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  • Rashida Kabanda

Media Urged to Spotlight the Aesthetic Splendour of Agroecology to the Public

ESAFF Uganda believes that journalists and communicators are key stakeholders in driving the agroecology agenda. It’s believed that once their capacity and knowledge in agroecology are built, they play a critical role in increasing comprehensive awareness and appreciation of agroecology among policymakers, consumers, and small-scale farmers as the main pillar in building a sustainable food system and ensuring food sovereignty, hence shaping the food systems discussion towards agroecology.

In a landmark event organised by the Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers' Forum (ESAFF) Uganda, journalists and communicators from across the region convened in Kampala to champion the cause of agroecology. The conference, held on January 25th, 2024, served as a platform for media professionals to discuss their pivotal role in advocating for sustainable food systems and safeguarding food sovereignty. The conference, themed "Promoting the Beauty of Agroecology," brought together over 50 journalists and communicators representing various media houses in Uganda and East Africa.

Dr. Ivan Lukanda, a prominent figure in agricultural sustainability, delivered a keynote address emphasising the critical role of the media in ensuring citizens’ access to healthy and culturally appropriate food in the East African Community (EAC) and across Africa. He emphasised that corporations, with government support, control industrial agriculture, which threatens the local ecological systems that 70% of the world relies on for food production. He added that this situation has resulted in a food crisis, high prices, export-oriented production, biofuel use, food as animal feed, poverty, climate change, and biodiversity loss. Corporations are actively seeking control over land, water, seeds, and markets, leading to social, cultural, environmental, and ecosystem concerns.

“When practicing agroecology and discussing responsible governance, it is crucial that our governments not only remain responsive to large organisations but also extend their consideration to small organizations. Additionally, there should be a focus on circular economies, which involve viewing agriculture in conjunction with other aspects. The primary advocacy is for the establishment of national standards for organic produce,” Dr. Lukanda added.

During a panel discussion, Mr. Baliraine emphasised that food sovereignty primarily focuses on addressing the rights of people to access healthy and culturally appropriate food. He emphasised the regional diversity in food preferences, emphasising that the choices enjoyed in Northern Uganda may differ from those in the central and other regions.

Ms. Masudio acknowledged the increasing momentum of the women’s forum in agroecology, emphasising its significance in fostering women's participation in this domain. She noted a positive shift in the recognition of women’s substantial contributions to the agriculture sector and agroecological practices in Uganda. While historically overlooked, the progress in media awareness is evident, with documented stories showcasing women’s work in agroecology being published across various channels. Ms. Masudio highlighted the embrace of technology by women, enabling them to share their experiences and work more widely.

Additionally, journalists had the opportunity to discuss their most significant experiences and challenges while reporting on agroecology. Nearly every journalist present seized this opportunity to sound an alarm and strongly criticise editors for refusing to publish agroecology stories, despite their national significance aligning with government objectives of achieving food security and addressing climate change in the country.

During a panel discussion, Zuwena Shame, a journalist from Tanzania and an alumnus of the Agroecology School for Journalists and Communicators, shared her challenges and triumphs in promoting agroecology through her work. She recounted the difficulties she faced in getting her agroecology-related content published by her editor and the media house.

“Most editors may reject agroecology-focused pieces, deeming them not suitable for the media house. Despite encountering resistance and contending with the prevalence of conventional stories, some of us will persevere and continue to write on agroecology." Zuwena alluded

“Most of the journalists are out of touch with what small-scale farmers are doing on the ground, and they are missing a lot. I want to thank ESAFF Uganda for this platform for building our capacity in reporting and writing about agroecology, said Jackson Okata, Mt Kenya Times.

According to Marko Taibot, most of the journalists’ stories do not surface or ever make it to the media due to a lack of good equipment to use. “Most of us do not have cameras that can take good photos. In my experience with the Daily Monitor, any story must be accompanied by a good photo in order for the story to feature," Marko added.

“Coming from a country like Kenya that is faced with a lot of food insecurity, our context on food systems differs a lot. Most Kenyan journalists are basically reporting on conventional farming and the extensive use of agrochemicals because our land has been heavily depleted and most of the crops can only survive with agrochemicals, says Joyce Chimbi of Talk Africa. She added that most editors cannot publish agroecology stories because they believe that it cannot work for Kenyan farmers.

During the conference, the Agroecology School for Journalists and Communicators, an initiative by ESAFF Uganda, warded journalists who had completed the Agroecology Course for Journalists and Communicators. One distinguished awardee extended appreciation to ESAFF Uganda, acknowledging the organisation’s efforts in curating comprehensive materials and investing in resources that facilitated a profound understanding of agroecology. The participants at the school highlighted that the initial intent of enrolling in the course was to broaden reporting skills and comprehension of agroecology. However, the experience exceeded expectations, leaving participants not only motivated but also inspired to actively participate in and promote agroecological practices.

In his closing remarks, Sir Sunday Bob George, the Senior Agricultural Officer for Food Security at the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries, advised journalists to steer clear of potential harm while telling impactful stories on agroecology. He strongly cautioned them against making comparisons between organic and conventional farming in a manner that portrays the latter negatively. This approach, he emphasised, not only ensures their safety while reporting but also increases the likelihood of getting their stories published.

“I urge all journalists and communicators to promote and speak about the beauty of agroecology to the public in several dimensions. That is the only way people will be interested in taking up agroecology,” he said.




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