“Survival” Crops Provide Food During Times of Need

Crop production

Notes to broadcasters

Save and edit this resource as a Word document.

Through radio broadcasts you can encourage farmers to cultivate crops that will increase food availability in times of need. This script includes spots that provide examples of the kind of experiences that local farmers might share with your listeners about their own survival crops. You can broadcast the spots as they are, using farmers’ voices. However, if the crops mentioned are not grown in your region, use the spots as guides to prepare your own, using interviews with local farmers to discuss the crops they rely on in times of need.



: A well chosen crop can mean the difference between survival and starvation. On today’s program we’re going to talk about “survival” crops. By that I mean crops that provide food in times of need. A survival crop will have one or more of the following characteristics:

  • It provides food even when it isn’t tended regularly.
  • It can be stored for a long time.
  • It has different parts that can be harvested.
  • It survives when other crops fail.

I’ll give some examples of these crops later. But first, here’s a story about why survival crops are important.


: This is a story about two brothers. The brothers lived in the same country, and they were both farmers. But they had different ways of farming. One of the brothers planted survival crops, and the other didn’t.

Sam was the younger brother and he was the one who planted survival crops – root crops and fruit trees. He was always thinking ahead. He knew from experience that if you don’t plant survival crops, you might get into trouble later on. He understood this because one year there had been a drought, but his survival crops provided him with enough food for his family.

Sam’s brother Joe also had a productive farm. He managed his farm in a way that he could get the highest possible yields at the end of the growing season. He earned most of his income from cattle. He also grew maize and other grains. But he didn’t grow any fruit trees or root crops.

Unfortunately, the country where Sam and Joe lived was experiencing troubled times. Eventually war broke out. And it was then that the brothers started to lead different lives – because one had survival crops, and the other did not.

During the war, many of the main transportation routes were cut off. Many markets were closed. It was difficult to get seeds and to buy food.

But Sam’s family continued to eat two meals a day. He had plenty of food stored in the ground – his sweet potatoes and his cassava. He harvested these root crops little by little, as he needed them. He harvested fruit from the fruit trees. Sam’s wife harvested leaves from dom palm trees.

Joe faced more hardship during the war. For a while he and his family were able to live on his grain harvest, but eventually that ran out. They even had to eat the grain that had been stored for seed. Joe was no longer able to buy livestock feed. And because supplies were cut off, he was not always able to buy the food he needed for his family.


: You can see the important role that survival crops play. They prevented Sam and his family from going hungry.

Remember that different kinds of crops help farmers survive difficult times. We are calling these crops survival crops. A survival crop could be:

  • A crop that provides food, even when it isn’t tended – like fruit trees and cassava.
  • A crop that can be stored for a long time – such as sweet potatoes and grain.
  • A crop with many uses – like coconut trees and sweet potatoes.
  • Or a crop that survives, when others fail, perhaps during a drought.

: At the beginning of our program today, I said we’d hear about some survival crops. Here are four farmers to tell us about crops that help them through hard times.

Farmer A
: My favourite crop – a crop that gives me food in times of need – is called ‘Enset’. Some people around here call it the ‘false banana’. Even when the rains fail, this tree provides food for my family. You may know this tree – it looks like a banana plant, but it’s bigger – sometimes up to 10 metres high. I harvest food from the stem and the underground root.

Farmer B
: My survival crops are the foods that grow in the forest. If I have no money, I gather food from the forest. I harvest fruits and nuts. My wife gathers wild plants from the forest floor. She knows which ones are good to eat and makes soup with them. If we ever have to leave the village, we know there will always be forest foods to come home to. Fruit trees will keep bearing fruit – even when you are not there to tend them.

Farmer C
: Root crops are my survival crops. One year, when there were troubles in the region, we had to leave the village. We were gone for months. When we returned, the sweet potatoes and cassava were still in the ground. We just dug them up from the ground, and had our first meal. I took cuttings from the sweet potatoes and cassava, and planted them. I planted some every week during the rainy season. Then I was able to harvest them for a long time, once we were settled back at home.

Farmer D
: A crop that helps my family survive is the dom palm tree. There are so many useful things you can get from just this one tree. If we have a drought and crops fail, I go to the forest and cut the palm leaves. Then I sell them so I can buy food. We also collect the nuts from the dom palm tree. Sometimes that is all we have to eat – but at least we have that.

: Do you depend on special crops to provide food in troubled times? If your answer is “yes,” please contact us here at the station. We’d like to know how you cultivate your crops and how they keep you secure. We’ll feature your ‘survival crop’ on one of our next programs.


: Until next time, I’m _____________ [name of host].

– END –


  • Contributed by Jennifer Pittet, Thornbury, Ontario, Canada.
    Reviewed by Vignes Thievendaram, Agricultural specialist, Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.

Information sources