Paddy Roberts | April 20, 2015
Shibrie Daddy walks down a narrow path that leads from her immaculate farmyard to her onion seedbeds. The tiny onion shoots are a patch of vibrant green against the golden stubble remaining after she harvested her four hectares of teff and wheat.
After checking that the irrigation ditches are in good shape, Mrs. Shibrie moves on to a larger field of onions intercropped with cabbage. She inspects the vegetables for a few moments, then chooses a few leafy cabbages to sell at today’s market.
Back at her house, Mrs. Shibrie chases a couple of sleepy dogs from the shade of her porch, then retrieves her bright yellow radio from a shelf in her house. Today, she must record the farmer program Miso maqona, or “Agricultural development.” Her women’s listening group will meet tomorrow morning at seven a.m. to catch up on the latest farming news and nutritional advice broadcast by Legedadi, their local radio station.
Mrs. Shibrie explains, “We talk about how what we have learnt has worked on our farms and listen out for our voices.”
Outside, one of the dogs gives a lazy bark, announcing the arrival of Belay Tegene, the local agricultural extension officer. Mrs. Shibrie offers him a chair and pours a glass of tella. She brews the cloudy beer herself from cereals and a local hop. Its dry, chalky flavour is the perfect refreshment for a hot day.
Mr. Belay is part of the network of extension agents who work with Miso maqona’s production team. He says: “The farmers decided what should be discussed on the program. The series started with information on row planting, and explained how different pesticides suit different crops. Now that the cereals have been harvested, the program is concentrating on irrigated crops – salads, green vegetables and onions.”
There are ten listening groups in the area around Dukem, a small town about 40 kilometres east of Addis Ababa. The groups are either all-male or all-female, and were formed as part of an Irish Aid-funded project that promotes better farming and improved nutrition.
Aregash Tadesse is a member of the Odanabe listening group, based in a nearby village. The mother of eight says the women in her group have been much more active in their listening since they began meeting weekly. She says, “We are sharing experiences as a group – not only concerning farming, but also about household issues like cooking and childcare.”
Wossenie Abebe is Odanabe’s chairwoman. She is particularly pleased with what she has learnt about nutrition from the program. She says: “I grew chickpeas, but didn’t know they were full of protein. Now I use them to make bread. I … used to roast them to eat as a snack, but learnt that they are better cooked in a sauce to eat with my injera [a pancake-like bread made from teff].”
Many farmers in Miso maqona’s audience do not belong to listening groups, but only group members can appear on the show and be interviewed for broadcast.
Mrs. Wossenie says: “We have regular meetings where the groups come together to talk about what we have heard and what we want to hear. We want the program to focus on weeds next, as many of us have weed problems.”
Mrs. Shibrie planted her cereals in rows last season and her harvest increased almost sixfold. She says, “I’d like to earn enough to build a shop in town.” But she has one concern. With a smile, she explains, “We hear the other groups on the radio – it must be our turn next!”