Who should tell the small-scale farmer’s story? They should.
Privat Tiburce Massanga, a Congolese journalist, has written for Barza Wire since 2011.
In December 2007, Farm Radio International launched Farm Radio Weekly, a weekly news service that brings important stories to farm radio broadcasters across Africa. In December 2014, this service was re-named Barza Wire, emphasizing that it has become a wire service on which broadcasters can rely for stories important to small-scale farmers.
Barza Wire brings this service into the Barza community, a place where broadcasters can access resources to improve their training and their broadcast.
Many of these stories are provided by freelance journalists, like Privat Tiburce Massanga. Privat is a Congolese journalist who has written for Barza Wire since 2011. He has also attended our broadcaster training on evaluating radio scripts and programs in Ouagadougou in 2010.
“As a freelance writer for Barza Wire, I learned to do journalism differently by avoiding the editorial patterns of large media ‘chasing the buzz.’ I learned to tell stories about anonymous people doing great things in their environment, stories that inspire people in other communities to improve their quality of life — economically, socially and culturally,” he said. “This freelance work with Barza Wire allows me to earn my living as a journalist with dignity.”
Privat knows the importance of his work, as family farmers rarely feature in the media.
“Barza Wire is really important because it allows sharing of agricultural and rural experiences across Africa. Barza Wire allows African smallholder farmers to be informed on good practices and the positive or negative experiences of other farmers, which helps improve the quality of farmers’ practices. It is also an essential resource for journalists interested in issues related to rural communities,” he said.
Barza Wire not only provides great value for the broadcasters who use the stories and the farmers who hear them. Training and paid work provides a great opportunity for our freelance journalists. Adeline Nsimire Balika, a journalist in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has been writing for Barza Wire. The experience has helped her grow as a journalist and broadcaster.
“Joining Barza Wire’s pool of journalists has helped me flourish, both personally and professionally. Barza Wire has allowed me to discover other styles of writing for radio; this is a plus for my everyday work with Radio Bubusa FM. In addition, the variety of stories in every Barza Wire is a wealth of information for the agricultural radio programs broadcast on Bubusa FM. The articles published by Barza Wire provide information to members of our community listeners’ clubs, and materials and topics around which they can focus monthly community debates,” she said. “I very much hope that the publication of Barza Wire never stops!”
The impact on the farmers is easy to see. Take Marcel Mindjana for example.
“Marcel is from the village of Adjap in southern Cameroon. He used to farm two hectares of land before it was leased to a forestry company called Cameroon United Forests (CUF). He earned enough from his farm to feed his family and pay for his children’s education. He says, “The earth is my life and without it I am nothing. This is why I decided to fight to get back what was mine.”
With the support of two NGOs, Marcel and other community members developed maps that indicated their farmland. Using these maps, they are campaigning to reclaim their land.
In August 2012, they were partially successful. The government signed a decree reducing the area leased to CUF. At the same time, it gave indigenous people the rights to nearly 14,000 hectares. It was a decision that pleased Marcel. He says, “When I read the decree of the Prime Minister, I gave a sigh of relief. I felt myself lighten, as if a burden fell off my shoulders.”
This is just one of the farmer-focused stories produced by Cameroonian freelance journalist Anne Mireille Nzouankeu.
“I started writing for Barza Wire in June 2012. At the time, the site was still called Farm Radio Weekly. Writing for Barza Wire is rewarding for me. My greatest satisfaction is being able to deal with issues that other media neglect, but that are so important. It is a real pleasure and privilege for me to bring to light the voices and the expertise of smallholder farmers.
I once met someone by chance who had listened to a Barza Wire story about using pepper as a biological insecticide. The person said, “Your technique is super. I tried it and it works. “And I thought, ‘My work actually serves a purpose!’ That’s why I think we need to sustain this publication. Barza Wire is useful to farmers. The articles talk to them about their daily lives, and give them concrete examples they can use on their farms. Focusing on stories of successful farmers is important because other farmers can relate to them and follow their example. Barza Wire allows farmers to stay connected to the world.”
We are crowdfunding resources to expand Barza Wire’s reporting, hoping to bring another original farmer story to each issue. This will allow farmers’ stories to be heard and provide African journalists with paid work. Check out the campaign!