Tanzania: Cattle trails become dangerous erosion ‘super-highways’

Mixed farmer, Jeremiah Chuma looking out over the Korongo or canyon that cuts across his land like a knife wound.

Mixed farmer, Jeremiah Chuma looking out over the korongo, or canyon, that cuts across his land like an open wound.

A community reporting project with Tanzanian high school students, and aspiring journalists, Loomoni Morwo, 19, Agnes Daniel, 18, for FRW.

Jeremiah Chuma stares down into a chasm. He is standing only a stone’s throw from his family home in Ngarash, a village 30 kilometres west of Arusha. The three-kilometre-long and six-metre-deep korongo, or canyon, cuts across his land like a knife wound.

Mr. Chuma is a 49-year-old father of six who grows maize, beans, coffee and flowers on three and a quarter hectares of land. The land in front of his house used to be a passageway for livestock, but has become so eroded that it is dangerous for both people and animals.

Mr. Chuma looks north across the dry, dusty plains toward the green pastures of northern Tanzania’s Monduli Mountains. Over the last 20 years, wind and water have seriously eroded the clay-rich soils. Unfortunately, the environmental devastation doesn’t stop at Mr. Chuma’s doorstep. The korongo continues south, cutting through other farming villages.

Mr. Chuma says the problem was originally caused by locals who gathered their cattle here before moving the herds north to graze in the mountains. He explains, “Over time, the path became over-grazed and the soil started to erode … I give a warning to anyone who comes on my land, and I restrict any cattle from grazing here. Livestock have fallen in and died.”

Pastoralists such as the Maasai suffer financially when they lose animals; their livestock are their livelihoods.

Nestled in the surrounding hills is the village of Lashaine, where Orkeeswa Secondary School students have a bird’s eye view of the environmental impact caused by the many canyons which scar the landscape. Ellie Turner is the school’s geography teacher. She is encouraging her students to take an interest in climate change.

Ms. Turner says: “I’ve spoken to a lot of older people about the climate here. They say it has become much drier and the rains have been less regular … we get short, intense rainfall which [erodes] the topsoil.” The heavy rains wash away the tightly packed clay soil and vegetation, deepening the korongos.

The students visited farming communities as part of their environmental studies. They were tasked with finding out how the villagers are affected by the korongos, and what they are doing to counter the threat.

ngarash korongo

A korongo, or canyon, cuts through Ngarash village near Monduli, Tanzania, separating farmers’ and pastoralists’ land. Photo credit: Ellie Turner

The students spoke with Martha Lesian in the village of Ngarash. The 42-year-old mother of nine has lost five cows, two calves and part of her farmland to an encroaching korongo.

Mrs. Lesian says, “My farmland has been reduced because of the erosion. I was growing maize on one acre of land. It was enough to feed my family. Now I have to buy two bags of maize every month.”

She told the students that two people have died in the korongo. A girl who attended the village primary school fell in during the rainy season and drowned, and a woman on her way to the market in Monduli took a shortcut through the steep korongo, but fell in and died.

Mrs. Lesian says: “I warn children playing near it to stay away. I also warn people trying to cross it, especially during the rainy season. But many don’t listen.”

Residents in the nearby village of Lashaine have built bridges over the steepest parts of the korongo. Mr. Chuma showed students how he and other villagers have planted minyaa trees and embraced counter-erosion measures such as building soil dams inside the korongo.

He says: “The [tree] roots help bind the soil, thus trapping it and decreasing the depth of [the korongo]. Also, the trees give off an unappealing scent to cattle, discouraging them from coming near.” The community hopes that these efforts will prevent the damage from getting worse.

Agnes Daniel and Loomoni Morwo are students at Orkeeswa Secondary School in Monduli, Tanzania. They were assisted in researching and writing this article by Farm Radio International volunteer, Adam Bemma.

Published online @ Farm Radio Weekly

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Bringing Gender Equity to the Airwaves in South Sudan

Internews recently held its first-ever

Internews recently held its first-ever all-women journalist training in South Sudan

Tune into 88FM in Malualkon, South Sudan, and likely you’ll hear more than the news and music. You’ll hear the voices of community role models.

