Notes to broadcasters on bush burning

    | September 20, 2010

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    Many African farmers burn crop residues at the end of the season, and burn grass or other vegetation at the beginning of the planting season. Burning provides clear short-term benefits to the farmer, saving labour and often increasing the following season’s yield. But these benefits do not last long. Without covering vegetation, the soil is unprotected and vulnerable to water and wind erosion. Crop residues which could have been used for animal feed are lost.

    In the long-term, burning crop residues and grasses robs the soil of the fertility it needs to produce good yields. And over time, it robs the farmer of his or her livelihood. In this news story, farmers in different situations in Swaziland and Namibia describe how they avoid bushfires, while trying to preserve soils and provide enough feed for their livestock all at the same time.

    Here are two recent news stories about bush burning: (Uganda) (Nigeria)

    Farm Radio Weekly has published on this topic before:

    Mangoes to the rescue: A local response to climate change. Issue 34, August 25th, 2008.

    This script on bushfires produced in 2006 may be useful for your programming: A Law on Bush Fires. Package 79, Script 9, November 2006.

    Another relevant script can be found at: Community Reforestation Brings Back the Rains in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana. Package 78, Script 6, 2006.

     The topic of bush burning and burning crop residues or stubble often sparks a lot of discussion. It might make a lively text-in show. You could interview farmers about their practices and reasons for burning, or not burning. This would be a good way to start discussion. Questions to ask might include:

    -Do farmers commonly burn the crop residues in their fields? Why?

    -What do farmers gain from burning their land?

    -Have any farmers changed their practices and stopped burning? What made them change their minds?

    -How do extension workers approach the topic of burning?

    -Do livestock farmers also burn their fields? How does this affect the availability of animal feed, like in the news story?