by Owen Roberts, IFAJ Vice President, Canada
I’ve witnessed some truly defining moments at IFAJ congresses over the past few years – the creation of the boot camp in Switzerland and the master class in Belgium, participation by the first Chinese delegate in Canada and support for the global strategic plan in Sweden. And now what I believe is destined to be another defining moment for the federation – the birth of the Latin American Network of Agricultural Journalists, which we witnessed at this year’s congress in Argentina.
It seems that only yesterday (relatively speaking), we hardly knew the Argentineans. But we certainly wanted to. South America was emerging as an agricultural powerhouse, and Argentina was one of the biggest players. Yet, most IFAJ members knew little about agricultural journalism there, let alone who among their Latin American colleagues to contact for the inside story about what was going on in that part of the world.
Now, that’s changed. Through constant, consistent and highly visible participation in congresses and executive meetings, Argentina has taken its rightful place among IFAJ member guilds. Leadership in CAPA, the Argentinean guild, is solid and welcoming. Just like every other guild and country, Argentineans have their own way of doing things. But there’s no question they are committed to IFAJ and to being the federation’s portal to Latin America.
That’s what I witnessed in Argentina: a willingness by the guild there to help pull together countries likewise committed to higher ideals of agricultural journalism. It was a proud moment for everyone at the congress when representatives from all 13 prospective network member countries joined the hosts onstage to celebrate the network charter. We should all see it as a landmark in freedom of the press.
The members of the budding agricultural journalism network I met are passionate about their work, about sharing information (the reason I head most often cited for joining the network) and about a free press. Like other IFAJ members, some work for independent media, while others are part of farm organizations and co-ops, providing news and information to their readers and listeners. They’re anxious to interact with others.
And isn’t this what IFAJ’s strategic plan calls for – reaching out to those in countries where IFAJ has not traditionally had any connections? Absolutely.
Already, the Argentinean efforts are starting to yield results beyond the new understanding congress participants gained of the country itself. Near the end of September, network organizers in Argentina forwarded to IFAJ a letter of intent from the neighbouring Uruguay Agricultural Journalists Association, interested in joining the federation. The association in Uruguay comprises 40 journalists and had strong representation at the Argentinean congress. But until the Latin America network was formed, it was unconnected to the global agricultural journalistic community.
Thank you CAPA leaders and members – Carlos, Addy, Maria, Raul, Mercedes, Mathias and so many others — for bringing together IFAJ members for the first time in Latin America and for organizing the inaugural gathering of the new network. You have really made a difference.