“I want to be a mirror of my nation,” said Aquilina Adhel, a journalist from Aweil, South Sudan. “I want to be the voice of the voiceless women and children in this country.”

Adhel is one of nine South Sudanese women journalists who are being supported to bring gender balance to the airwaves in South Sudan. They all came together in the capital, Juba, for a journalism training by Internews. For some it was the first opportunity to gain storytelling and news gathering skills, but for others it was a chance to build on the skills they had started to acquire in the field. For all nine, it is part of a career path, which includes paid positions as reporters at Internews’ community stations.

The journalist trainees came from The Radio Community, a group of community radio stations supported by Internews, including 88.0 Nhomlaau FM in Northern Bahr el Ghazal and 90.7 Mayardit FM in Warrap state, and others came from the disputed region of Abyei, where Internews is currently running a humanitarian information access project. This first-ever all-women training for journalists at Internews in South Sudan was a chance to bring new recruits from radio stations across the country together to hone their journalism skills.

Some of the women had been reporting since the conflict broke out in December 2013; they spoke of the immediate need to address issues affecting women and children in their communities.

“I want to be the eyes of those people who cannot see,” said Titiana Adhel Deng, reporter at Nhomlaau FM, referring to South Sudanese displaced by the violence.

Internews’ Radio Community Project Director Nigel Ballard said the nine women will help redress gender inequality in the media overall.

“There are so few women working at stations across the country, and they often don’t have the opportunities or training to get a job as a journalist right away,” Ballard said. “We intentionally targeted women trainees, and created this space to help them learn and grow and enter the media business.” Ballard hopes that together these trainees can encourage more South Sudanese women to become journalists.

Internews in committed to ensuring that the voices of women and girls are represented on the radio, as well as providing opportunities for women to advance in the media. More than 25% of the journalism talent at Internews stations are female – working as on air talent, news reporters and technicians.

“In fact the training was very interesting to me,” said Susan Aker from Mayardit FM in Turalei, “I learned how to collect the news, how to collect good information, how to convince people when you want to interview them, so many things.”

Asunta Alith attended the training with her two-month-old baby girl Josephina, as child care was provided to allow for the women to attend the trainings. Alith spoke of the need to inspire youth, especially girls, to become journalists. She hopes by covering stories on the radio about women’s issues, young girls may decide to follow in her footsteps.

Alith and the other women journalists view their Internews training as a critical component in helping to spread live-saving information on maternal and child health via radio. In rural parts of South Sudan, radio is often the only source for news, due to high rates of illiteracy and the fact that newspapers are not readily available.

The training was practical in nature, with the women journalists frequently visiting the field to find stories across Juba. The emphasis of the training was to encourage the women trainees to understand the basics of communicating using the radio. They worked to perfect the techniques over a guided two-week period, so they could make a real impact in their own communities back at their home stations without an instructor.

While in the city they were able to talk with traders in the markets, women in their homes and leaders of local organizations. The stories they discovered and recounted in the training spoke to how South Sudanese are continuing their lives amidst the ongoing conflict, hoping peace and stability will resume in the world’s youngest nation.

The nine-day Internews training for women journalists took place at the Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS), from Oct. 9-18, 2014.

Internews’ work in South Sudan is supported by the United States Agency for International Development.

Published online @ Internews.org

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Montréal, tales of gentrification in a bohemian city (redux)

Montreal, tales of gentrification in a bohemian city. Montréal: histoire de la gentrification d’une ville bohème.

This 80 minute documentary examines the rapid push for condo development in Montréal. Residents speak about how this development is having an effect in communities all across the city.

I finished this film back in September 2011, then I updated it in March 2012 with more footage. Now the French bit of the film has been translated (with subtitles) into English over two years later.

Sorry about the wait, I’ve been busy with other things (namely travel-work across sub-Saharan Africa). Plus, a group in Vancouver asked me to do it. They are going to screen it at Spartacus Books. With a little help from a friend, here it is.

