Guests after one of the sessions.
Guest speakers at the just-concluded National Conference on Agricultural Journalism (NCAJ), have stressed the importance of agriculture in the attainment of food security, promotion of a safe environment, and engendering national development. The theme of the conference was, “Agricultural Journalism in Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects”.
L-R: Conference Chairman presenting awards to Nature News delegates.
The Chairman, National Conference Planning Committee, Dr. Adewale Kupoluyi had unfolded the keynote speaker to be Dr. Olufemi Oladunni, Executive Director, Agricultural and Rural Management Training Institute (ARMTI), Ilorin; Mr. Obinna Chukwuezie, Founder, Journalism Communication and Media Centre (JCM Centre), Jos, who would be discussing ‘Mainstreaming Value-Chain Approach in #AgReporting’; Dr. Ijeoma Chibuogwu of the Department of Theriogenology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Abuja would handle ‘Diversifying the Nigerian Economy from Oil to Agriculture: The Role of Agricultural Reporting’.
Conference Chairman, Chief Godson Ononiwu (Left), making a speech at the occasion.
He added that the duo of Ivor Price and Kobus Louwrens, Co-founders of Food for Mzansi, from Western Cape, South Africa, would take the special session on ‘Utilising Technology to Elevate Agricultural Journalism: A Case Study from Food for Mzansi, South Africa’; Dr. Gabriel Nyitse of the Department of Mass Communication, Bingham University, Abuja would speak on ‘Media Coverage of Agriculture: Underreported Issues in Nigeria’; Ugonma Cokey of the Voice of Nigeria would examine the ‘Coverage of Agro-Ecology for a Safe and Healthy Environment’; while Prof. John Akintayo of the Faculty of Law, University of Ibadan would look at ‘Regulatory Frameworks and Enforcement for Enhanced Agriculture Sector’.
Chairman of Planning Committee, Dr. Adewale Kupoluyi (Left) presents an award plaque to Prof. John Akintayo.
In a thought-provoking presentation at the conference, Mr. Obinna Chukwuezie, emphasised the importance of diligent reporting in the field of agricultural journalism. In his paper, titled “Mainstreaming Value Chain Approach to #AgReporting”, Chukwuezie shed light on the often-overlooked agro-value chains and their significance to the industry. During his engaging presentation at the first technical session of the conference, Chukwuezie highlighted that while agriculture might not always be considered a flashy beat in journalism, it is an essential aspect of society that warrants rigorous attention from reporters. He stressed that the agriculture sector plays pivotal role in the economy, food security, and sustainability, making it a critical subject-matter for journalists to cover comprehensively.
Conference Chairman, guest speaker, and committee members.
The communication expert and Founder of Journalism Communication and Media Centre (JCM Centre), Jos, Plateau State, harped on the need for journalists to have basic knowledge of agricultural practice and other areas such as; politics, technology, business, and food system, among others; so as to be holistic in their reports and articles; and be intentional about making impacts. “Journalists hold a unique responsibility in bringing the spotlight onto the numerous agro-value chains that underpin agriculture. These value chains encompass everything, from production and processing to distribution and marketing. Each link, in the chain, contributes to the overall success and sustainability of the industry”, he added.
Guest speakers, awardee, and committee members.
Chukwuezie further emphasised that agricultural journalists must go beyond superficial reporting and delve deeper into the intricacies of these value chains. By doing so, they can uncover untold stories, identify challenges, and showcase innovative solutions that can drive development in the sector. Describing the agriculture sector as one of the oldest industries, which offers one-third of Nigeria’s employment; he added that agriculture was becoming increasingly information-intensive, hence why journalists must do more in allowing farmers tell their own stories. He highlighted some of the agric value chain approach as involving producers, processors, marketers, transporters, storage, finance, research, value adders, input suppliers, regulators, amongst others. The JCM Centre founder further encouraged journalists to engage farmers, researchers, policymakers, and industry experts to gain a comprehensive understanding of the issues affecting agriculture. “Journalists can act as catalysts for change by shedding light on the complexities of the agro-value chains and the people, who drive them”, he stated.
Committee Chairman, Dr. Adewale Kupoluyi (Left), presents an award plaque to a guest speaker, Ugonma Cokey.
… Why agriculture reports rarely grace front pages
The recently-concluded National Conference on Agricultural Journalism, held in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and which was chaired by a seasoned agricultural communication expert with over 47 years of experience, Chief Godson Ononiwu; has adduced reasons why agricultural news rarely make it to the front pages of Nigerian newspapers, as panels of experts, journalists, editors, and academia, convened at the event, discussed reasons behind this issue and the implications for the agriculture sector.
