Prepare for IFAJ Congress in Argentina

Argentina's ag writer's Association
(Circulo Argentino de Periodistas Agrarios)

IFAJ 2013 Congress in Argentina offers a unique opportunity to set foot on Argentine lands, meet producers, land owners, business people and fellow ag journalists and get a first-hand chance to learn about this agricultural world leader once referred to as “the world´s granary”.

Starting February 1 and for one month exclusively, all IFAJ members will be able to register and save their places at the upcoming IFAJ Congress that will take place in Argentina from September 1 – 5.

This year, the IFAJ will live a congress like no other… A unique opportunity to travel to a far corner of the earth. To discover a rich culture in a country that stretches to one of the southernmost points of the world.

Argentina has tripled its production in the last  30 years and feeds more than  400 million people annually. Its economy is propelled by advanced technologies and sustainable agricultural practices. It is the world’s leading exporter of soy oil and flour, the world’s second highest exporter of corn and sorghum, the fifth largest producer of wine in the world,  the tenth largest producer of milk and the fourth highest exporter of beef.

IFAJ 2013 Congress in Argentina offers the chance to spend four nights in Argentina, enjoying the culture and the country while getting a once-in-a-lifetime adventure visiting the farms and industry hubs where everything happens. Don’t miss your chance. Visit  www.ifajargentina.com for more information.

Success for Gambian-Danish training course

Participants of the agri-journalism course together with Secretary General of Gambia Press Union, Gibairu Janneh, and the trainers, Per Henrik Hansen and Finn Asnaes (no. 3, 4 and 5 from left in the first line).

Per Henrik Hansen
Denmark

Seventeen journalists in the western African country The Gambia were pretty satisfied with a two-week long training course in agri-journalism in November –December, in cooperation among Gambia Press Union, the Danish organization Gambia Media Support, Network of Agricultural Communicators – The Gambia and the Danish guild of IFAJ.
 
Course trainers were Danish guild members Finn Asnaes and myself. We were strongly supported by local co-trainers, especially Sang Mendy who was one of the participants in the Master Class in Sweden, August 2012.

At the course we did theoretical lessons on agri-journalism before the participants were divided into three groups who produced a radio program and an article.
 
In addition to the teaching Finn, Sang and I used the two weeks to visit farms, community radio stations, a farmers union and other organizations working with farmers and agriculture. We did all of this as a part of the preparation for a new joint project for Network of Agricultural Communicators – The Gambia and the Danish guild of IFAJ.

During the next months we will discuss how this new project can be made better yet. Afterwards we will apply for financing from a Danish governmental fund for NGOs working in developing countries. The project may focus on improving agri-journalism at community radio stations in The Gambia.  As most farmers in the country are illiterate, radio is the most important media for them. Almost all of the radio stations are run by people without any journalistic training or formal education.

There are no magazines or other print media in the country solely about farming. But the common newspapers, which are read by the small, well educated and relatively elite, do have some articles about agriculture.  Journalists at the newspapers have a journalistic education, and they strongly want to be trained.

If you read Danish you can find more information at www.agrijournallists.dk. Otherwise, contact me at ph(at)perhenrik.dk for more information.

Tomorrow's farming journalists rewarded

Adrian Bell
Great Britain
Chairman, British Guild of Agricultural Journalists

A new generation of excellence in agricultural journalism were recognized, with the inaugural presentation of the European Young AgriJournalist Awards to winners and runners-up from five countries.

Organized by the European Network of Agricultural Journalists (ENAJ), the awards seek out and reward journalists under the age of 35 working in agriculture in any one of the 17 member countries of ENAJ.

"At the end of a year celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Common Agricultural Policy, it's fitting that we have been able to honor the journalistic skills of these young people by inviting them to write about topics related to CAP and European agriculture," says Katharina Seuser, vice-chairman of ENAJ and coordinator of the competition.

"All the entries were of an extremely high standard; it's hugely reassuring to know that the future of agricultural journalism and communication in Europe is in safe hands as this new generation matures and hones their skills,"  Seuser says .

Entries were invited to one of two categories, each with a crucial CAP theme: how young farmers start a new business, or environmentally sustainable farming. Crucially, entries invited could be unpublished. ENAJ felt the competition should try to recognize potential talent and ambition as well as those fortunate enough to be already working in agricultural journalism.  