My magnum opus “Montréal, tales of gentrification in a bohemian city” for your viewing pleasure.

Translation: Jessica Wallace
Subtitles: Adam Bemma

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Fight to Protect Girls in Kenya

Credit: Simon Maina, Getty Images.

Credit: Getty Images.

Mercy Chidi has been called the “Erin Brockovich of Kenya” for her tireless struggle to make her country safer for young girls. She runs a refuge centre for victims of sexual assault, and campaigns to bring offenders to justice. This report aired on DW WorldLink episode Journeys into uncharted territory on Oct. 18, 2014.

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Internews South Sudan training ‘vox pop’ workshop

This is the culmination of a 10-day training for nine South Sudanese women journalists (two with children present) working at Internews community radio stations in South Sudan, known as The Radio Community. On the last day of training, I gave them a “vox pop” workshop on how to edit basic audio. This is the result.

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Uganda: Radio for Justice and Human Rights in northern Uganda

Photo courtesy of NUMEC

Photo courtesy of NUMEC

A chime rings out from the radio speakers. A booming male voice intones: “This is Facing Justice, brought to you by the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, discussing issues of justice and human rights in northern Uganda.”

Facing Justice was a biweekly radio program which aired on radio stations across seven northern Ugandan districts. It was first broadcast in September 2009 and ended in 2013. During its four-year lifetime, the program helped rebuild a community shattered by two decades of war.

Tackling justice and human rights was a bold move for northern Uganda’s local radio stations. But an estimated 4.6 million Ugandans tuned in twice a week to Mega FM, Radio Rhino, Voice of Teso, Radio Palwak and Radio Pacis to hear about the reconciliation process.

In 2010 and 2011, the Northern Uganda Media Club, or NUMEC, took over production of Facing Justice from the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, or IWPR. The program was picked up and broadcast on a network of 12 radio stations. In 2014, its successor program is still going strong.

Simon Jennings is the Africa editor at IWPR. He says: “This radio show was a follow-up to the International Criminal Court’s 2005 indictment of Joseph Kony and LRA [Lord’s Resistance Army] commanders. The idea was to … monitor these developments and give people a voice and [an] insight into these complex processes.”

Mr. Jennings adds, “Radio is a key medium. Through it, we were able to reach a huge audience.”

Facing Justice was a 30-minute program broadcast in English, Luo, Ateso and Lugbara. It examined community topics such as the availability of health services, gender-based violence and access to clean drinking water.

But Facing Justice was not simply a radio show. IWPR trained freelance Ugandan journalists and staff at its partner radio stations, focusing on investigative reporting. Reporters were taught how best to tackle stories like the hunt for Kony. Internally displaced people were still returning home and this subject, in particular, was a sensitive one for many listeners.Northern Uganda Media Club - NUMEC

Mr. Jennings says: “Some of the journalists IWPR trained have gone on to work as reporters in media houses in Gulu, Lira and Kampala. One reporter is now a correspondent for the national Daily Monitor newspaper in Uganda. In all, we trained 30 to 40 journalists.”

Moses Odokonyero is the chairman of NUMEC. He says: “Following the launch of Facing Justice in 2009, new training modules in investigative reporting and technical sound production for radio have raised the standard of reporting among the local journalists.”

He adds: “It has also equipped the journalists with [the] specific editorial skills necessary for them to choose topics and story angles relevant to the local audience.”

As the situation in northern Uganda improves, radio programming is responding. Earlier this year, NUMEC launched Voices for Peace, a peacebuilding radio program which continues where Facing Justice left off.

Mr. Odokonyero explains: “Voices for Peace, which will air throughout 2014, is acting as a much needed platform to share information on peace. [It aims to provoke] debate around post-conflict issues in northern Uganda, and thus contribute to de-escalating conflicts that could otherwise turn violent.”

Published online @ Farm Radio Weekly

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Tanzanian journalist benefits from Canadian capacity building efforts

Rotlinde Achimpota at MJ FMARUSHA, Tanzania - The radio speaker cackles with static as Rotlinde Achimpota turns the dial, before stopping at 93 FM  ̶ Mambo Jambo Radio, affectionately known to its listeners as MJ. The voice of a young broadcaster is heard reporting live from a bongo flava concert. This speaks volumes about the message this energetic radio station transmits.

