Changing farmer perceptions using radio campaigns in Malawi

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Cyrial Mangochi, Brighton Mzama, Isaac Banda and Everess Mzama from Choma radio listening group. 

In Kalilangwe village in the Nkhotankota district of Malawi we meet Everess Chilchungu, Cyrial Mangochi, Brighton and Agness Mzama – farmers from the Choma radio group who have been listening to the ‘Cassava Plant doctor on air’ show. After a warm reception they share their experiences from listening to the Cassava radio programmes, highlighting challenges from pests and diseases, what they’ve learned and suggestions for improving the show. The meeting is part of an evaluation to understand farmer’s experiences and the impact of the radio show.

“I have learned that I need to uproot the weeds quickly if I see white flies so that the disease doesn’t spread in my crop,” says Brighton who heads the group. Everess has noticed that the tolerant varieties (recommended in the programmes) seem to have fewer pests in general compared to the local variety. “We did not know that white flies transmit the disease. After listening to the radio show, I can now not only identify the flies but can also clearly identify the cassava mosaic disease symptoms” Formed in 2013, Choma cluster farmer listener group has 20 members and is one of many in Malawi that uses radio to improve their farming practices.

Dokotala wa chinaingwa pa wailesi (Cassava Plant doctor on air show) as its popularly known, has been airing since October 2016 on the Nkhotakota community radio station which has 100,000 listeners  in the district. The station is one of a number of community stations across Malawi, well-loved by locals who get to listen in to programmes about issues that affect their community and produced by locals like them.

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A Farm Radio Trust (FRT) led workshop held the previous day and attended by cassava farmers, Nkhotakota Community Radio, and representatives from the agricultural extension service teased out numerous farmer’s experiences on cassava growing. Debates focused on implementing the new cassava production techniques as aired on radio. There were heated discussions on topics like availability of tolerant varieties and the fact that when planted the tolerant variety tubers are sometimes stolen because they have a sweeter taste!

What was evident was the relevance of the radio programmes to farmer’s day to day activities and their commitment to sharing best practice within their communities. John Mangani – the area’s agricultural extension officer told us just how important cassava is to farmers in the region. “Each household grows about 1 acre of cassava on average (from an overall farm size of around 2 acres), so efforts aimed at reducing loss of their harvest are  highly welcome!”  District Crops Officer, Stellia Mangochi told us that the programmes had prompted farmers to get in touch with their extension workers to ask questions and advice on where to find the tolerant varieties Sauti and Sangoja (one of the key recommendations of the programmes), which shows that farmers want to find out more.

Catherine Mloza Banda and the rest of the team from Farm Radio Trust will now be following up with a more in depth evaluation of the activities to assess how many farmers have listened in to the programmes and what changes there have been in knowledge attitudes and practices which will give useful insights for future campaigns.

By David Onyango and Tamsin Davis

The locust invasions devastating Niger

The Invasives Blog

locust-invasion-in-niger Copyright: Panos

It is the end of December 2016, with clear skies over Niger. But as 2017 draws near prospects are grim for some 500 residents in Bani Kosseye, a village 80km from the capital Niamey. Agricultural production has been poor here, and families’ meagre stocks are expected to run out within a few weeks. People already fear famine.

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Cabbage disease mystery in Ghana

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Cabbage © iStock images

Cabbage is an important crop in Ghana where it grows all year round, right across the country. It is mainly grown for commercial production in Southern Ghana, in Akwapim and Kwahu areas and in the moist high elevations around Tarkwa.

Growing cabbage in Ghana is challenging since it can be attacked by a variety of pests, such as cabbage aphids, caterpillars, cabbage webworm, diamondback moth, mole cricket, snails and rodents. Worldwide, aphids are a major concern because they commonly spread plant-infecting viruses. These are often diagnosed as turnip mosaic virus and cauliflower mosaic virus, particularly in Europe and the US, according to Dr John Carr, University of Cambridge, UK (Phys.org, 2017).

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Why the green peach aphid is such a successful pest

Myzus persicae (green peach aphid); an alate (winged) adult
Myzus persicae (green peach aphid); an alate (winged) adult

Recent research highlights why the green peach aphid (Myzus persicae) is one of the most successful crop pests. These findings will help further the development of effective management and control measures which will ultimately reduce worldwide crop losses.

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A WhatsApp-like app for the tech-savvy farmer

By Nilesh Christopher. Reblogged from The Economic Times of India.

A WhatsApp like app for the tech-savvy farmer

Before the start of the next crop planting season, third generation farmer Krishna Balegayi – who has been farming for 25 years – is sure to take the help of an Android app to better his yield.

Bangalore-based startup Nubesol technologies has created a WhatsApp-like messaging app through which farmers can chat with eminent agricultural scientists, and discuss the factors contributing to the poor yield.

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Calibration is the key

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A farmer spraying his crops in Uganda. Awareness of how to use chemicals safely is limited and this farmer isn’t wearing the right protective clothing for spraying.

Do farmers know how to calibrate their sprayer so they are mixing the right amount of pesticide with water to spray their crops?

When we asked the Basooka Kwavula farmer group from Wakiso district in Central Uganda, we found that not many of them do. They all saw the process as complicated and even if they attempted to do it accurately once, they would use those settings for a season or more rather than repeating each time they needed to spray.

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Scientists discover new crop-destroying Armyworm is now “spreading rapidly” in Africa

Scientists discover new crop-destroying Armyworm is now “spreading rapidly” in Africa

New research announced today by scientists at CABI confirms that a recently introduced crop-destroying armyworm caterpillar is now spreading rapidly across Mainland Africa and could spread to tropical Asia and the Mediterranean in the next few years, becoming a major threat to agricultural trade worldwide.

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