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A group of millet farmers from the village of Zaare in the Bolgatanga Municipal area of the Upper East Region of Ghana are changing their farming practices to adapt to the effects of climate change on growing millet, the main traditional crop. Millet has many uses in the food chain, ranging from sabo – traditional meal prepared from millet flour – to tuo zaafi, a thick porridge prepared and eaten with either vegetables or okra soup, to kokoo, a light porridge prepared for breakfast or as a snack in the afternoon with peanuts or bean cakes
The farmers are also planting a fast-maturing variety of maize and increasing their basket weaving activities to fight hunger and food insecurity in their households. In this script, community radio producer Lydia Ajono looks at the effects of climate change on millet production and the efforts farmers are making to feed their families and reduce food insecurity.
This script is based on actual interviews. You could use this script as inspiration to research and write a script on a similar topic in your area. Or you might choose to produce this script on your station, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.
Dear listeners, welcome to our radio program Dunia hamisim,
which means “the world weather changes.” Whether you call it global weather changes or global warming or climate change, this is an issue of great concern to farmers in northern Ghana. This is particularly true for communities and farm settlements along the White Volta River that stretches from Burkina Faso to the northern part of Ghana.I travelled to some farming communities in northern Ghana that are known for growing millet. Among them are Binde in the East Mamprusi district of the Northern Region, Zebilla in the Bawku West district, and Zaare near the big Vea dam in Bolgatanga District.Even though they are in different parts of the region, farmers in these communities have similar challenges growing millet.Listeners, what is your understanding about global warming or climate change? Stay tuned for more, with me your presenter, Lydia Ajono.
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In the Manpruli language spoken around East Mamprusi district, they call it dunia hamisim
, meaning “world weather.” In the Gurune language spoken around Bolgatanga, it is called sanga teere
, meaning “changes in seasons or times.” And in the Kusaal language spoken around Bawku West, it is described as tenlebgre
, meaning “changes in environment.”
Join me to find out what farmers in these areas understand about climate change. We will hear first from farmer Dimonso from Binde in East Mamprusi district. He will be followed by two farmers in Zebilla and Zaare. But first, I asked farmer Dimonso about his experience with climate change.
In recent years, we have being experiencing some natural phenomena that affect our farms and livestock production. Crop yields have been reduced drastically because of prolonged lack of rainfall. When the rain comes, it floods our farms, making it difficult for the crops to survive. Bush burning is rampant and has contributed to the problem. We think the changing weather is creating droughts and flooding farms every year. These weather changes also contribute to loss of crops from the floods.
Most farmers in Zebilla depend on the Black Volta River, which provides livelihoods for many communities along its banks. Let us hear from farmer Kugre how farmers in Zebilla are adapting to some of the impacts they attribute to climate change.
We now live in fear of being washed away by floods during the rainy season, and our farms and household property being destroyed by bush fires during the dry season. This is now part of our lives here in the villages. This was not so about 10 or 15 years ago. In recent years, farming has not been an attractive livelihood because of poor rainfall. That is why most youth go to the southern parts of the country to look for jobs in the cities.
From Zebilla, we have heard what farmer Kugre says about the changing weather and how dry winds can bring on bush fires. Now let us hear from farmer Ayamga, who comes from Zaare in Bolgatanga.
About 20 years ago, crop production here was very good, especially the early millet. But these days, you can put a lot of effort into the farm, but in the end you get very little or no harvest at all. This is why we think something in the skies has changed.
It affects our farming calendar. I don’t know how to really describe it so you will understand … (Pause) We used to see certain types of insects or ants. Our fathers told us that these creatures gave us information about the type of season and the health of the soil. But now we don’t see those friendly creatures. Rather, we see more destructive pests on our farms.
After hearing from these farmers, we held a discussion with a group of farmers in Zaare. But let us first enjoy a song from the women of Zaare. When we come back, we will listen to an interview with two of the Zaare farmers group. The interview took place under a big baobab tree near the school.
Insert song by community women
Welcome back. You’re listening to our program Dunia hamisim
or Sanga teere.
Now, join me in Zaare with farmer Ayamga and farmer Nsoh. We will hear from them about the real effects of global warming and how we can cope with its effects on millet production, especially in this part of Ghana. As we listen to the discussion, please remember to share your stories with us about what you and your community are doing to adapt to the effects of climate change. We will hear first from farmer Nsoh.
