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Script 84.14

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African farmers are facing new challenges presented by climate change, including increasingly unpredictable rainfall. But many African farmers have started to find strategies to adapt to this situation.

In Togo, for example, where farmers traditionally grow maize on the plateaus, they have diversified their crops and are producing rice in the low-lying areas, even during the dry season. Since they receive no financial support from outside to survive, they must rely on the natural fertility of the soils in the low-lying areas. The naturally rich soils enable the farmers to receive six metric tons per hectare for the first year, but this high yield cannot be continued for long without good management. In order to strengthen local capabilities and reverse the rapid erosion of natural resources such as fertile soil, the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) has developed a training approach called Participatory Learning and Action Research (PLAR), which concentrates on the management of natural resources in low-lying areas. This training improves the productivity of rice and other crops in low-lying areas.

The script below is based on a report of the African Rice Center’s training approach. It explains how farmers can adapt to climate change with the support of research initiatives.

The script is presented in the form of an interview between a radio host and an agricultural extension officer. It also describes the benefits of the participatory approaches that the Africa Rice Center is developing with farmers.

Script

Radio host:
Dear farmers, good morning and welcome to your weekly program devoted to agriculture. Thank you for listening in ever-greater numbers to your radio station.

Today, we propose to discuss what you can do about the decrease in rainfall. The scarcity of the rains is a worry for you, isn’t it? It’s for that reason that we have Mr. Kokou Bosso with us today. He is an agricultural extension officer. He has some advice for you to help you better deal with this situation.

Increase in volume of the theme music and then it fades out

Radio host:
Good morning Mr. Kokou Bosso, and thank you for being with us today.

Kokou Bosso:
Good morning.

Radio host:
Here in Africa, agriculture depends on the rain. But unfortunately, we are noticing that it doesn’t rain the way it used to, and the wet season is becoming shorter. That disrupts agricultural production a great deal, and we are in danger of experiencing famine. So what should farmers do?

Kokou Bosso:
It’s true. The rains are no longer falling the way they used to. That upsets agricultural activities and creates a great deal of concern, not only for the farmers but also for everybody, because we all eat, and we can only eat what the farmers produce. In full appreciation of that, the researchers at the Africa Rice Center have carried out research and found methods that enable the farmers to adapt to climate change. Be reassured that these are not unfamiliar methods for the farmers. Rather, they are very effective traditional approaches we are trying to draw their attention to.

While carrying out my work as an extension officer, I introduce farmers to ways in which they can adapt to drought, improve soil fertility, choose which crops to grow, apply other innovations and better manage natural resources.

Radio host:
Very well! How can farmers adapt to drought conditions?

Kokou Bosso:
You know that traditionally there are warning signs that let us know if the wet season will be short or if the drought will be a long one. Farmers can prepare themselves to adapt to a coming drought because they are familiar with these signs.

Radio host:
Oh really?

Kokou Bosso:
Certainly.

Radio host:
What are these signs?

Kokou Bosso:
For example, if there is a long harmattan season (Editor’s note: harmattan is a dry, dusty wind in West Africa, which can continue for some months – from January until April) or if the birds disappear.

Radio host:
How can the disappearance of the birds be a warning sign for a long dry season?

Kokou Bosso:
That’s a very good question. You know animals and birds can sense the presence of water, and they always migrate towards places where they can find some. For that reason, when we notice their disappearance in a particular area, we can assume that rain will be scarce in this zone. I should add that some African countries are now beginning to provide seasonal weather forecasts, and these can also be helpful.

Radio host:
To sum up, we can say that when the harmattan season is long and we don’t notice the sign of any birds in the sky that it’s a signal we will have a long dry season or light rains. Once the farmers have observed these clues, what should they do?

Kokou Bosso:
First of all, they should carefully manage their stocks of grain until the next rainfall. That will help them avoid consuming their seed reserves.

Then, once the wet season has started, they must sow seed varieties that mature quickly. This would be in anticipation of a short rainy season. There are varieties of early maturing maize they can easily find through their extension officers.

Apart from that, farmers should also plant Guinea sorghum and beans such as soya beans to cover and fertilize the soil. They will have to choose plants that do not require a lot of water.

Radio host:
Will farmers be able to plant new cassava cuttings if there will be a long dry season or short rains?
Kokou Bosso:
No. The rainy season will be too short for them to survive. Even for other crops, farmers will have to spread some cow manure and compost on the garden to retain the moisture in the soil. They are going to have to work hard so as not to waste time when the rains start.

Radio host:
Have the farmers in the villages you’ve already been involved with been satisfied following their training with the Africa Rice Center?

