Notes to broadcasters
Muskuwaari is a word in the Fulfulde language which refers to dry season sorghum which is transplanted at the end of the rainy season. Common varieties of muskuwaari include safraari, majeeri, burguuri and ajagamaari.
Muskuwaari is grown over a wide area stretching from Nigeria to Sudan. In Nigeria, it is called masakwa, in Chad, berbere.
Farmers transplant up to 10,000 nursery seedlings per hectare in October in the Far North and in two districts in the North region of Cameroon, and yields can reach 1000 kilos per hectare or more. These regions have a long, dry season, lasting seven to nine months. They receive poor rainfall, only 100-300 millimetres per year, with a very high average annual temperature of 32 degrees Celsius. The vegetation is very sparse, with a few trees and scrubby bushes and grasses.
The benefits of growing muskaari include :
- The ability to grow crops on low-lying, heavy, clay soils that are often flooded during the rainy season. Muskuwaari is transplanted into vast areas of clay soil called karal (plural kare) that are difficult to cultivate during the rainy season.
- The availability of off-season labour to help growers complete labour-intensive tasks such as transplanting and land preparation.
- Almost continual year-round production of crops.
- Long-term storage:Muskuwaari can be stored for a long time, well into the next rainy season.
- Good profitability: Market prices are very good at harvest (March-May), because reserves from rainy season crops are very low.
- Sustainability: Muskuwaari does not deplete the soil and can be grown in the same fields year after year. This may be because annual flooding replenishes soil nutrients.
You might choose to present this script as part of your regular farming program, 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 in the script.
You could also use this script as inspiration to research and develop a radio program on sorghum, on other dry season crops, or on other crops suitable for growing in harsh climates in your own area.
If you choose to use this script as inspiration for creating your own program, you could talk to farmers and other experts, and ask the following questions:
- Are there special dry season crops in your area?
- If so, what are the characteristics of the crop that allow them to grow well in the dry season, and how do they benefit farmers?
- What are the challenges associated with this crop, and what solutions have farmers found to deal with these challenges?
- Is there a good market for this crop?
- What other dry season crops are particularly useful to farmers in this area?
Apart from speaking directly to farmers and other key players in the local agriculture sector, you could use these questions as the basis for a phone-in or text-in program.
Estimated running time for this script is 15 minutes, including intro and outro.
It’s very difficult to grow crops such as maize in the dry season in the Far North region of Cameroon. The off-season sorghum which farmers grow here is called muskuwaari in the local language.
We are with Silas Moctia, a farmer who has devoted himself to growing muskuwaari for about 12 years. Can you introduce yourself to our listeners?
I was already spending a lot of money on cotton. Sometimes the seedlings did not tolerate extreme droughts, and other times they stopped growing because of floods. When we were not exposed to caterpillar attacks, we had to tackle bird attacks. Over time, my sleep was disturbed (laughter). Every morning when I woke up, I wondered what kind of problem I would come across in my field.
I did not switch to muskuwaari all at once. First, I tried it on a small plot, while I grew cotton on a larger field I gradually increased the plot reserved for muskuwaari, and this is how I finally abandoned cotton for this crop.SOUND OF FOOTSTEPS. FARM SOUNDS.
SOUND OF WATER BEING POURED INTO PLANTING HOLE
Silas Moctia, you are very busy transplanting seedlings. Where do you get them?
SOUND OF DOOR OPENING AND CHAIRS BEING MOVED
In this region, the fertility of the soil is less important than its capacity to hold water. The muskuwaari plant completes its its growing cycle during the long dry season – from planting to harvest –by using the water held in the clay soil. Everything depends on the capacity of this soil to hold the small amount of water that is available.
During transplanting, the farmer pours a small amount of water in the planting hole before putting the seedling inside. The water stored in the soil enables the seedling to grow easily. The roots of the plant withstand the drought by absorbing water particles which are inside the clay soil. This is an ability that other plants do not always have.
This ability to withstand water stress allows these soils to be covered with muskuwaari from September or October instead of remaining bare. The crop is harvested at the end of January or beginning of February. Since muskuwaari does not like too much water, we don’t grow it in the rainy season, and this provides us with space for other crops.
Contributed by: Anne Mireille Nzouankeu, freelance journalist, Yaoundè, Cameroon
Reviewed by: Carine Mala, Assistant Professor, University of Maroua, Cameroon
Silas Moctia, sorghum farmer, October 15, 2014
Haoua Adji: sorghum farmer, October 15, 2014
Venasius Lendzemo, Head of the Regional Office of the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development, or IRAD, Maroua, Far North region, Cameroon), October 16, 2014
Carine Mala, Assistant Professor, University of Maroua
This script was written with the support of Irish Aid.