Pretoria, Nov. 18 – The GCRF/AFRICAP Project conducted a media engagement workshop in Pretoria this week with South African journalists to stimulate media interest in writing on agriculture and climate change.

Organised by the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) and the National Agriculture Marketing Council (NAMC), the dialogue emphasised the role of journalists in unpacking agriculture and climate change issues in South Africa specifically, and Africa in general.

FANRPAN, in conjunction with researchers from Leeds University and University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom; the UK Met Office and Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, the Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET) from Malawi; Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF) from Tanzania and the Agriculture Consultative Forum (ACF) from Zambia, is jointly implementing the four-year Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) AFRICAP project, with the NAMC in charge of the South African component of the project.

The dialogue exposed journalists to the research activities of the project and how it can support media practitioners improve their ability to create appealing and informative content for audiences.

“We need stories that are based on evidence which is derived from scientific research to influence policy decisions in agriculture and natural resources,” FANRPAN’s director for policy advocacy and communications, Francis Hale said.

Francis urged the journalists to apply creativity in unpacking the science so that their stories helped inform the public on agriculture development in the same manner in which audiences are glued to events such as sports.

“Private companies are fighting each other to support sporting franchises; we need similar response to agriculture because it is the cornerstone of the economies of many African countries,” said Francis, adding: “We therefore urge you to do your best to make agriculture and climate change centre-stage topics.”

Through media consultants, Mantoe Phakathi and Busani Bafana, the journalists were supported with tools of packaging agriculture and climate change stories in an appealing manner so that audiences are drawn to the subject.

The journalists also outlined their challenges in reporting on agriculture and natural resource issues, which included the lack of resources to cover stories, many times in remote locations. Furthermore, research information was either inaccessible or of a technical nature beyond the comprehension of the journalists. However, it was emphasised that journalists needed to understand the science to better inform the public.

The South Africa FANRPAN Node Coordinator, Bonani Nhyodo, a senior manager at NAMC and also the coordinator of AFRICAP project activities in the country urged journalists to take advantage of all media platforms, even if they seemed small, in disseminating information, because they have an impact in engaging audiences.

“It is important for the media to get the word out on agriculture development and there is need to capitalise on smaller media platforms which may be seen to have limited reach, but can create huge impact,” said Bonani.

The GCRF/AFRICAP is a programme focussing on promoting poverty reduction and hunger through climate-smart agriculture and sustainable development. The project is being implemented in Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.

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