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  • Rashida Kabanda

The Agroecology School for Journalists and Communicators Passes Out its First Cohort of Students

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 is 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.

As a result, ESAFF Uganda established the first ever Agroecology Online school for journalists and communicators. Establishing this school involves a series of activities including the development of course content, establishment of a teaching online platform, building of a strong journalists and communicators’ movement that is focused on Agroecology among others. In turn, these journalists and communicators are expected to increase coverage of Agroecology stories at local, national and regional levels.

The last in-person experience sharing workshop for the 1st cohort of the Agroecology School for Journalists and Communicators was organized on 13th February 2023. A total of 17 journalists were awarded with certificates of completion and shared their experiences on the online Agroecology school for Journalists and Communicators.

During the Panel discussion, Mr. Taibot Marko confessed that ever since he joined daily monitor in 2021, he had never written any story on agriculture or Agroecology but after joining the school for Agroecology, he was motivated to produce stories on Agroecology. He noted that during the training, he interfaced with an institution that promotes Agroecology and he was able to train students to practice Agroecology. He requested other people to join hands and take Agroecology to the next level.

“Very few journalists understood the concept of Agroecology due to brainwash of the highly popularized Conventional agriculture system. We have also in the past faced limited funding and resources, which is why most of us were less interested in reporting on Agroecology. With this empowerment from the Agroecology School for Journalists and communicators, there has been a great mindset change on the approach of Agroecology.”- Gaaba Lakel Maria, a digital journalist, See TV Uganda

According to Egwel Jasper, before enrolling for the course, he was not aware of Agroecology but after he learned a lot and practically doing Agroecology. Before he didn’t know that he was practicing Agroecology but after the course he could differentiate. Mr. Egwel learnt that improved seed is no longer benefiting the people as there is need for the use of indigenous seeds.

The field trip to the small scale farmers, according to Favour FM journalist, Wilfred Okot, was very helpful to him and made his reporting easier. He stated that the course had challenged his thinking and shown him how Agroecology promotes the environment and the sustainability of food.

David Okema from Vision Group said that most people say that local seeds are good and expensive for small-scale farmers. They are also susceptible to pests and diseases and not drought tolerant. After undertaking the course, he was able to write a story on the local seeds and it talks about organic agriculture. However, he said that small-scale farmers can not differentiate between indigenous seeds and improved seeds. He added that there is conflicting interests in the community on agroecology as a result of the different government programs that tends to promote conventional agriculture.

Sharon Muzaki, a journalist from UG Standard Media, stated that she discovered that Agroecology is a very viable and very important in having sustainable food systems and a healthy environment for all through use of organic inputs.

Brenda Iwala from Farmers’ Media, appreciated ESAFF Uganda, facilitators who supported them during the course. She noted that the Journalists and Communicators will work hard and be together to take the knowledge and information to the farming communities. According to her, they have learnt a lot and they have the required knowledge to report Agroecology. She noted that they look forward to share experiences with small-scale farmers, farming communities as there should be no room for industrial agriculture after being given a chance with the online school.

Mr. Andrew Adem, the course coordinator said that ESAFF Uganda has secured funding to train 1,200 The course coordinator, Mr. Andrew Adem, stated that ESAFF Uganda has secured resources to train 1,200 journalists in Uganda and other East African nations and would begin awarding reporting awards next month. Twenty journalists were enrolled in the program last year, and 15 journalists and communicators will be recruited in the second cohort, which will begin in March, he continued. He also emphasized that 1,200 people are to be trained in phases in Agroecological practices. He added that ESAFF Uganda will continue monitoring the Journalists to report on Agroecology and other engagement. ESAFF will look for resources to ensure resourceful reporting on Agroecology.

In his remarks, The National Chairperson, ESAFF Uganda, Mr. Hakim Baliraine said that through Journalists and Communicators, it is the only way to revive agriculture and promote Agroecology. He said that it is not required for Journalists and Communicators to report negatively about Agroecology as there is need for the school to be of help in the promotion of Agroecology. He urged Journalists and Communicators to go for other courses on Agroecology if they need to understand more on reporting on Agroecology.

The Guest of Honor, Sir Sunday George Bob, Senior Agriculture Officer Food Security, MAAIF, appreciated ESAFF Uganda and the participants for the online school. He noted that ESAFF Uganda has a lot of expectations on reporting Agroecology from the Journalists and they should be role models. He said that the information, and knowledge on Agroecology has to be seen put to the public.

“Agroecology has multiple connections to key aspects, such as food security, livelihoods, especially for the rural poor, ecosystems, climate change, and health hence making it a crucial sector for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Equipping journalists in Agroecology is a blessing to this country. If 50 percent of the journalists in Uganda are trained in Agroecology, it will be good given that the population is growing while the available is inelastic,” –Sir George Bob added.

During the workshop, The Agroecology media grant and the Agroecology Post were launched to assist journalists in reporting on small-scale farmers and good agricultural practices in East Africa. According to Mr. Hakim Baliraine, the National Chairperson, ESAFF Uganda, the Agroecology grant will work to close the gap between the media and the small-scale farmers who do an excellent job of feeding the nation and that the grant would be distributed based on need, particularly for stories that require a lot of resources, such as investigative stories and under reported stories. He further urged journalists and communicators to take advantage of the new knowledge and grant to reach out to policymakers and hold leaders accountable on behalf of farmers.

The online Agroecology School for Journalists and Communicators aims at building a network of journalists and communicators around Uganda and Africa working with small-scale farmers to contribute to the national and continental transition to Agroecology through disseminating the right information. Empowering journalists and communicators on Agroecology is key in upscaling Agroecology in Uganda to achieve equitable and sustainable food systems.



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