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Script 68.1

Notes to broadcasters

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Farmers innovate and experiment to solve their farming problems or explore new opportunities. At the same time, they address the broader challenges of feeding the population. But farmers should be aware that some experimental designs are more effective than others. This radio drama shows that by testing different practices on separate test plots, farmers are better able to evaluate and trust their results. Your radio programs can highlight experimental methods used by local farmers. The following questions could be considered in your programming:

  • How do local farmers compare the nutritional value of different livestock feeds? How do farmers assess topsoil loss?
  • How do they know how much water their soil holds?
  • How do local farmers try out and compare different ways of controlling pests?
  • How do farmers decide which treatment to use for a livestock disease?

Script

Characters

Host

Cosmas :
farmer
George :
farmer

HOST:
On our program today, we begin a series that highlights successful farmer innovation. By innovation, I mean finding ways to solve problems or developing new farming methods. There are thousands of examples of farmer innovations from around the world that are successful in fighting pests in crops or animals, conserving water, reducing labour, preventing soil erosion, or generating income. The focus of our program today is on trying out new farming methods in order to solve a problem. As a farmer, you probably know that it’s best to try out something new on a small scale. What can happen if you don’t? You’ll find out in this story that’s based on the real experience of a farmer in Africa who tried to solve the problem of ladybirds eating his cassava.

SOUNDS OF COUNTRYSIDE: Roosters crowing, birds and insects singing.
FADE AND HOLD UNDER SPEAKERS.

COSMAS:
(calling out) Hello George! You’re a long way from home. Where are you coming from at this time of day?

SOUND OF FOOTSTEPS APPROACHING.

GEORGE:
Hello Cosmas! I’m coming from my brother’s house.

COSMAS:
Are you in a hurry? Or do you have time to visit?

GEORGE:
I have time for a visit – but just a short one. I want to get home before dark. (Sound of footsteps approaching).

COSMAS:
Well… even a short visit will give us a chance to catch up. Please have a seat. (sound of rustling as George sits down) Now tell me, George, what is the news of your brother? I hope he isn’t sick again.

GEORGE:
Oh no, my brother is in good health. I came to see him because I wanted his advice. He’s having success with his cassava crop this year – almost no pest damage. But I’m experiencing something very different. Ladybirds are attacking and destroying my crop.

COSMAS:
Maybe because it’s been such a dry year. The ladybirds are usually worse in dry weather.

GEORGE:
Yes, but my brother’s cassava doesn’t suffer.

COSMAS:
I wonder why. Perhaps his soil is better.

GEORGE:
Perhaps. But my brother grows a different variety of cassava than I do. I think that the ladybirds don’t like to eat it.

COSMAS:
Who knows? Why don’t you experiment by planting the same variety as your brother, and see what happens?

GEORGE:
That’s exactly what I intend to do. He’s given me some tubers to plant – they’re here in this bag (sound of bag rustling). But Cosmas, what about your cassava? Isn’t it being attacked by ladybirds?

COSMAS:
Not this year! I’m using a homemade pesticide. I got the idea from Joe, the extension officer. He told me about a plant – igongo – that grows around here and can be used as a pesticide. I take the juice from the plant and spray it on the cassava every week. And no more ladybirds!

GEORGE:
Hmmm…igongo. I will remember that, and I’ll try it on my cassava! Cosmas…I must go now. Thank you for your hospitality – and for the advice. Good-bye… (sound of footsteps moving away)

COSMAS:
(calling out) Good-bye George!

FADE OUT SOUND EFFECTS.

HOSTt:
On his way home, George thought about what he had learned from his brother, and from his friend Cosmas. He had heard about two ways to control ladybirds – planting a resistant variety, and using the homemade spray. He decided to experiment. When it was time to plant more cassava, George planted only the new variety. And then, to be extra sure of keeping the ladybirds away, he also sprayed the cassava with the homemade insecticide. Some months later, Cosmas was visiting the village where George lived. He passed by George’s home, and found him working in the field.

SOUND EFFECTS: Birds and insects singing, roosters crowing.

COSMAS:
Hello George! Are you inspecting your cassava?

GEORGE:
Hello Cosmas… yes, my cassava is growing well. You can see that now there is no damage from ladybirds.

COSMAS:
Congratulations. Which method was successful? The new variety? Or the pesticide spray?

GEORGE:
Well, I don’t know. I can’t say for sure. Maybe it was the new variety. Or maybe it was the pesticide.

COSMAS:
You don’t know? But…how did you carry out your experiment?

GEORGE:
I didn’t really think about it. I simply planted the new cassava variety in this field. And then, to be extra sure, I also applied the spray.

COSMAS:
But George, now you won’t know which method was effective. You don’t know if it was the new variety, or the spray that controlled the pests.

GEORGE:
You’re right. It wasn’t a very good experiment. But what could I do?

COSMAS:
When I want to compare different methods, I test each method on a separate plot. For example, you could try the new variety on one small plot and compare it with your old variety. And then you could try the spray on your old variety in yet another small plot and compare it with plants on which you don’t use the spray. Then you could see if it is the variety or the pesticide spray that makes the difference.

GEORGE:
Hmm. That makes sense to me. But I’d still like to know if it would work even better with both the new variety and the spray. I guess that would have to be a third test: trying the new cassava with the spray and without it.

COSMAS:
That’s right, George. You’ve got the idea. You’re beginning to sound like a scientist!

PLAY MUSIC, FADE, AND HOLD QUIETLY UNDER HOST.

HOST:
Farmers, how do you compare different crop varieties? Or pest control methods? Or new ways to conserve topsoil? Remember – it’s a good idea to try each new method on a separate plot of land. If you do this, you will have results that you can trust and understand.

Acknowledgements

Contributed by Jennifer Pittet, Thornbury, Ontario, Canada.

Reviewed by Ann Waters-Bayer and Chesha Wettasinha, ETC Ecoculture, The Netherlands.

Information Sources

Kruger, Erna, comp. Farmer to farmer: A story of innovation and solidarity. Scottsville: Farmer Support Group, University of Natal, 1998.

van Veldhuizen, L., A. Waters-Bayer, R. Ramirez, D. Johnson, and J. Thompson, eds. Farmers’ research in practice: Lessons from the field. London: Intermediate Technology Publications, 1997. IT Publications, 103/105 Southampton Row, WC1B 4HH, UK.