At the conference, jointly organised by FarmingFarmersFarms, Prime Progress and Journalism Communication and Media Centre, some of the technical sessions witnessed discussions on obstacles facing agro-reporting with highlight of consensus among participants that, there is an urgent need for improved reporting, innovative storytelling, and a broader understanding of the importance of agriculture, through which agriculture news would rightfully find its place on the front pages, ultimately benefiting both the sector and society as a whole. The national conference served as a platform for open dialogue on the challenges surrounding the coverage of agriculture reports in Nigeria. Participants also voiced out pressing concerns that, despite the presence of agriculture desks in some newspapers and media outlets, there is no single “go-to-agric media house” in Nigeria. The deliberations unearthed several critical factors contributing to the under-representation of agriculture reports, as follows:
Prof. John Akintayo.
1. Poor titles and headlines
One of the primary issues discussed was the inadequacy of headlines for agriculture-related stories. Many experts at the conference pointed out that agriculture stories often receive uninspiring and unattractive headlines. They argued that a catchy and engaging title is crucial for grabbing readers’ attention and enticing them to delve into agricultural issues. It was also said that figures and data must be made consumable, even for all audiences; and also make the government as well as the Nigerian populace see the agrarian sector’s potential for growth and appreciation.
Guest speaker, Ivor Price (Centre) with some participants.
2. Uncreative reporting styles
Cumbersome, redundant and monotonous reporting in agric beats often leads to dry story telling as pointed out by Ugonma Cokey in her engaging presentation on “Coverage of Agro-Ecology for a Safe and Healthy Environment”. She supported an earlier submission that audiences may be disinterested in reading agric news and reports because of how they are reported, especially when it is not reported in the sensational or negative angle. Cokey also reiterated that reporters and journalists must move past the era of just reporting “the minister of agriculture said …” or “the governor said …”; and desist from relying on press releases or government statements alone for agric reports. The Voice of Nigeria media personality, therefore, charged journalists to conduct independent investigations, hunt for stories by going to farms and allowing farmers and agriculturists tell their own stories, in order to curb one-sided reporting and go for on the-spot assessments reports.
Similarly, Ivor Price and Kobus Lowrens of the Food for Mzasi group in South Africa, in their presentation during the special technical session, titled “Utilising Technology to Elevate Agricultural Journalism: A Case Study from Food for Mzansi, South Africa”, emphasised that there is need for journalists to write specifically for target audience and package their reports for easy digest by their readers. The duo explained how digital technology tools should be harnessed in agro-reporting in order to shape narratives for improvement of the sector and enhance food security nationwide. Ivor Price spoke on how most consumers of news outlets today are becoming more tech-savvy due to the multiplication of digital channels. They also encouraged journalists to be graphical in their reports and embrace multimedia journalism, which includes the use of infographics, podcasts, video, images, among others, to enhance the story telling experience that each story and report bears, thus ensuring actionable reporting.
L-R: Prof. John Akintayo, Barristers Adenike Kolawole and Kelly Ogbe.
Participants also highlighted the issue of underreporting when it comes to agricultural news. They noted that mainstream media outlets tend to allocate limited space and resources to agriculture stories when compared to politics or entertainment or even sponsored stories. This lack of coverage perpetuates the idea that agriculture is less important, even though, it is the backbone of the nation’s economy. Meanwhile, Dr. Ijeoma Chibogwu of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Abuja, Abuja; whose paper was titled, ‘Diversifying the Nigerian Economy from Oil to Agriculture: The Role of Agricultural Reporting’ and Dr. Gabriel Nyitse, Department of Mass Communication, Bingham University, Karu, Abuja, who spoke on ‘Media Coverage of Agriculture: Underreported Issues in Nigeria’, were among the speakers at the conference; stressed the need for journalists to do more than surface-level news stories and uncover root cause of failed policies in the sector, for example. They encouraged journalists to strive to tell compelling stories, seek diverse sources, provide context and adapt to the evolving media landscape to maintain the relevance and impact of their reporting.
Participants during the tea break.
4. Financial considerations
Another concern discussed was the financial aspect of news reporting. Editors often prioritise stories that are more likely to attract advertisers and generate revenue. Agricultural stories, even though vital for the nation’s food security and economic stability, are sometimes perceived as less-appealing to potential advertisers for the newspaper; leading editors to deprioritise them for front-page placement. The panel also delved into the perception that readers are less interested in agriculture news when compared to sensational stories. Some argued that this perception might not accurately reflect the true interests of the audience and that there is need for a more balanced representation of news topics. The essence for journalists to source external funding for agriculture reporting was underscored, urging them to persevere against obstacles.
