This program walks broadcasters through the steps involved in actually designing and creating a farmer radio program from the ground up.

This 11-week course focuses on designing a regular (daily or weekly) farmer program to serve small-scale farmers in a station’s listening area.

Through the course, participants learn:

  • What makes a farmer program effective
  • How to create a purpose statement for your farmer program
  • How to identify the audience for your program
  • How to identify farmer needs that radio can serve
  • How to present various kinds of information
  • How to develop programming on issues of importance to farmers
  • How to use stories to make your program entertaining and educational
  • How to choose and use appropriate radio formats
  • How best to serve both women and men farmers
  • How to design a structure for your program
  • How to keep your program interesting
  • How to determine what resources your farmer program needs and where to find them
  • How to gather audience feedback for ongoing program evaluation and improvement

For more information please see:

http://ecourse.farmradio.org/

Improving productivity and market access in Ethiopia

The success of an agricultural extension program depends on sharing information, exchanging knowledge and effective communication and interaction between researchers, agricultural extension agents and farmers. Yet these aspects of agricultural extension are often neglected, or fail to be effective in many developing countries.

In Ethiopia FRI partnered with the International Livestock Research Institute’s  Improving Productivity and Market Success (IPMS) project to help raise awareness and knowledge of small-scale farmers regarding two important value chains:  apiculture (bee-keeping) in Tigray and fruit tree cultivation in Sidama. This project involved a 6-week participatory radio program series in each region and included  both radio station training and the design and production of the radio series.

We continue to work with ILRI in Ethiopia and hope to scale-up this work in the future.

Scaling the Use of Legumes for Soil Recapitalization in Tanzania

When beans or peas (sometimes called legumes or pulses) are planted side-by-side or in rotation with cereal crops like rice or maize, several good things happen.  First, the same plot of land now produces several types of food for consumption and for sale at the market.  Further, beans and peas provide children with the protein they miss when they only eat cereals.  There are also benefits for the soil – peas and beans are “nitrogen fixing” crops: they are able to make atmospheric nitrogen available to plants in the soil – including the maize or rice that grows beside it.

In Tanzania, we are working In partnership with a Tanzanian organization called Faida Market Link (Faida MaLi), to develop participatory radio strategies for farmers in the southern highlands of Tanzania on how to intercrop beans or peas with cereals as an Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) practice.

This project is funded by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

 

We want to give thanks to The McLean Foundation for supporting this project with additional funds, making it possible to impact even more farmers with these radio strategies.

 

Fighting ‘Witch Weed’ with the Radio in Mali

Striga is a parasitic plant that attaches itself to the roots of host plants, sapping them of nutrients. When staple crops such as millet and sorghum are attacked by striga, they turn yellow, stop growing, and wither. 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, stunting the 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.”

FRI partnered with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) on a project to address the scourge of striga and improve yields of millet and sorghum. Radio is being used to engage farmers and share knowledge with them about practical, low cost ways to prevent and control striga and boost their yields – methods like applying compost to planting pits and intercropping millet or sorghum with peas.

We want to give thanks to The McCain Foundation for supporting this project with additional funds, making it possible to impact even more farmers with these radio strategies.