APRA Malawi engages Media on agriculture commercialisation

The APRA research team in Malawi engaged with the media on agriculture commercialisation on 31st August 2019 at Ufulu Gardens in Lilongwe. We invited 22 journalists from the print and electronic sectors of the Malawian media. In addition, there was a representation from the Ministry of Agriculture as well as an official responsible for the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture.

The aim of the workshop was to create awareness of the APRA project in Malawi, to explain its scope and describe its expected outcomes. This is part of influencing impact pathways for policy dissemination and uptake from the research project, where communication is an integral component for changes within agricultural commercialisation to be successful. Journalists who can converse with their audience on issues affecting the agricultural sector will play an important role in the future. If they are able to utilise a political economy perspective, then they can articulate the enablers and constrainers of commercialisation dynamics effectively.

Contents of the workshop included presentations that stimulated discussion about Malawi’s experience with commercialisation, focusing on an overview of the agricultural sector, policy influence and engagement, and how to coherently communicate agricultural research. Through this interaction we have established a relationship with the media, allowing us to amplify and systematically communicate our project outcomes to farmers and policy makers.

Some of the participants had these reflections to share on the workshop:

“…this workshop is a new learning experience for me, and this will improve my reporting skills and I will reach out to the targeted audience…” Gregory Gondwe, a freelance journalist from Blantyre. He joined the profession in 1993 and specifically reports on agriculture related stories. He found the workshop very beneficial and an eye opener, especially on political economy perspectives when reporting stories.

“…I have learnt that before I write a story I should be conversant with policy that relates to the stories and I should be able to build links with the stakeholders. I should write stories that should have impact and shake the authorities…” Gladys Kamakanda, Malawi News Agency Reporter. She observed that journalists are often invited to launches of strategic policies, but do not follow up after the initial report: “We [journalists] need however to take further steps to keep understandig the policy context, its implementation and results.” She further urged the organisers to offer training workshop on political economy and policy influence on a regulary basis to enhance practical learning.

From the feedback we received, the training workshop was very relevant to the journalists in attendance; they were introduced to the APRA project scope and objectives and become more familiar with connecting their stories to policy influence with added political economy perspectives. The platform of sharing information on agriculture commercialisation has been created and will help to foster collaboration amongst the media, APRA and other relevant stakeholders.

This post was written by Mirriam Matita and Hawa Munganya

Mirriam is a member of APRA Malawi research team. Hawa is a postgraduate [masters] student at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources.