By Suman Pant
“Unity is the best practice to achieve a common goal.” The members of three independent agricultural journalists associations—The Nepal Agricultural Journalists Academy (JONAA), the Agricultural Journalists Society Nepal (SAJ) and the Agricultural Communication Society—agreed to this statement a year ago and formed the Federation of Nepalese Agriculture Journalist (NFAJ) with a merger.
“Collective voice of media for the agricultural development campaign is a need,” the Founder Chairperson of NFAJ, Baikuntha Bhandari, says, “so we merged three different agricultural journalist associations and created a national level federation.”
Media for agricultural sustainability is overwhelmed everywhere as food is an existence for all humans. Being an agricultural country, Nepalese media has a more crucial role to raise the voice of farmers and for agricultural development.
Mainstream Nepalese media has only been giving more priority for agriculture for about a decade. Agricultural news is published in separate pages and columns these days. Separate time and programs on televisions and radio stations are also aired. Increasing number of online news portals for agriculture also show the rising rays of agricultural journalism in Nepal.
In addition, an increasing number of agricultural component-based tabloid newspapers, magazines and FM radio stations are also seen in the Nepalese media market.
Forming a Federation, a Collective Effort
Due to the increasing scope of agricultural journalism, some journalist groups established specialized organizations under different names and entities. Their overall mission is to strengthen agricultural journalists and raise a common effort to enhance farmers’ voices and agricultural productivity.
But while reporting and attending media programs, leaders of similar agricultural journalists organizations discussed opportunities to be empowered and raise a collective effort for agricultural journalism. Former general secretary of Nepalese Agricultural Journalists Academy (JONAA) Pawan Shrestha says, “we are working for a common interest but committed in different associations. It would be better to be in a same team.” He and his team in JONAA began a discussion to create a coalition among all scattered associations.
With several meetings and interactions, three agricultural journalists’ associations came to a common understanding and decided to form a national level federation.
“Making a federation through merger was thought a good decision and we all leaders sat down a meeting in Kathmandu on March, 2021,” the Founder Member of the negotiation team and present General Secretary of NFAJ Pawan Shrestha explains. “We merged three different associations and officially formed the NFAJ on 16 March, 2021.”
‘We are happy to have a bigger nationwide network with a common agenda,’ Shrestha smiles.
Behind the Merger
Agricultural journalism is just emerging as a focal beat in Nepalese media—we can still count the number of Nepalese agricultural journalists on our fingers. But we had different named professional associations. Attending an event with different professional associations sometimes created confusion to an event organizer. Grant providers, governmental organizations and private institutions also had trouble determining whom to be prioritized with scarce funds.
Government and private organizations conduct exposure visits, field reporting, trainings and such events to reveal their news, achievements and activities, but the organizers were often confused about who to invite or who to contact.
On the other side, sometimes these different named agricultural journalist associations conducted events on similar topics, so funds and effort were scattered. Grant providers and sponsors faced trouble distributing limited funds among different agricultural journalist associations, and if funds were given to only one of these association, they were criticized for partiality.
On the other hand, all these associations had their own integrity, but because each lacked wide media representation, media coverage was reduced.
“To make a louder voice and bigger size of media coverage, a common forum was thought to be established,” the Chairperson of NFAJ Baikuntha said, explaining the inner story of the merger.
How Was the Federation Created?
With a several interactions, three agricultural journalists’ associations came to a negotiation. We conducted a merger meeting in Kathmandu on March 2021. All major leaders from these associations were present. The leaders of these associations spoke about the need to form a federation based on previous individual meetings. All attendees came to a written agreement and clapped for forming a federation of all three associations.
The federation founder committee was formed with representation among all three associations. Previously all these associations were registered at the district administration office in the capital city of Kathmandu; now this federation is registered at the office of company registrar, Kathmandu as a “Not for Profit Making” organization.
Today, all three associations’ members belong to NFAJ, not to their previously affiliated association. “Mergers combine two or more separate institutions into a single new legal entity,” Chairperson of NFAJ Baikuntha said, explaining the status of NFAJ and merged associations.
The federation now extends its committees and memberships among all the provinces of Nepal. “The warehouse of agricultural news is on the rural level rather than in a city,” the chairperson Baikuntha reveals. “Newly established federal democracy added more importance.”
After the formation of all provincial committees, the federation will conduct a national level general assembly, as he described.
One Door Activities
Since merger among three agricultural journalist associations; all agenda, issues and activities are being conducted by the NFAJ. “Merger means a common organization, a single identity and single door,’ chairperson Baikuntha explained. “We are now a single family. Our previously named associations are a nostalgic history to us.”
Nowadays, the Federation of Nepalese Agriculture Journalist (NFAJ) has a strong representation. Members are involved among several daily newspapers, online news portals, TV, radio stations, tabloid newspapers and magazines. Some members are self-employed, running their own agricultural media companies.
Agricultural Journalism: Its Own Identity
Agriculture journalism was once considered an economics beat. Agricultural news was printed on a small column inside papers. Economic reporters and rural reporters were assigned to report agricultural news if found. For many years, only crop and livestock production-based news was covered in Nepalese media. Writing on agricultural policy, practices of industries and farmers’ skills/knowledge, technologies and market trends, food security and such different angles of news were rarely seen.
“We have a bitter experience of a struggle on establishing it’s a specialized beat,” the founder editor of the first agricultural weekly tabloid Krishi Saptahik and the chairperson Baikuntha remembers. “We tried to publish an agricultural newspaper; talked to reporters to cover agriculture-based news, as it has a wide scope; talked to TV and radio stations to share a time for agricultural information.”
Previously the agriculture beat was not in any media houses, but now separate reporters are in almost media house. “We are now gaining our own identity,” Baikuntha shares with happiness.
Agricultural journalists are optimistic nowadays. Advertisement, media campaign and reading/listening trends of agricultural news are increasing. “We are hopeful now as we and our news are in sight of people, industries, traders and as well as the government,” General Secretary and the Founder of the Kishan* Television in Kathmandu Pawan Shrestha says.
*Kishan means “farmer” in English.
Director, International Affairs
Federation of Nepalese Agriculture Journalist (NFAJ)
Suman Pant addressing AG Summit, 2017 in USA as a guest speaker
Suman Pant addressing IFAJ general assembly, Denmark, 2022
Discussion Program, NFAJ
Far Western Provincial Team, NFAJ
Merger meeting to form NFAJ among three associtations
NFAJ, Zoom meeting with Agri Minister, Agri ministry secretary and livestock devlopment secretary
Provincial membership, NFA