The National Conference on Agricultural Journalism (NCAJ 2023), themed “Agricultural Journalism in Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects”, was a worthwhile venture going by the quality of presentations and rich outcomes. Recall that the highly-interactive parley’s keynote speaker was Dr. Olufemi Oladunni, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, Agricultural and Rural Management Training Institute, Ilorin; Obinna Chukwuezie, Founder, Journalism Communication and Media Centre, Jos, who discussed ‘Mainstreaming Value-Chain Approach in #AgReporting’; Dr. Ijeoma Chibuogwu, Department of Theriogenology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Abuja, who handled ‘Diversifying the Nigerian Economy from Oil to Agriculture: The Role of Agricultural Reporting’.
Ivor Price and Kobus Louwrens, Co-founders of Food for Mzansi, Western Cape, South Africa, took the special session on ‘Utilising Technology to Elevate Agricultural Journalism: A Case Study from Food for Mzansi, South Africa’; Dr. Gabriel Nyitse, Department of Mass Communication, Bingham University, Abuja, harped on ‘Media Coverage of Agriculture: Underreported Issues in Nigeria’; Ugonma Cokey of the Voice of Nigeria examined the ‘Coverage of Agro-Ecology for a Safe and Healthy Environment’; while Prof. John Akintayo, Faculty of Law, University of Ibadan, dissected the ‘Regulatory Frameworks and Enforcement for Enhanced Agriculture Sector’.
The two-day conference, held in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, was chaired by a veteran and leading agricultural communication expert, Chief Godson Ononiwu, figured out why agricultural news rarely made it to the front pages of the Nigerian media. It unfolded how to improve reporting, innovate storytelling, can showcase the importance of agriculture, unearth the critical factors contributing to the under-representation of specialised reports, and why the media should avoid unnecessary prioritising of stories that attract advertisers and generate revenue, at the detriment of agriculture reports. The importance of utilising multimedia elements and interactive formats to make agricultural news more engaging and accessible to a wider audience, was highlighted, just as awards and exhibitions were accommodated at the conference that allowed physical and virtual attendance by a wide cross-section of stakeholders and agriculture value chain actors.
As we reflect on the gains of NCAJ 2023, it is time to work harder and strengthen the media towards the attainment of food security in Nigeria by beaming the searchlights on the many unreported areas in agriculture. According to one of the technical session speakers, Dr. Gabriel Nyitse, these neglected areas include the adverse effects of climate change on farming; plight of small-holder farmers; unsustainable government policies; paucity of information on emerging technologies; post-harvest losses and unavailable research materials; air and water pollution and consequent health issues; irrigation and land remediation concerns; poor funding; inadequate supply of fertilizers and farm inputs; and abandonment of lofty programmes like the river-basin development authority projects.
FarmingFarmersFarms agrees fully that it is pertinent to urgently revisit the Outgrower Support Scheme; and failure of agricultural policies like the Operation Feed the Nation; Green Revolution; Agriculture Master Plan; Agriculture Promotion Policy (APP); Nigeria-Africa Trade and Investment Promotion Programme; Presidential Economic Diversification Initiative; Economic and Export Promotion Incentives; Zero Reject Initiative, Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+); Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP); Action Against Desertification (AAD) Programme; the Focus Labs conducted by the Federal Government as an implementation-enabler for some aspects of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (2017-2020); the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)-facilitated Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, and the seemingly low impact of the many research institutes across the nation, among others; ahead of NCAJ 2024.