Dar es Salaam is referred to in the country’s burgeoning music industry as ubongo, or brain in Swahili. But this privately-owned, Arusha radio station is challenging Dar’s biggest entertainment behemoths with something different.

Rotlinde Achimpota, at 46 years of age, is the oldest staff member at MJ. A wife and mother of four children, she knows first-hand what it’s like to communicate with Tanzania’s youth.

“I’m a full-time mom and part-time radio presenter. I learn so much from my kids about what’s going on in Tanzania,” she said.

Achimpota lives in Usa River, 23 kilometres east of Arusha, where she tends a to small farm. Maize, cassava, pumpkin and potatoes all thrive in her kitchen garden which surrounds the family’s home. For the last six years she’s been working as a broadcaster, but 12 weeks ago she decided to bring something new to the table at MJ.

“I launched Arusha’s newest agriculture program, Kilimo na Jamii [Farming and Society] on Saturday, June 14 [2014]. It airs every Saturday from 4:30 to 5 p.m.” Achimpota said. “I really want to engage youth in agriculture as a business opportunity. Most youth tend to think cultivating is for old people. I want to show them it’s not.”

Weather ICT for rural farmers

Kassim Sheghembe, known as “Flash,” is Farm Radio International’s Radio and Information and Communication Technologies [ICTs] developer in Tanzania. Achimpota teamed up with Flash earlier this year to develop a weekly weather alert for farmers in the northern highlands. The result, Beep for Weather, has already become an essential service for farmers around Arusha.

“After this [project], Rotlinde [Achimpota] was very eager to start her own farmer radio program. She approached me to ask for Farm Radio’s support, so I told her we could support her with ICTs,” Flash said. “She’s very resourceful and self-motivated. She’s already found a sponsor for her program.”

Working with Farm Radio International has helped Achimpota to improve her skills as a broadcaster giving her the confidence to start a program which has never been attempted at MJ before. Once she realized the impact her weather report was having on farmers, she decided to make it a regular feature on Farming and Society.

“It helped me be more comfortable with editing. I’m becoming a radio producer. I do the program all by myself. I prepare it every week,” she said. “If you tune in you can hear from farmers and experts share critical agriculture information.”

Rights Media in the community

Jared Knoll, a Canadian human rights media trainer, was placed for six months at Mambo Jambo Radio by Journalists for Human Rights, or JHR. Between September 2013 and February of this year, he worked closely with Achimpota, building on her raw talent.Rotlinde Achimpota at Mambo Jambo Radio

“She was always curious and eager to learn new skills,” Knoll said. “I learned as much from her as she learned from me. She’s a very brave individual and so passionate when it comes to helping her community. I found those qualities very inspiring.”

MJ is one of many radio stations around the world to benefit from JHR human rights media training. Knoll helped Achimpota understand the importance of covering women’s and children’s rights stories, which has since made her a household name across northern Tanzania.

“What set Rotlinde [Achimpota] apart was her ambition to become a great journalist, and determination to overcome many of the risks and obstacles in her way, not only as a muckraker in an inhospitable political climate, but as a woman in an intensely patriarchal country and industry,” he said.

Achimpota hopes to see Farming and Society go from 30 minutes to a full hour farming news magazine show. She’s now using recording equipment and mobile phones to interact with farmer groups at the Nane Nane exhibition grounds in Arusha.

“I want to share stories about successful farmers. I hope this will inspire others to take up farming or improve existing agricultural practice,” she said. “I really want to see young Tanzanians, like my children, start farming to improve their financial situation.”

*Over the past two years I’ve worked alongside Rotlinde Achimpota, starting as MJ Radio’s first-ever JHR human rights media trainer, then at FRI Tanzania, where I brought her on as the weather ICT reporter and producer. I also played a role in developing her investigative journalism and online skills at a training hosted by VIKES Finland and MISA Tanzania. 

Published online @ Huffington Post Canada

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