In recent years, fewer farmers are growing millet because of the long drought. Millet needs rain after you sow it. It also needs rain when it starts forming seeds, and it needs a last rain before harvest. But that has not been the case for about 10 or 20 years. The rainfall pattern has changed drastically.
When was millet cultivation good?
I would say about 50 years ago, when I was a young man farming with my father. We harvested plenty of millet, especially the pearl millet that matures within two or three months. But over the years, things have changed and early millet does not do well.
What have you been doing to cope with these changes? Farmer Ayamga?
The farmers here in Zaare have now formed groups of 20 to support each other in both the rain fed period and the dry season. The early millet is planted mostly at the irrigation sites. These are sites developed by the government in the 1970s that cover more than 20 communities in Bolgatanga District. The sites have canals that are used for irrigation during the dry season. During the rainy season, each community farm owner cultivates the land for traditional and other crops.
At these sites, there is always moisture, even when the rains do not fall regularly during the rainy season. During the dry season, we use this land for soya beans, tomatoes and other vegetables. Millet likes natural manure rather than chemical fertilizer. The residues from the vegetables, beans and tomatoes make the soil better for growing millet. Apart from that, animal manure is broadcast on the land. After the first rains, the land is ploughed and the millet is sown.
Does that mean that you have completely changed from rain fed farming to irrigated farming?
We do both, but the millet is grown more in the rainy season because there is not enough rain at the right time for the early millet. Birds that eat early millet are also a problem.
How many types of crops do you grow?
We grow rice, guinea corn or sorghum, groundnuts, beans and various types of vegetables. A few people grow maize, but only the variety that matures in three months. This maize helps meet the food shortage during the rainy season when we are weeding the farm. We sometimes even sell it to support the children’s schooling.
Let me ask Nsoh … If you were asked to stop growing millet all together and concentrate on soya beans to make more money to help you and the family, what would you say?
If I stopped planting millet, especially early millet, it would mean I had no identity as a farmer. We in the Upper East, especially the Frafra people, are noted for growing early millet. Even though we have not been getting good yields, we are still trying everything to keep planting it.
How many acres of land did you plant with millet this year?
I have about two acres of land at the irrigated site. I used one acre for early millet and guinea corn, and on the other acre I planted rice.
Why did you intercrop the early millet and the guinea corn?
It’s a good idea to do that. The early millet will mature first, and I will harvest that. In a month or two months’ time, the guinea corn will also be ready for harvest on the same piece of land on which I applied the animal manure.
This must be hard work. How do you manage the farm?
Oh, it is not a one-person job. That is why we formed the farmer group – to help each other weed and prepare the land for the next stage of farming.
How about your families? Do your wives help?
Yes, they help during the sowing and by driving away the birds. But they do their own farming too and we help them.
Apart from encouraging millet farming in order to protect the local millet variety from extinction, what other activities are you and your colleagues engaged in to adapt to the changing climate?
In fact, in almost every household in Zaare, community members – both men and women – are now weaving straw baskets. It is these baskets that are actually feeding this community more than crop production. This is because these changes in the environment and the seasons now make farming a money-losing venture.
How do you see millet farming 10 years from now?
To be honest, if the agricultural office people do not come out with some technical support and funding for farmers here, I don’t see millet surviving in the large quantities we used to grow in the 50s. We hope to continue to plant it in these small irrigated plots and just grow enough to feed our household. But that is not enough to feed the majority of the people in the Bolgatanga area. So we need help from the government and other partners who have farming at heart.
Do you think that getting regular information on climate change and its effects, and suggestions for cropping strategies will help you continue to grow millet?
Interacting with radio people like you has given us some ideas that we can use during our farmer meetings. It also helps us discuss our challenges with other partners that might visit us.
Thank you so much for sharing with me. We shall continue to bring you more information on climate change on the radio.
or Sanga teere
was the first in our series of programs on climate change. Today’s discussion was on the effects of climate change on millet, and our first community was Zaare in the Bolgatanga area of the Upper East Region of Ghana.
Until next time, I want to thank all the community members and the technical team who supported me to produce this program.
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Contributed by: Lydia Ajono, Radio Gurune, Ghana
Reviewed by: John FitzSimons, Associate Professor, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, University of Guelph, Canada
Dinmoso Dagansa, Binde, East Mamprusi District, October 10, 2011
Kugre Ben, Zebilla District, October 12, 2011
Abaa Ayamba and Nsoh Joseph, Zaare, Bolgatanga District, December 23, 2011