This is real work: Through the mud and into the soybean field
Tanzania — Uniterra
To reach Mrs. Kipila’s soya bean field, we have to wade through a puddle knee-deep and 10 metres long. A toddler could learn to swim in this lukewarm water, and we’re wading through – me desperately regretting that I wore jeans instead of a knee-length skirt, appropriately covered up with a colourful kanga.
Fortunately, I’m not too bothered by this dip (despite wearing my thickest jeans) because I’ve already walked an hour — in the other direction — barefoot through the mud to reach Mr. Kuamjama’s soybean field.
This is the reality of visiting farmers in their fields. You must come armed with good rainboots – and a bicycle or motorbike (piki piki) probably helps as well. Considering the three-hour drive it took us to reach here from town, it’s easy to see why it’s difficult for extension workers to visit farmers to share knowledge about plant diseases, pests, or other problems.
Enter radio. Mrs. Kipila and Mr. Kuamjama have been listening to Kilimo Bora on Abood FM, which has been discussing soybean production for the past few months. This has included identifying and treating pests and plant diseases – knowledge which Mr. Kuamjama has said helped him to save many of his plants after they were hit with rust.
This visit to the farms of Lungo, in Muvmero district of Morogoro Region, is an opportunity to capture the experiences of soybean farmers for a news story. These farmers have negotiated a contract with Tanfeeds International to sell their harvest for a good price, agreed upon weeks before harvest. Combined with information from Tanfeeds’ managing director Faustin Lekule, this is an informative story about contract farming, including the benefits to these farmers and to the soybean processor.
Capturing stories like these isn’t generally part of my work, but it’s fun when I am able to do it. Typically I am the person who reads these stories after they’ve been written by a local freelance journalist and edited by one of our bureau chiefs. This means I’m several steps removed from the farmers and the muddy tracks to their fields. So despite the burning hot sun, mud-caked feet, and wet pants, I’m happy to be in the field to capture stories myself for a change.
These stories are shared through Barza Wire, Farm Radio International’s news service for radio broadcasters. Radio broadcasters need content, whether it’s stories for their news section or inspiration for an upcoming show. Barza Wire fills this need by ensuring that farm radio broadcasters can access news stories about small-scale farmers – stories about these farmers’ challenges and successes. Barza Wire also shares other resources, related to agriculture or broadcaster training.
We didn’t make the 11-hour trip from Arusha to Morogoro just to write a Barza Wire story about soybeans. I have travelled here with colleagues Susuma and Witnes to spread the word about Barza Wire – and Farm Radio’s other broadcaster resources.
At a one-day training, 12 broadcasters gather in a room to discuss their research practices, how Farm Radio’s resources may be useful to their production, and how Farm Radio’s training resources can help them improve their skills as broadcasters.
The broadcasters are eager to learn and – not surprisingly – enthusiastic to share their ideas. However, this isn’t without challenges. The broadcasters are clearly much less comfortable in English. This makes it difficult for me to participate, but also difficult for them to access many resources. This is why Farm Radio aspires to translate many resources into local languages.
In some countries, English or French is spoken by many or most people – or at least by people in certain professions or with a certain level of education. However, in other countries, like Tanzania or Ethiopia, the national language is not English or French, and most people are more comfortable in this language.
Fortunately, Farm Radio does have many resources in Swahili, including a handful of new stories and scripts relating to beans. And so we direct the broadcasters to these resources.
We hope that with these resources, broadcasters at Abood FM and other stations will be able to continue to assemble informative and interesting farmer programs even after their projects with Farm Radio end.
And I’m confident they will, because these broadcasters are hard workers. Mariam Maruzuku and Mohamed Issa at Abood FM travel to villages like Lungo each week to collect farmers’ voices, opinions, questions, and experiences for their radio programs — travelling over bumpy roads, walking under the hot sun, and getting their car stuck in the mud. That dedication does not fade easily.