Notes to broadcasters
Because HIV/AIDS weakens or kills adults in the prime of their working life, it has a significant impact on the workforce, and consequently on farming and food security in rural communities. This is an important consideration when planning programming for rural audiences.
One of the factors that increases the vulnerability of rural people to the impact of HIV/AIDS is drought. When farmers face so many other challenges it is important that they reduce the risk of crop failure in the event of a drought as much as possible. Farmers can reduce this risk by growing drought-resistant crops. This script discusses how crops sometimes fail because they’re not grown in the right conditions.
Examples of drought-resistant crops that you may want to discuss in your broadcasts are: cassava, finger and pearl millet, tef, fonio, amaranth species, sorghum, date palm and a great number of traditional vegetables and fruits. These all do relatively well, even if there is a drought.
However, the most important thing is to encourage your listeners to find out what grows well locally; such species could be well known already but may be wrongly seen as ‘poor people’s food’ or ‘old fashioned.’ Yet, they are often more nutritious and hardier, and adapted to local climate and soils. In many areas, such species are in danger of being lost forever because they have been replaced with more popular crops.
Farmers need other ways to cope with drought as well. Capturing rainwater on rooftops or in the soil, using soil conservation techniques such as soil mulches, using low-cost drip irrigation; there are many possibilities. Find out from farmers in your audience how they cope with drought and discuss their ideas in your programs. A call-in format might be a good way to share methodologies.
Host 1: Good day and welcome to the program. For a farmer, choosing the right crops for local soils and climate is a concern. Especially if you live in a dry area, it’s important to plant crops that can survive drought.
Host 2: There are so many challenges that farmers face these days…fewer people to help with chores…sick family members. A farmer cannot risk losing crops in a drought, on top of everything else.
Host 1: So today we’re going to talk about the importance of planting crops that can survive drought. And we’re going to start the program with a true story about some farmers in Ethiopia.
Host 2: This happened a few years ago when there was a serious drought in Ethiopia. The maize crop failed and there was widespread famine. It was too dry for maize to grow and the fields were full of dry, brown maize plants. But at the same time, people noticed something surprising in the gardens. The gardens were green! Full of healthy sweet potatoes, cassava, moringa, paw paw and other crops. These garden crops were all green and thriving.
Host 1: Some people called this a ‘green famine.’ All the maize was dying – so people didn’t have any staple crops to harvest. Yet at the same time, in the middle of this drought, the gardens were green and lush – full of healthy garden crops.
Host 2: I’m sure listeners are wondering how this could happen – and I’ll tell you why. It seems that farmers in this district had moved from their homeland years before. They brought their seeds with them. But the maize did not grow well in the new location, because the rainfall pattern was much more variable.
Host 2: But what about the garden crops – the crops that were thriving?
Host 1: The garden crops were growing so well – they must have been drought resistant. Or they had deep root systems that could use the water deep down in the soil.
Host 2: So the garden crops could survive. But the maize that the farmers were growing, in most years, was really not suitable for the local climate – the rains were too uncertain.
Host 2: That’s right. The farmers planted crops that were not suited to the local conditions.
Host 1: Exactly. And for farmers who can’t count on the rains it is really important to choose crops that can survive a drought. We’ll be back after the break.
Host 1: Welcome back. We’ve been talking about how to reduce the risk of losing crops in a drought. One way to give yourself extra security is to grow a variety of crops. Not just one or two. By planting a range of several different drought-resistant crops, you are much less likely to suffer total loss during drought.
Host 2: And finally – and this is very important – choose local crops that you know will survive even when rains are variable. Crops that are familiar and available. Those crops that have been growing locally for generations.
Host 1: Some people think of those crops as ‘poor people’s food.’ They’re despised because they’re not modern foods.
Host 2: Despised!!? These crops are often more nutritious than the modern crops. They are hardy, and they are adapted to our local climate. What could be more valuable than that?
Host 1: I agree and I hope that over time people’s attitudes will change. These local crops could play a great role in increasing food security in our community.
Host 2: Farmers, think carefully about the crops that are best suited to your climate – especially if you experience drought. Grow a diversity of drought-resistant crops, and choose the local, traditional crops that have proven their value in our countryside for generations.
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Reviewed by Tony Rinaudo, Program Officer, Africa, Middle East and East Europe Team, World Vision, Australia.