Léonard Chishugi | February 16, 2015
Ntanda Y’abana has worked for Bubusa Radio since December 2008. The community radio serves the rural women of Walungu, in the South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mr. Y’abana is the station’s Assistant Director and Editor in Chief. He presents the news, produces and presents programs on agriculture, and presents Le réveil matinale, or “The morning awakening.”
But he only takes home a monthly salary of $100 U.S. from the radio station. This is not enough to buy all his family’s food from the market and make ends meet.
Mr. Y’abana became discouraged. His passion for radio, and for farming and rural issues, was not allowing him to live comfortably. Little by little, he began toying with the idea of returning to his hometown of Goma.
He talked about his concerns with one of his farming program’s biggest fans, the president of the OP Ntaluhinzo farmers’ organization. The president encouraged him to start his own farm. He suggested that, if the broadcaster joined the farmers’ organization, he could use a field in the nearby wetlands.
On November 20, 2009, Mr. Y’abana registered as an official member of the farmers’ organization. The other members of the group were happy to count him among their number. A few months later, they elected him as a group councillor.
Mr. Y’abana and other members of the organization participated in a training session offered by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The training covered good practices in vegetable production – such as how to best apply chemical and organic fertilizers and pesticides, and crop rotation.
Mr. Y’abana realized he could earn more money by putting what he had learnt into practice. He decided to devote three hours, three times a week to working his new field. He spent the rest of his time broadcasting.
Most families in Walungu grow cassava, sweet potatoes, maize and bananas. Some grow vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes and leeks. But yields are generally low. Mr. Y’abana realized that the poor yields were due to poor farming practices and the over-exploitation of land, which makes soils less and less fertile.
He spent $200 U.S. on seed potatoes, and on fertilizers and pesticides. Four months later, he harvested 900 kilograms of potatoes. He sold them for $375 U.S. in the market in Bukavu, a city 27 kilometres away. He used the money to buy a plot of land and 15 roofing sheets. His wife started a small business in the village market.
Mr. Y’abana’s plot has become a demonstration site, where other farmers come to learn how to improve their yields.
Gaston Bazibuhe is the secretary of the farmers’ organization. He congratulated Mr. Y’abana during a recent general meeting. He told him, “You have proved to me that agriculture is not only for [those of us who grew up as] farmers, and that we can increase our yields by changing some of our old ways.”
Mr. Y’abana is satisfied with his new situation. By combining broadcast journalism and farming, he has improved his family’s standard of living. He says: “I use the money I make from the radio to invest in my field. I earn over $300 U.S. every four months from what I produce. Now [that] my family is well-fed, I can pay for medical care and I am planning to build a house.”