Burundi’s farmers cut from all-important agriculture information

Burundi farmers, like these in Zambia, are dependent on timely information to make good farming decisions.

Burundi farmers, like these in Zambia, are dependent on timely information to make good farming decisions.

Think of how you react when your internet connection is down for even half a day. What if it was down for a week, or a month? You depend on it for the information you need to do your job well, the one that provides the bread on the table. Can’t imagine what you would do? Well, that’s the situation facing the Burundi farmers. It’s not the internet though; it’s the radio program they depend on for information about weather, markets, inputs, prices and all that information farmers need to do their job well. Ever since the political crisis in Burundi last April, private radio stations have been shut down, some even burned down. Agriculture journalists had an agreement with private radio to air agriculture information twice a week, information farmers depended on to make important decisions. Ever since April, that information isn’t forthcoming anymore.

Burundi agriculture journalist John de Dieu Ininahazwe writes in a report for the International Federation of Agriculture Journalists that many journalists have fled the country in fear of their lives. He himself was caught doing an agriculture report in July, his notebook and recorder were confiscated. He was interrogated for three hours then let go. He doesn’t know why he was lucky to be freed when others were killed. He writes that farmers are suffering because of lack of knowledge. They have good rains this year, good crops, but don’t know where the markets are. There is written information available, by newspaper, but a good part of the small farmers which make up most of Burundi’s agriculture don’t read. Farm radio is vital to their business.

I get angry when I think of what it took to build up these radio programs; what it came to mean for farmers; how it improved their livelihood. And then it is just killed. The program and the journalists. John de Dieu Ininahazwe says they will keep fighting. Reminds me of words said in Paris after the Terror attacks. People of courage won’t let evil win as long as there is anything they can do about it. My hat off to you, John.

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