By Frederik Thalbitzer, Danish Food and Agricultural Journalists
Improved agricultural journalism can help fight poverty and food insecurity in The Gambia. That is one of the statements confirmed in a four-day research trip throughout The Gambia combined with at three-day seminar for agricultural communicators earlier this month. And it clearly shows, that working together is productive. The research trip and seminar was conducted by the Network of Agricultural Communicators (NAC) and the Danish Food and Agricultural Journalists (DFAJ).
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During the seminar, which identified challenges for farmers as well as agricultural reporters in The Gambia, media were keen to write about the idea of empowering farmers through better journalism. For several days different Gambian media reported about the seminar and the cooperation between the Danish and Gambian journalist associations. Even the national television station aired the project as a headline story. “This clearly shows that they find it not only interesting but also useful,” Finn Asnæs, one of the two Danes, who attended seminar, said.
The field trip and seminar was agreed on between NAC and DFAJ. But it was the board of NAC that prepared the arrangements, including presentations from journalists, marketers, government officials and farmers. The Gambian team even managed to convince the permanent secretary of the Department of Agriculture to provide input.
According to Finn Asnæs the interest really proved how important people think find project to be. And when a young team of Gambian journalists creates such a program it shows that they are capable of going further, together. This improved the quality of agricultural journalism as well as inspires more programs for community radios about agriculture – which is greatly needed.
Government very interested
Journalist Sang Mendy, secretary of the board of NAC, is happy that NAC succeeded in having government officials attend the seminar with the reporters, as well as securing a speech from the permanent secretary of Ministry of Agriculture. “We were able to convince them through our contributes to attaining food, self sufficiency and improving the livelihood of the farmers with better journalism,” Mendy said. “This will open more doors for government officials and non-governmental organizations to collaborate more with the network. Not only will it forge links but it will create the missing links between journalists and the above named stakeholders,” he said.
Demand for development in agriculture
The 750 kilometers research trip to 10 community radio stations, five farms and five research- or training centers displayed great demand for improving agricultural practices. Partly because they lack knowledge. But some problems include broken fences, as animals like cows, baboons and hippopotamus damage crops. Wells collapse because cement structures are too expensive and marketing skills are not well developed. Good seeds and fertilizer is expensive and not available everywhere. At the same time farmers seem good at seeing problems but not solutions. They often wait for someone else to do something about problems rather than trying to learn themselves.
Radio reporters want capacity building
Radio reporters in community radios also need the ability to build capacity. They are often not trained to create programs. They make simple programs but do not get much information outside studio from others. They lack equipment at the radio station and they lack transportation to go to the field. They agree, that they lack training in basic journalism as well. It was also clear how few resources they have which limits their ability to improve programs. Therefore training in marketing the radio station so they can raise money will be a future activity. These problems were identified during the research trip and confirmed by speakers and participants during the seminar.
Proposal for training and networking
After two weeks of identifying challenges, Danish partners decided to draft a new proposal, of course involving the board of NAC. They agree that training radio reporters and intensive networking in a well-prepared structure as well as issues on fundraising should be part of the program. DFAJ is very concerned about the sustainability of the project. That means that even after the project is complete NAC, the trained participants and farmers should be empowered to perform better.
The project was a partnership between NAC and DFAJ and funded by CISU, a Danish non-governemental organisation (NGO) supported by the government, that funds projects done in partnership between NGOs in Denmark and developing countries.