Agriculture is key to Africa’s development and economic growth. It can do more with increased investment and innovation now with climate change threatening food and nutrition security on the African continent as research shows.

While a resource-rich sector to boost economic growth in Africa, agriculture suffers from a poor narrative, necessitating the engagement and building the capacity of the media in telling the agriculture story well. It is in recognising the role of the media in projecting development initiatives in Africa that the GCRF-AFRICAP project held a media engagement workshop in Lusaka, Zambia recently. 

The engagement workshop which attracted more than 18 journalists working for online, print, radio and television channels across Zambia, acquainted journalists with the GCRF-AFRICAP project. The project is Agriculture and Food System Resilience increasing capacity and advising policy. It is focused on developing a sustainable pathway around agri-food systems to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the most relevant being #1, #2 and #3 on ending hunger, reducing poverty and on climate action.

GCRF/AFRICAP programme manager, Sithembile Mwamakamba said while the SDGs are the overall guiding framework globally, in Africa, agriculture was a priority target sector with African governments making several commitments towards securing a food and nutrition future for the continent through investment in agriculture. Some of the commitments include the Malabo Declaration, CAADP and the Maputo Declaration.

Challenges

Journalists noted that telling the story of agriculture is a challenge that requires skill, knowledge and above all passion. Agriculture is a complex science the media is often at odds to unpack to public audiences. 

Researchers have a contention with the media. Owing to the methodological and empirical nature of academic research, many a time researchers fear to be misrepresented. Often journalists do not bother to read around the science and understand the issues presented in academic research outputs. Furthermore, more researchers find fault when journalist do not ask the right questions and sloppily do not fact check what they write before they publish. 

Read, read and read and research, advises Friday Phiri, an award-winning Zambian journalist who has reported widely on agriculture and climate change. “But the heart of the matter is passion,” quipped Phiri. 

Solutions

Professor Stephen Whitfield, Associate Professor in Climate Change and Food Security at the Sustainability Research Institute, University of Leeds, underscored the need for a relationship between researchers and the media to ensure the messages of evidence-based research are accurately reflected in media stories.

“It is important to build our collective capacities how we as scientists can communicate our science to the media and for the media to understand the context of research and the complex outputs and still be able to communicate it well, said Prof. Whitfield.

“The relationship between scientists and the media is very important because as academics we speak our own language to each other and we do that on a daily basis and that we are cautious on how we are involved in our findings and how we communicate our findings for fear of being misunderstood, miscommunicated and misrepresented.”  

In Zambia, the ACGR-AFRICAP project is seeking to increase production and productivity of farmers by promoting the use of improved crop varieties and seed certification. A survey has been done to understand the seed sector in Zambia with a focus on increasing the production of soybean as a viable alternative cash crop to maize. 

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