Kokou Bosso:
Absolutely. For example, our team worked in Togo in the region from Kpalimé to Atakpamè. In all of the areas where we have been involved, we can see today that the farmers are adapting more effectively to climate disturbances. To be more explicit, I can tell you about two villages, Kèlèkpè and Adéta.

Radio host:
What happened in Kèlèkpè?

Kokou Bosso:
In Kèlèkpè, there are many low-lying areas that are very favourable for agriculture. But the farmers were not aware that these locations are an alternative for them in dealing with the problem of drought. For various reasons, they have abandoned the low-lying areas and have cultivated the plateaus where the soil has been depleted by erosion. Even worse, they almost all grow maize. Because the soil is poor, the yield of maize is also very poor. Through the participatory research approach, involving farmers in every stage of the research, we have succeeded in showing them why the soil on which they are growing their maize is not producing much of a yield and that they can grow crops other than maize. In that way they were able to understand that it was necessary to put the low-lying areas into production. This training enabled them to make better use of the low-lying areas and allowed them to produce more. From that moment on, they have not only diversified into growing other crops, they have also begun to use the water in the low-lying areas through a drainage system that allows them to produce rice even during the rainy season. So, growing in low-lying areas ensures that farmers get good yields and limits the risks that a farmer experiences when there is low or irregular rainfall. The farmers have become much more enthusiastic about the agricultural development of their village.

Radio host:
And in the second village?

Kokou Bosso:
The same thing happened in Adéta, another village located in the western part of Togo. Here, also because of the problems of drought, we succeeded in persuading a group of thirty-two women farmers to grow in the low-lying areas. Each one of them farmed about a half-hectare of land. They had been having problems with levelling the soil and with weed infestations. But with the new knowledge they gained during the training, they are now growing rice during the rainy season and vegetables such as okra, cabbage, spinach, and traditional vegetables during the dry season. They enjoy what they’re doing and are succeeding in meeting the basic needs of their households.

Radio host:
If I understand correctly, the low-lying areas are very good for agriculture?

Kokou Bosso:
Certainly. Naturally, the low-lying areas are very rich and good for farming, as they collect runoff water during the rainy season. With the impact of climate change, they are proving to be very important because of the fertility of their soils and the permanent availability of water in a region where rainfall is rare. In all of the areas where we do this training, we are attracting the attention of farmers to these natural resources – fertile soil and good water – so they can take advantage of them.

Radio host:
Fantastic! I know you still have a great deal of advice for the farmers listening to us with great interest. What would you like to say to sum up?

Kokou Bosso:
To conclude, I will say to the farmers that it is urgent for them to adopt effective strategies to deal with the problems that climate change is presenting.Apart from everything I have explained to this point, farmers must plant trees because trees promote rainfall. Farmers must also reduce brush fires, do crop rotation, build contour bunds around farms to prevent erosion and flooding, and manage their water resources appropriately. That way, everything will improve and they will be able to produce well to feed humanity.

Progressive increase in volume of the theme music, then hold and fade behind the narration

Radio host:
Produce well to feed humanity. Well said, Mr. Kokou Bosso. It is truly informative to discover these strategies that you have presented for the benefit and appreciation of our listeners today. Thank you for everything you are doing for the agricultural development of our continent.

As for you, dear friends and listeners, I hope you have followed Mr. Kokou Bosso’s explanations with great interest, and that you have understood that you too can use these strategies to adapt to the negative effects of climate change. We would like to thank everyone for being there. We’ll be in touch next week at the same time. Goodbye for now!

Increase in volume of the theme music and exit with the host’s conclusion then the end of the music

Acknowledgements

Contributed by: Houinsou Félix Sèdègnon, Radio Immaculée Conception, Benin. E-mail: felixhouinsou@yahoo.fr


Reviewed by: Reviewed by: John Stone, Visiting Fellow, International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and Soklou Worou, soil scientist, agronomist and president of the NGO AGIRNA “Appui à la Gestion Intégrée et Rationnelle des Resources Naturelles” in Togo.

Thanks to: Paul Van Mele, researcher and leader of the Rural Learning and Innovation Systems Program, Africa Rice Center (WARDA).
Paul Kiepe, researcher and co-ordinator of the Inland Valley Consortium, Africa Rice Center (WARDA).

Information Sources

  • Africa Rice Centre website
  • Farm Radio International website
  • Mr. Kokou Bosso is an extension officer at the Institut togolais de vulgarisation.
  • Kèlèkpè and Adéta are two villages located in Togo in the Kpalimé and Atakpamé region.