Andrea Bahrenberg, of the German farmers' organization DLV, was the winner in the young farmers category, with an engaging story about a German farmer using vending machines to sell asparagus. Runners-up were Slovenia's Katya Ertl and Spain's Ruben Gonzalez.

There was another win for Germany in the second category, where Rica Hennings took home the prize for an insight into how the state of Schleswig Holstein is putting commercial timber extraction hand-in-hand with nature conservation.  Runners-up were Italy's Emanuele Isonio and Marine Balue from France.

"Journalists play an essential role in our industry, with a lot of responsibility: knowledge transfer, communicating new ideas, reporting CAP reform developments, and much more. As agriculture regains its position and standing in Europe, and as CAP reform promises to help drive Europe's economy forward while also delivering food and environmental benefits, our profession promises a vibrant and exciting career option for young journalists,"  Seuser concludes.

Ukraine journalists learn about biotechnology

Participants at the Institute of Cell biology and genetic engineering (from left to right):


Iurii Mykhailov
President, Union of Agricultural Journalists of Ukraine

From the middle of September until the end of November, the Union of Agricultural Journalists of Ukraine together with the European Business Association provided the training for 10 members of the Ukrainian Ag journalists and communicators in modern biotechnology, with an emphasis on GMOs in agriculture.

Six lectures (3-4 hours each) were given twice a month, including a visit to the National Research Institute of Cell Biology and Genetic Engineering.

Six lectures were read by the one of leading scientists in this field, doctor of biology Boris Sorochinskiy.

The training covered the following topics:
1. What is biotechnology? This included a brief history of biotechnology as a field of science.
2. How does a cell function? The structural and molecular components of a cell were discussed, along with the chemical compound of a cell and proteins and nucleotic acids as the principal macromolecules of living organisms.
3. The mechanisms of storing and transferring the genetic information within a cell.
4. What is a GMO?.
5. How GMOs are obtained; first and second generation GMOs.
6. Molecular methods of analyzing GMOs.
7. Ag biotechnology and an environment.
8. Biotech plants and humans.
9. The socio-economic aspects of GMO plants.
10. Testing and approving of GMOs in some countries.
11. Myths about GMOs plants.
12. The current state of biotechnology and its prospects for the agriculture.

The principal idea of the training was not to persuade journalists that GMOs are some panacea or an extreme danger, but instead it was the pilot project aimed at giving them the basic knoledge in this advanced field of science.

The Union of Agricultural journalista of Ukraine and the European business association plan to expand this kind of training into other regions of Ukraine.

IFAJ News January 2013

Bekina: the comfortable polyurethane work boot for farmers worldwide.

A free media is vital for a free world

Markus Rediger
Switzerland
President,  IFAJ

Journalists are highly vulnerable as professionals, and their protection must be ensured for the greatest possible free and independent reporting.

But that’s not the way it is everywhere. What do the Pakistani Khuzdar District, the Mexican state Veracruz, the Somali city of Mogadishu and the Philippine Cities Manila and Cagayan de Oro have in common? The organization Reporters Without Boundaries say they are the most dangerous places for journalists. More than ever, journalists are harassed in many places worldwide. When that happens, transparency and credibility fall by the wayside.

IFAJ holds the freedom of press as one of the basic principles of our professional work. We want to stick to it in our process of becoming a more worldwide organization and reaching out to journalists in new countries.

In adopting the new strategy, at our delegate meeting in Sweden we decided to support guilds in need, but also encourage journalists in countries without guilds to get together and start associations.

We realize that in all parts of the world there is a need to form guilds. In Europe we can count on the European Network of Agricultural Journalists (ENAJ) where many colleagues are active and provide advice to countries such as Cyprus, Portugal, Bulgaria, Romania and Latvia on setting up own new agricultural journalists associations. In December I was invited to the meeting of the ENAJ and the discussion with colleagues was inspiring. Talking to each other face to face we realize that many of us are up against the same challenges. At our next meeting of the IFAJ executive committee, ENAJ chairman Jef Verhaeren will report about the network‘s projects.


Contacts with other countries in Africa such as Cameroon, Burundi and Zimbabwe, as well as in Asia and Latin America, challenge our new strategy to reach out and support the colleagues there. In our next executive meeting this will be on the agenda, as well as a seminar about freedom of the press in Balkan countries.

At our annual congress in Sweden, communications specialist Benoit Passard from DeLaval pointed out a professional ag press is crucial for a free press in a democracy.