Exhibition stand at the conference.
5. Lack of innovation
In the digital age, there is also a growing need for innovation in presenting agriculture news. Some experts stressed the importance of utilising multimedia elements and interactive formats to make agricultural news more engaging and accessible to a wider audience. For instance; Ivor and Kobus stressed how they had to be on tik-tok because their audience and they had to package stories differently for that platform in order to keep engaging them. In summary, the conference’s consensus was clear: the underrepresentation of agricultural news on front pages carries far-reaching consequences. It threatens the growth of the agriculture sector, dissuades investment, and blinds the public to vital issues tied to farming, food security, and rural development. The path forward demands a reimagining of how we report, appreciate, and advocate for agriculture, by ultimately sowing the seeds of change for a brighter future for Nigeria.
Exhibition stand at the conference.
… Daily Trust, Nature News, VON bag awards
The recently-concluded conference witnessed the celebration of excellence in media, as prominent publications, including Daily Trust and Nature News newspapers, and Voice of Nigeria, claimed the prestigious awards for their outstanding contributions to agriculture, environmental reporting, and commitment to the attainment of food security in Nigeria, among other recipients.
Guest speakers at the event were also presented with plaques of honour, in recognition of their contribution towards the success of the NCAJ; starting with the keynote speaker and Executive Director, Agricultural and Rural Management Training Institute (ARMTI), Ilorin, Kwara State, Dr. Olufemi Oladunni; first technical session speaker, Mr. Obinna Chukwuezie, Founder, Journalism Communication and Media Centre (JCM Centre), Jos Plateau State; special technical session speakers: Ivor Price and Kobus Louwrens, Co-founders, Food for Mzansi, South Africa; second technical speaker, Dr. Ijeoma Chibuogwu, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Abuja; third technical session speaker; Dr. Gabriel Nyitse, Department of Mass Communication, Bingham University Karu, Abuja; the 4th technical session speaker, Ugonma Cokey, Voice of Nigeria, Broadcasting House, Ikoyi, Lagos State, and the last technical session speaker; Prof. John Akintayo, Faculty of Law, University of Ibadan, Oyo State, respectively.
Guests after one of the sessions.
Daily Trust newspapers clinched an award for its consistent and impactful reporting on agricultural issues. With a keen eye on the nation’s agricultural landscape, the publication often highlight the challenges and solutions by providing invaluable news reports to farmers and policymakers alike. Nature News, an independent online newspaper based in Abuja, which is respected for its commitment to environmental and agricultural matters, secured the award by recognising its tireless efforts at raising awareness about climate change, biodiversity, and the intricate balance between nature and human activities within the few years it started. Its comprehensive reporting of events has made environmental issues more accessible and actionable for readers.
Voice of Nigeria (VON), a trusted source of information for countless Nigerians and the official international broadcasting station of Nigeria, was also honoured for its role in ensuring food security through its agricultural reporting, its dedication to presenting agriculture news in an engaging and informative manner, has contributed significantly to public understanding and support for this vital sector. VON’s long-running programme in eight languages, Talking Agriculture, showcases Nigeria’s agricultural potentials to the rest of the world, to encourage foreign investment as well as develop the interest of Nigerians in the Diaspora, to return home and practice farming. The programme, which features agricultural experts, is highly remarkable and impactful. These awards further serve as a testimony to the vital role that the media plays in shaping public perception, driving policy changes, and ultimately influencing the trajectory of agriculture, environmental conservation, and food security in Nigeria. As the nation grapples with the complex challenges in these areas, these media outlets have proven to be formidable allies in the quest for sustainable solutions.
At the registration point.
Under the individual category; Dr. Priscilla Achakpa, Founder/Global Lead, Women Environmental Programme, Abuja, was nominated for the NCAJ award by recognising her impactful interventions in agriculture, rural development, and extraordinary commitment to the protection of the environment, empowering semi-rural women farmers by encouraging the usage of solar dryers to dry tonnes of perishable crops. Other individual awardees include Prince Wale Oyekoya, Chief Executive Officer of Bama Farms, Lagos State; and Dr. Femi Oke, Chairman, All Farmers’ Association of Nigeria, Lagos State Chapter. The conference was attended physically and virtually by journalists such as editors, correspondents and reporters from print, electronic and online media, covering agriculture and environment, global media experts, academia, farmers’ networks, development partners, and business lawyers, amongst others, including the team from the Nigeria Media Innovation Programme (NAMIP), led by the Programme Director, Mr. Deji Adekunle.
Staff members from Jubaili Agrotech, one of the sponsoring organisations.