A GNA feature by Angela Ayimbire
Accra, Oct. 14, GNA - The role of the media cannot be ignored in all our development efforts. Indeed the media creates the forum for discussion and information spread such that an integrated and enhanced development process is sustained and beneficial to all.
But much as agriculture remains the key component in the development of the country in recent years the growth of the sector has been declining, due to low rate of investment as seen in areas such as Research & Development; Public-Private partnerships; Market (input and output); Policy dialogues and Media engagements in agricultural development.
Although, the mass media has become vibrant in national development issues, not much has been seen with regards to agricultural related activities as the role of the media in agricultural development seems to be quite underrated. And indeed the prevailing news reports on agriculture are usually centred on natural disasters, food shortages and rising food prices.
Dr Charity Osei-Amponsah and Dr Richard Ampadu-Ameyaw of Agriculture, Medicine and Environment Division of CSIR-STEPRI in a presentation on ‘the role of the media in promoting Agriculture’, said “the media is well placed and has the potential to effectively link up with researchers, policy-makers and private-sector actors (industry) to enhance growth in the agricultural sector. Ghana is experiencing urbanisation growth and changes in dietary needs of an emerging middle class. These provide enormous investment opportunities to be harnessed in the agricultural sector, and the media has the potential to highlight these opportunities in their reportage”.
Dr Osei-Amponsah said private sector investment in agriculture is particularly important for the creation of agribusiness, which is core for increased crop and animal productivity; provision of infrastructure; vibrant input and output markets; and effective transformations in value chains to stimulate agricultural growth. Indeed, private sector actors can invest in all the key stages (Production, Processing, and Marketing) of a value chain, in addition to providing or facilitating intermediary services in between the stages.
The role of media in private sector-led agriculture
In a private sector-led agriculture agenda, the media acts as change agents to reach out to relevant stakeholders. It also serves as voice of the people by re-echoing the needs of and opportunities for farmers, private sector actors, and researchers as well as policy-makers. In the absence of a reliable agricultural extension system, the media serves as an important tool for facilitating agricultural information dissemination.
In this regard, the media acts as a major catalyst in information dissemination by connecting large numbers of farmers to scientific knowledge and innovations from researchers within the shortest time. They should create platforms for Agriculture experts and allow phone-ins for effective interaction on topical agricultural issues. It may directly share information and discuss issues with private sector associations (through media forums, breakfast meetings, e-platforms).
More so, media personnel can be attached to agricultural projects to disseminate detailed information from agricultural interventions in specific communities. Although, the media is well placed to engage in these activities, it is also faced with several challenges.
Challenges of the media
• Agricultural related issues are usually ‘no breaking news’. Thus, news on agricultural production and/or processing are not catchy for the general public and therefore do not attract readers and viewers.
• Agricultural investigative reporting is time-consuming, not newsworthy and at the same time expensive, this does not attract journalists to put in the extra effort to collect agriculture information to report on
• Many journalists have not specialized, or have low training in agriculture and related subjects. They also have inadequate agricultural expert networks to support them in their reportage, and few agricultural communication initiatives exist
• Although most agricultural projects now evolve around multi-stakeholder processes such as innovation platforms and public-private partnerships, the media is visibly absent in such collaborations
• The journalists are also straddled with issues of poor office infrastructure, few state-of-the-art equipment and inadequate monetary incentives; coupled with lack of timely, quality and disaggregated data from the relevant ministries and research organisations.
For the media to be able to promote private sector-led agricultural development in Ghana:
• More knowledge sharing forums or round table dialogues should be organised to enhance media engagements with researchers, policy-makers and private sector
• More reporters should be trained in agricultural communication and information dissemination
• The government through the Ministry of Communications should provide equipment and financial rewards to the media to promote rural and agricultural development
• Media involvement should be encouraged through an entire project cycle and not only as invited journalists to give coverage to project launching and closing events.
A private sector-led agriculture is possible if the media is supported to effectively play its role in disseminating the right information to relevant stakeholders. The private sector, government and other donors are encouraged to invest in agriculture-focused media houses to enhance the timely flow of information on opportunities, to promote the growth of the agricultural sector.