In the new year 2013 we look forward to working on implementing our new strategy, defining priorities in our committees and having the first IFAJ congress in a Latin American country -- in Argentina! We are also happy to welcome India as new member to our meetings this year and to further develop contests and professional development activities.

We count on the support of our guilds and members as well as our partners and sponsors to reach the ambitious goals as a volunteer organization in 2013.

Japan recovers and revives its connection with IFAJ

Owen Roberts

IFAJ Vice-President Owen Roberts and JAJA member Tsuyoshi Sato are dwarfed by this giant tuna fishing boat, dragged half a kilometre inland by the tsunami that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake. The ship remains in what was once the commercial core of Kesennuma, as a reminder of the tsunami's power, and a tribute to those who died.

Owen Roberts

Canada
Vice-president, IFAJ

In Japan, a revival is underway.  

While the country continues to recover from the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing tsunami, the Japan Agricultural Journalists Association is reviving its involvement with IFAJ. It’s not coincidental that the two activities are aligned – taking up a proposal from our members in Germany, IFAJ made an extra effort to reach out to JAJA colleagues following the devastating natural disaster in Japan in March, 2011. And now, with recovery underway in Japan, JAJA is again taking a more outward look, as is IFAJ with its new global strategy.

I was fortunate to visit Japan in December, as a guest of Prof. Teruaki Nanseki of Kyusyu University, and IFAJ members Masaru Yamada (a visiting professor at Meiji) and Tsuyoshi Sato, the latter popularly known to IFAJ congress participants as “6pack”. At the start of the visit, I was invited to make a presentation to JAJA at the Tokyo Press Club about knowledge mobilization – that is, the emerging two-way approach to communication between knowledge sources and users, such as universities and farmers. The media has a critical role to play in knowledge mobilization, and we had a spirited discussion about how social media tools represent a new opportunity to mobilize knowledge to farmers. Masaru and I will be working with IFAJ member countries in the spring to determine what knowledge mobilization approaches are working for them, and sharing the results widely across the membership in the fall.

We also discussed the many professional development opportunities IFAJ offers all member countries, including Japan, and the need to keep working towards breaking down language barriers, which is a real concern to JAJA. IFAJ now offers translation assistance with major awards competitions, and in fact a JAJA member was chosen to take part in the first Exposure For Development tour to Kenya in December. but had to decline for health reasons. However, several other viable opportunities exist as well, including the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism award, the IFAJ-Yara Award for Reporting on Sustainable Agriculture, and the popular IFAJ photo contest, sponsored by DeLaval.

The latter part of my trip was dedicated to visiting a Japanese dairy farmer who narrowly missed the nuclear fall-out from the Fukushima generating plant (read my account of that visit here), and finally, seeing the devastation left by the tsunami along the coastal towns of Rikuzentakata, Ofunato and others.  For the most part, agriculture in the Sendai area where IFAJ was hosted by JAJA for the 2007 congress was spared. But food processing (fish, primarily) was not. Like a 650-kilometre-long bulldozer, the tsunami bowled over large, well-established fish processing plants, then dragged many of the wrecked buildings out to sea as it receded. All that’s left in many cases is foundations in cities such as Rikuzentakata, which lost 1,700  people and more than 3,000 buildings. Towns are still cleaning up debris and starting to rebuild with government help, but progress is slow.  
Still, the people of these obliterated towns and cities aren’t giving up. They welcome  visitors to see the devastation for themselves. Mainly, they don’t want to be forgotten...and as members of the IFAJ family, they won't be. Before my presentation to JAJA, the association's secretary general Akira Takemura publicly passed on heartfelt gratitude to IFAJ members for the support the federation showed following the disaster.

This is the time for the two organizations to strengthen and support each other, and move ahead.  In his landmark book Bushido: The Soul of Japan, author Inazo Nitobe calls the unity of the east and west “one of the biggest problems of our time.” Problems get resolved by communicating, through transparency and by better understanding each other. IFAJ is determined to travel this path.   

IFAJ Freelance Directory available

The IFAJ Freelance Directory ( http://www.ifaj.org/services/freelance-directory.html) is available online. A list of freelance journalists from several countries is available in alphabetical order. The listed journalists are experts on agriculture, and their expertise is noted.

IFAJ member and Australian ag journalist Liz Harfull recently benefited from being listed freelancer page. She was contacted by an Australian company that found her there. The company is interested in agriculture, but has no experience and was unaware of the Australian rural press club. Liz has offered to help them find others working in agriculture.


