Notes to Broadcasters on the recent dry spell

    | February 27, 2012

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    Many parts of Africa are currently receiving less rain than expected at this time of year – or the rains are late, or erratic. All these scenarios raise fears of poor harvests. Some farmers are returning to traditional methods or experimenting with different crops and varieties as part of their coping strategy – even going against the advice of extension workers, in the case of farmers in Zimbabwe. Here are two recent reports on the poor start to the rainy season, and farmers’ responses:

    Zimbabwe: Farmers Turn Back to Tradition As Rainfall Changes:

    Tanzania: Farmers look to science and tradition to resist drought:

    Some aid agencies are already warning of severe food insecurity this season in West Africa and the Sahel:

    Pastoral populations face food, fodder shortages across the Sahel:

    Farm Radio Weekly has often reported on erratic weather, and methods for coping with drought. For example:

    Zimbabwe: Collecting rainfall in the city (FRW 141, January 2011)

    East Africa: Pastoralists survive drought by adapting (FRW 110, May 2010)

    Kenya: Farmers use drought-resistant crops and improved access to water to adapt to climate change (FRW 114, June 2010)

    Farm Radio International has produced many scripts on water management. Browse through them here:

    Rain is a topic which preoccupies most farmers. You could research and produce a program dedicated to rain. Here are questions to get you started:

    Start by reviewing the situation locally – are rains expected soon?

    When do farmers predict they will arrive?

    What methods do farmers use to assess when rains will come?

    What are the expected dates for the onset and end of the rains?

    Have these dates changed in recent years?

    Can farmers easily access meteorological forecasts? How?

    Do they have any faith in these forecasts?

    Talk to NGOs who work with farmers, or talk to extension workers. Try to get a sense of how farmers cope when rains do not arrive, or when too much rain arrives all at once. Have farmers changed practices in recent years to cope with either eventuality – for example by installing rainwater harvesting, or digging channels or ridges to stop soil erosion by water? Try to record and broadcast farmers’ voices and experiences on your program.