Posts Tagged ‘communication’


Internet and Mobile Phone Access Help Farmers Help Each Other

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By Graham Salinger 

For 25 years Yacouba Sawadogo, a small-scale farmer in Mali, has been working to stop the process of desertification in the Sahel region of western Africa. During  the 1970s and 1980s the Sahel, a semi-arid area along the southern edge of the Sahara desert that stretches from Senegal’s Atlantic coast to the Ethiopian highlands, experienced severe droughts that left the land baron.

For years farmers have been adapting numerous innovations to re-green the Sahel. (Photo credit: W4RA)

For years farmers like Sawadogo have been adapting numerous innovations to re-green the Sahel. In 2010 the Web Alliance for Regreening in Africa (W4RA) was established to increase access to communication technology so that farmers in the region can share their innovations with one another.

The program, which lasts through 2012, partners with Vrije Universiteit (VU) in Amsterdam  and the Africa Regreening Initiative to increase the means of communication between farmers. With only 5.7 percent of the population in Africa having internet access, the program helps provide web based and mobile phone based communication technology to small scale farmers in the Sahel.



Farm Radio International

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By Molly Theobald

More trusted than the evening television or the internet,  newspapers and radio broadcasts are consumers preference for their news. But what if it also helped put food on our plates and increased our incomes? Ottawa-based Farm Radio International is hoping that its radio programs will be able to do just that.

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

Despite the fact that the number of hungry people worldwide is nearly 1 billion people, funding for agricultural development has been steadily declining. Much of the funding that does exist is directed towards ‘one-size-fits-all’ innovations that are often expensive and inaccessible to those most in need. But for the millions of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, dependent on their small-scale farms to feed their families and bring in an income, there are a multitude of inexpensive and relatively easy steps that they could take to improve their harvest yields and their livelihoods.

Even more important than coming up with new agricultural innovations, is getting information about the agricultural innovations that work to the farmers that need them. What farmers in Africa might need turns out to be much closer to what we’ve come to enjoy in our homes  every day.



Innovation of the Week: Teaching Sustainable Agriculture Through Comics

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By: Kaia E. Clarke

Young Kenyans are excited about the new comic book series “ShujaazFM” which means ‘heroes’ in Sheng, a combination of Swahili and English.  Through a free monthly insert in the Saturday Nation newspaper, a daily syndicated FM radio and TV program, youth are learning sustainable agriculture practices from protecting chickens from New Castle disease to fish farming. Lessons from DJ B or DJ Boyie the main character, along with characters Malkie, Charlie, and Maria Kim, are expected to reach approximately 12 million readers a month.


The RIU ShujaazFM Youth Communication Initiative is impacting many youth on innovative and sustainable agricultural practices. (Photo Credit: Bernard Pollack)

According to a  recent United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) report, ShujaazFM distributed more than 5 million copies that carried an agricultural story. The comic has 10, 000 Facebook fans, over 500 followers on Twitter, and receives up to 2, 000 SMS messages a month. Paul Peter Kades, the voice of the popular character DJ B, says, “I’m excited, I’m proud, I’m honored to be part of this team.”

This comic series may not feature the traditional comic superheroes like, Batman and Robin or Superman, but in developing countries where agriculture is essential to survival, ShujaazFM is a hero.  Each edition of the comic book includes a story about an innovative agricultural technique along with an illustrative step-by-step guide that is helpful for all ages. The ShujaazFM story lines are seasonal and give tips on fruit drying, improving crops, and seed selection. One reader told DJ Boykie, Hi DJ Boyie, I learned and planted sukuma (kale) in a sack and it has provided us with food during the dry season.”

The ShujaazFM Youth Communication Initiative is one development from the Research into Use (RIU) project funded by the DFID. It is a partnership between Farm Input Promotions Africa Ltd. (FIPS-Africa) and Well Told Story, a Nairobi-based communication company. Rob Burnet, from Well-Told Story developed the comic book and uses real research from FIPS-Africa to create the agriculture story lines.

As the Director of Research into Use, Ian Mauldin’s goal is to improve lives in the developing world by encouraging researchers to make use of “those dusty volumes of scientific journals.” (more…)


Meet the Nourishing the Planet Team: Mara Schechter

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We have a whole new crop of staff and interns joining the Nourishing the Planet team this spring. Today, meet Mara Schechter.


Mara Schechter is a senior at Georgetown University, where she helped start a small on-campus garden. She is majoring in Sociology and writing her thesis about the local food movement and its use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). She has interned for E/ The Environmental Magazine, and interned during the summer of 2010 at The Wilderness Society, where she helped the Communications team conserve America’s wild places and public lands.

Mara credits her high school AP Environmental Science class with turning her into an environmentalist, and somewhere along the way she became especially interested in food issues. She is excited to be a part of Nourishing the Planet and to start working toward her hopes of helping to change the food system. Later this year she will start a job with Green Corps, training to become an environmental organizer. In her free time she loves taking photos and exploring Washington D.C.