If you are a freelance IFAJ member and want to be listed, please contact the IFAJ executive secretary at  secretary(at)ifaj.org

Exploring ag issues in IFAJ member countries

Working as agricultural journalists, it’s easy to see the issues plaguing our own countries. It’s equally as easy to become bogged down by these issues and forget there are other journalists and growers around the world facing issues, as they too work to feed their countries.

This year, we’re looking feature our global IFAJ contacts and have them share the top ag issues in their countries. As the need to feed an ever-increasing population becomes more pressing, the harder ag professionals must work to deal with issues impacting the industry.

We can learn a lot through others’ experiences and how they are communicating about these issues. And, perhaps if other journalists are writing about issues similar to issues in your home country you can connect to provide a global perspective to readers.

Our first look at issues in member countries comes from IFAJ colleague Iurii Mykhailov, President of the Union of Agricultural Journalists of Ukraine. Below, he provides an incredible overview of the intense challenges growers are facing in Ukraine—


Ukraine is the same size as France and twice the size of Norway, Finland, Poland and Italy.  Half of the Ukrainian land is ag. The famous Ukrainian black soils are among the most fertile in the world. Yet, yields are two-three times less. Why? Below are some explanations.

Though the right to own and buy/sell land is widely declared, there is no land market in Ukraine – the transactions with ag land are prohibited. The beginning of buying/selling land has been postponed for the last 20 years. Thus there is huge black land market.

Ukraine is an extremely corrupt country: the corrupt are courts and judges, the law enforcement system. One can simply buy the necessary court verdict, if one is wealthy or politically influential enough. There is no respect for property rights, which can be violated at any moment. The business methods are very much like the mafia style. As the notorious gangster Al Capone cast it, you can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.

As there is no legal ag land market the only way to do business is to rent land. Since ag land is dispersed among millions small owners it is an overwhelming task to arrange tens and hundreds of thousands of rent agreements, which are expensive.

As there is no respect for legal agreements it is very risky to invest in real assets such as buildings, irrigation systems, orchards and vineyards etc. on the rented land – any time the land owner may breach the agreement. That is why  animal husbandry in Ukraine (except maybe for the poultry industry) is in  poor condition and  irrigation systems, after being hugely plundered in 1980s, are developing very slowly. The I\industrial milk company had big losses until it shut its dairy business.

Because of the corruption it is very difficult to do business. One has to constantly bribe a huge army of inspectors and authorities just to  do  business. Some experts maintain that bribes constitute up to half of the production costs.

The good example of hardships experienced by the foreign companies trying to do business in  Ukrainian agriculture is the failure of the British company Landkom that tried to do business in Ukraine in the Western style. It went bankrupt in few years.

It is very difficult to do business in Ukraine also because of the big interest rates – up to 30 per cent per annum. That is why the majority of companies work on the short cycles, growing only highly profitable spring crops: corn, rapeseed, sunflower and soybeans, though  a number of producers t grow winter crops such as wheat and barley.

During the last couple of years a number of foreign banks withdraw from Ukraine. Among them are Commerzbank, Societe Generale, Erste bank and SEB.

To somewhat defend their property rights, big companies are registered as offshores (Cypress is the most popular). This also allows them to  borrow on  international money markets and use  that borrowed money as investments with  significant tax breaks.

The tax burden for ag producers in Ukraine practically is insignificant: just US$20-30/ per hectare, regardless of what is produced and harvested. The same is with cost of land rent – even the most fertile lands are rented for as much as $US50-100 per hectare per annum regardless of what is produced and the lessee turnover.

Labor is very cheap. It is considered that salaries and wages of even very skillful workforce may not be more than $US500 per month and often even less. The mentality of most  Ukrainian ag managers is  to become a billionaire in a couple of years.

The extremely small tax on ag business and microscopic rent fostered ag producers to sharply increase the areas of rented land. The 100 largest ag producers now rent more than a quarter of all arable land. There are corporations that rent hundreds of thousands of hectares. The biggest one of them (Ukrlandfarming) rents 700,000 hectares (it is three times bigger than Luxemburg).

But these enormous land sizes also mean extremely poor management. The top managers of such companies have  only vague ideas of what is actually happening on the lower levels.

The main industries are monopolized: poultry and egg production, oilseeds, artificial insemination, fertilizers etc.  The antimonopoly committee of Ukraine fines monopolies with sales  of hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars with ludicrous sums such as  a couple of thousand dollars.

