Reflections of a journalist: Kisumu media workshop
For decades, the African continent has remained a key focus for many developed countries owing to its rich natural resources and favourable climate. And there is no doubt that food security is critical to Africa’s biggest development goals.
Similarly, agriculture is fundamental to poverty reduction, economic growth, among other vital areas. Experts continue to estimate that Africa’s food market will triple over the coming years because farming accounts for up to 60 per cent of the total employment opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa.
Despite these tremendous figures, the continent’s agriculture sector continues to face serious challenges with productivity lagging behind compared to other regions. Shocking statistics derived from the World Food Programme paints a gloomy picture where one in every four people are chronically malnourished with Africa’s food system further strained by the rapid population growth and unpredictable weather patterns.
With all these persistent glaring challenges, successive regimes in the African continent have not for a long time prioritised revamping the sector through adequate and consistent funding to surmount the challenges.
Back at home in Kenya, food security forms part of president Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda but with lack of enough funding, this could just be another pipe dream. To achieve a food secure status in a country like Kenya, it calls for collective responsibility among all government ministries.
This fact that must be emphasised because the food security challenge will only grow as climate change intensifies threatening crop and livestock production. At the same time, we cannot underscore the importance of non-governmental organizations that are coming on board to complement and strengthen the efforts of the national government to ensure that Kenya remains food secure. Kenya is no exception and like many African countries, successive regimes face enormous challenges in securing the food basket of their individual countries because food aid has been used as a political tool for many years.
One such organization is the Route to Food Initiative (RTFI), which advocates for the realisation of the right to food as enshrined in Article 43 of the Kenyan constitution. RTFI is in the process of building partnerships in regards to complementing government’s efforts in improving the agricultural sector and it has identified the media as a vital partner in this important journey.
Last year in November, the Alliance held a two-day training workshop for journalists working in Kisumu, Siaya and Homa Bay counties to draw the roadmap on possible future engagement that will be beneficial to the whole country.
Some of the key areas covered within the two days focused on; support legislative reforms that cement position of women in the agricultural, livestock and fisheries sectors, promote farming policies and practices that are socially, environmentally and economically sound and adequately use available resources, skills and other means to actively contribute towards achieving the Human Right to Food.
The workshop provided a platform for journalists to engage with various stakeholders on a wide range of topical issues surrounding food security and agriculture.
When I first received the invitation through email I was a bit hesitant and asked myself: “What haven’t I learnt about the food security situation in Kenya?” But a closer look at the program which revealed the names of renowned personalities with expertise in relevant fields renewed the much-needed urge in me to attend the workshop.
Names like Catherine Mumma – a human rights lawyer, Dr Thomas Kibua -an economics expert and Judie Kaberia who is a media expert gave me the much-needed impetus and drive to learn something new and focus my strengths on being at the forefront of securing Kenya’s food basket through positive agricultural articles.
Nyanza counties of Siaya, Kisumu and Homa Bay are some of the areas that special attention should be given considering that county governments in these regions allocate meagre resources to finance agricultural activities thus the workshop scored big by inviting media personalities from the mentioned areas to share their experiences in dealing with these problems. Agriculture is a devolved function and county government are expected to offer practical solutions coupled with adequate funding if they are to help the national government achieve one of the Big Four Agenda items, that is food security.
Such successes can only be realised if all stakeholders, including the media, synergise in an environment where access to information is guaranteed as stipulated in our constitution. The biggest challenge that we encounter as journalists is getting credible information to enrich our writing. RFTI fully understood this and invited county Ministers of Agriculture to shed more light on agricultural policies and offer journalists a chance to ask their burning questions.
This particular segment of engagement that included a panel discussion with County Executive Committee members marked the turning point for me in the two-day workshop at The Vic Hotel. The workshop played a major role in opening up space to further interrogate relevant authorities on the specifics of boosting agricultural production using modern technologies.
I am now working on a radio feature story on food security in the counties of Kisumu, Siaya and Homa Bay. In December 2018 I interviewed Kisumu County Executive Member for Agriculture and Livestock Dr Gilchrist Okuom, who revealed that the department receives between 8 – 12 per cent. The situation is replicated in Siaya and Homa Bay counties and this could seriously hamper efforts to secure our counties agriculturally over a long period of time.
My passion to pursue agriculture, health and environmental based stories is not in doubt and I would not hesitate to honour another invitation from RTFI as I envisage to broaden my skills in these particular disciplines. We have an obligation as journalists to set the agenda on various topical issues that call for change nationally and in counties thus let us all grab the opportunity to make a difference in our society by writing articles that inspire the much-needed change.
I would further challenge my colleagues to make an important follow up on the AU 2003 Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security that called on governments to commit least 10 per cent of their national budgetary resources to agriculture and rural development policy implementation within 5 years.
If this was strictly adhered to then the African continent would be far much better in terms of food security. I also challenge them to live up to the proposed story angles and ideas raised during the workshop. Let us make use of the power we hold as the gatekeeper of the public.
SioSiasa Ni Presha!
By Fred Madanje, who attended the media capacity building workshop hosted by the Route to Food Initiative in November 2018 at The Vic Hotel, Kisumu County.
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