By Samantha Beattie, Canada
Agriculture is a central part of life in Burkina Faso — more than 80 per cent of Burkinabé work in the agricultural sector, mostly as smallholder farmers. But they’re isolated and they seldom have the opportunity to learn new information about cropping issues, or to share their own experiences and solutions with others.
Burkinabé journalist Inoussa Maiga is setting out to improve Burkina Faso’s agricultural communications. He initiated the formation of a guild, called the Burkinabé Association of Agricultural Journalists and Communicators (ABJCA), which was made official on May 18, 2013. He currently holds the position of General Secretary.
“ABJCA promotes an open exchange of ideas among agriculturalists, communicators and journalists that will help us to improve our knowledge of local and national issues,” says Maiga.
Maiga was introduced to the idea of forming a guild at the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists 2012 IFAJ Congress’ Master Class workshop, in Sweden. This workshop is a peer-to-peer teaching and learning experience, where IFAJ member journalists work with those from developing countries on matters such as skill development, new media technology skills, trends and ethics, and governance.
“Partaking in the congress was an incredible experience, however my African colleagues and I noticed that there were too few African guilds involved in the IFAJ,” says Maiga. “In the Master Class, we were encouraged to form our own guilds and become IFAJ members, so when I returned home I shared the idea with others and we created a constitution that fits within our local context.”
ABJCA is planning to address issues unique to Burkina Faso. For example, members want to develop the market for local agricultural products by informing consumers about the economic benefits of buying local. They will also promote innovations that farmers are using to improve products for local markets.
Maiga says it’s important for Burkina Faso’s agricultural sector to clarify what being a farmer means. Currently, he says, it’s socially demeaning to be called a farmer — even farmers themselves do not consider farming to be a profession, but rather an occupation for those without “real” employment. Maiga says that changing this stigma is essential to gain more rights for farmers – such as access to finance, agricultural inputs, extension programs, markets and land security – to encourage young people to enter the industry and improve the overall sector.
“We want to make agriculture ‘cool’ again,” says Maiga.
Part of ABJCA’s mandate is to write more about these issues and to reach the most people possible through social media and a multimedia website. Members also want to organize regular discussions with young people, as well as field visits for urban children.
ABJCA comprises 15 agricultural journalists and communicators and is based out of Ouagadougou. The bureau includes President Omar Ouedraogo, General Secretary Inoussa Maiga, Deputy General Secretary Inoussa Ouedraogo, Treasurer Francine Kanzie, Deputy Treasurer Basidou Kinda, Communication and Partnership Officer Gaoussou Nabaloum and Professional Development Officer Nourou-Dhine Salouka.
IFAJ vice-president Owen Roberts was the federation’s liaison with general secretary Maiga for the Burkinabé guild’s early development.
“It’s great to see this new development in agricultural journalism and communications in Africa,” says Roberts.
He credits Agriterra, Dupont Pioneer and British-American Tobacco for major support of IFAJ’s increasingly global outreach, and to national associations of agricultural communicators for helping bring together these journalists for the Master Class.
Samantha Beattie is a student journalist in the SPARK program at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.