The logistic infrastructure (especially for storing vegetables and other perishables) is undeveloped.

Milk, vegetables, fruits and greens are produced by small producers the size of kitchen gardens. The quality of such products is dubious. The food safety system is practically non-existent.

Farm journalists network elects new team

Adrian Bell
Great Britain
Chairman, British Guild of Agricultural Journalists

Agricultural journalists who established a European network to share food and farming knowledge throughout the European Union have elected a new management committee to guide and oversee the network’s growth and development.

Founded in Brussels in December 2011, the European Network of Agricultural Journalists (ENAJ) has been run for the last  12 months by an eight-member voluntary project team, all of whom were elected to the new management committee at this year’s General Assembly.  Journalists from 17 of 27 member states took part.

Newly-elected chairman of the committee, Belgian Jef Verhaeren, said he was delighted that ENAJ had come so far in its first year.

“Europe may be many countries but we have commonality in our agriculture, thanks to 50 years of the Common Agricultural Policy,” he said.  “Now, as negotiations continue on CAP’s future, the journalists who report on its content and effect, and its impact upon our agricultural economies, have a network in which they can share contacts, knowledge, training, understanding and professional support.

“We are extremely grateful for the support shown to the young network by both DG Agri and Commissioner Ciolos himself.  We look forward to growing and building the network, both to support its existing members but also to bring in new members from the states that don’t currently enjoy the value and support of domestic agricultural journalist associations.”

 Verhaeren, secretary of the Belgian agricultural journalists’ association (BVLJ-ABJA) said ENAJ representatives were already talking to Cyprus, Portugal, Latvia, Romania and Bulgaria and providing advice on setting up their own, new agricultural journalism associations.

The new committee comprises members from nine member states:

Jef Verhaeren (Chairman, Belgium); Katharina Seuser (vice-chairman, Germany); Hans Siemes (treasurer, Netherlands); Damien O’Reilly (secretary, Ireland); Adrian Bell (communications officer, Great Britain); Erik Massin (vice-chairman, France); Tatjana Cop (Slovenia); Jesus Lopez Colmenajaro (new country liaison, Spain); Gudrun Andreasen (Denmark).

Activities planned for 2013 include a young journalists’ study visit to Brussels in January; a trip to Italy in April to see the effect of last year’s earthquake on the agricultural industry; a briefing with EU agricultural ministers at the Informal Council meeting in Ireland in May; a study tour to England in July; and the annual assembly in Brussels in December.

A new website will go online in 2013; existing information about ENAJ can be found on the  www.ag-press.eu website.

Liz Harfull, a tireless advocate for rural journalism

Gordon Collie

Australian Council of Agricultural of Agricultural Journalists

A powerful figure in advancing the professional interests of agricultural journalists around the world has retired from the Presidency of the Australian Council of Agricultural Journalists.

Liz Harfull served three terms as President of the ACAJ, stepping down at the annual general meeting on September 20, 2012.

Before that she held the position as ACAJ secretary and was the long running Australian delegate to the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists.

Liz held key positions on the world body executive as Regional Vice President and also edited the international newsletter.

She was a persistent advocate on behalf of Australia for the introduction of a world award to recognize journalists working in the electronic media and organized the inaugural IFAJ Star Prize for Agricultural Broadcasting in 2010.

Liz has seen her hard vindicated with a dominant performance by Australian journalists on the world stage in the first three years of this prestigious new competition.

A Churchill Fellow, Liz spent more than 30 years as a journalist and public relations consultant before becoming a best-selling author, working from her home in the Adelaide Hills.
Her first major title, the Blue Ribbon Cookbook was a celebration of a long tradition of agricultural show cookery. It was runner up in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris in 2009 and shortlisted for the World Food Media Awards in 2010.

Her latest book, Women on the Land which tells the inspirational story of eight women running their own properties, has become an Australian non-fiction best seller.

Liz Harfull has been succeeded at the helm of the ACAJ by former vice president Tim Powell. Tim is Managing Director of Cox Inall Communications based in Sydney and has a career spanning more than 25 years in journalism, media and marketing.

Long serving ACAJ Treasurer Bob Snewin from South Australia has also retired and been succeeded by Gordon Collie, a Brisbane rural communications consultant who was President before Liz Harfull.

The new ACAJ vice president is Genevieve McAulay, Queensland Marketing Manager for Rabobank who had a successful journalism career with the Rural Press Group.