Enhancing bias free Journalism on Agroecology: The Agroecology Learning Journey for Journalists
Journalists and communicators play a critical role in influencing masses especially their habitual practices including consumption patterns. While conventional Agriculture which has negative effects on the food system and general health of the population in the country, has received high media attention, Agroecology remains scarcely reported due to the limited knowledge about the practice among the media practitioners including journalists and communicators.
Therefore, ESAFF Uganda realized the need to create awareness and increase knowledge of journalists and communicators so as to increase awareness on the potential of agroecology in addressing the current challenges in the food system and creating healthy populations. Over the past months, ESAFF Uganda established the first ever Online Agroecology school for Journalists and Communicators with an aim of increasing their knowledge and exposure to Agroecology. It’s expected that through the school the journalists and communicators will understand and appreciate Agroecological concepts and practices that is crucial for their reporting.
As one of the activities of the Online Agroecology School for journalists and Communicators, ESAFF Uganda organized a physical Agroecology learning journey for journalists and communicators where they had to visit and interact with small scale farming communities practicing Agroecology. A team of 18 journalists and communicators visited Mr. Wali christopher’s Organic Family farm and the Mwanyi Buggaga Coffee Demonstration Site established by ESAFF Uganda and hosted by Mr. Miiro James also a small-scale farmer. Both farms are located in Kisoga Town council Mukono District.
During the visit at the two farms, the Journalists and communicators were taken through practical on farm sessions on different Agroecological practices including planting, making of organic manure and pesticide, kitchen gardening, animal rearing, coffee planting, agroforestry among others.
The small-scale farmers also shared their experience about their transition to Agroecology, Mr. Miiro James, the host farmer of the demonstration site shared about his journey of transition from growing inorganic coffee to organic after the training on Ecological Organic Farming of coffee by ESAFF Uganda, he appreciated the health benefits of farming organically and fully embraced it. In return he offered his land to host the demonstration site to further help other farmers in the community transitioning to organic growing of coffee. The demo garden hosts Robusta KR1-7 type that is more resistant to diseases and pests and easier to take care of compared to other types of coffee. At the time getting a lot of returns from coffee was not Miiro’s main aim rather he wanted to restore his land and also give a chance to other farmers to learn about growing coffee in an organic way.
The journalists and communicators later visited Mr. Wali’s farm where they had a hands-on experience on planting the banana suckers using organic pesticides and manure. The team was also taking through the process of making compost manure, planting of coffee seedlings and the advantages of Agro forestry. Mr. Wali also emphasized to the journalists and communicators that agroecology promotes life of the sol as it doesn’t tamper with the living organisms that complete the biology of soil and plant life unlike conventional farming that destroys all living matter.
Mr. Wali Christopher urged journalists and communicators to write and report more often about Agroecology and not be biased by the conventional Agriculture and its promoters despite the big amounts of money they provide to promote it.
The journalists and communicators also engaged with Mr. Edward Mukiibi, the President of Slow Food International, who shared his rich knowledge and experience on Agroecology. He was also able to help the journalists and communicators demystify some of the notions mainly used by conventionalist in disregards for Agroecology.
While asked by one of the journalists why the conventional farmers refer to Agroecologists as emotional people with no facts, Mr. Mukiibi, a trained Agriculturalist informed the journalists and communicators that Agroecologists may not have the numbers or results from the laboratory but have their fields that they have used to experiment the different practices of Agroecology.
Mr. Mukiibi further challenged the journalists and communicators when he asked them if they were aware that conventional seeds can’t be planted season after season rather one has to buy seed every season which depicts that conventional farming promotes dependence of farmers on costly artificial seeds and fertilizers produced by profit-oriented multinationals hence farmers end up losing their food sovereignty.