By Ekpali Saint

One of the myriad problems facing Nigeria’s agriculture sector is climate change, which is a challenge to sustainable crop and food security. Despite that, farmers bear the brunt of climate change and suffer low crop yield, adaptive capacity remains low.

To help farmers simultaneously adapt to climate change and improve their crop yields, high-quality agricultural journalism is critical now more than ever. Agricultural journalism is a specialised branch of journalism that is primarily concerned with the reporting and dissemination of agricultural information.

Abdulkareem Mojeed, a journalist with the Premium Times, a Nigerian media organisation, said media organisations play an important role in investigating solutions facing the sector and that disseminating these solutions stories to the public can help relevant stakeholders make informed decisions.

“There is a need for media organisations to be deliberate about amplifying agric-related solutions in the face of these challenges,” he said. “This, I believe, will go a long way in the dissemination of effective solutions to some of the myriads of challenges driving food insecurity in Nigeria.”

Leading in agricultural journalism

In Nigeria, FarmingFarmersFarm (FFF), a newspaper primarily focused on the reporting of agricultural-related stories, is dedicated to the reporting and dissemination of agricultural information.

Adewale Kupoluyi, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, said giving enough coverage to agricultural-related issues would drive public discourse and help to provide solutions to problems facing the sector.

“Agriculture offers huge potential yet, the sector is largely under-reported. Apart from the fact that farming brings food to the table, it is a good source of revenue, employment, raw materials and an alternative route to economic development through diversification from oil,” Kupoluyi said. “Therefore, our newspaper was born to address these challenges through the practice of agricultural reporting and journalism.”

The newspaper covers a wide range of subjects related to agribusiness, food, and the processing and consumption of agricultural products.

The newspaper also covers the environment. Kupoluyi argued that there’s a connection between agriculture and the environment because “agricultural activities affect the ecosystem while environmental factors are directly or indirectly related to farming yield and production.”

“Hence, they are not separable,” he said. “Through news analysis, opinion articles, editorials, feature interviews, and interactions with experts, we discuss these problems and proffer solutions to farmers, intending farmers, researchers and members of the public.”

Mojeed believes that media outlets like FFF “would help to boost reporting of climate-smart models that can be adopted by farmers to boycott the impact of climate on their production.”

He adds that there are media outlets already covering agriculture. But with the effects of climate change becoming more evident, Mojeed said it is important for media outlets to improve coverage of agricultural issues and “upscale climate change awareness among farmers in the hinterlands.” This is because “having media platforms focused on reporting agricultural issues will further help to boost extension services across farm settlements in the country,” he said.

Helping farmers find solutions

Since it launched in April 2022, Kupoluyi said the newspaper has focused more on issues about women in agriculture, youths in agriculture, entrepreneurship, farming and the law. And with its five in-house journalists and contributors, Kupoluyi said the newspaper has continued to provide analysis of agricultural events with the aim of helping farmers, investors, financial institutions, and researchers find solutions facing the sector.

“We have assisted farmers to find solutions to some major challenges facing them by getting technical advice and information from a pool of resource persons that work with us directly and indirectly,” Kupoluyi said, adding that “our newspaper has allowed a number of columnists to identify and make use of their talents through writing. This also comes with financial gain because we pay some of them honorarium for their services.”

In covering agriculture, Mojeed urged journalists to report through a solutions lens. “As journalists are reporting the problems, it is important to also throw similar energy in reporting the solutions to some of the problems that are being dished out by players across the agri value chains,” he said.

External support

Last year, FFF was among the 11 media organisations selected to participate in the Nigeria Media Innovation Programme (NAMIP). NAMIP is a three-year initiative working to support the editorial independence of media organisations in Nigeria by strengthening their financial sustainability.

Kupoluyi said the NAMIP programme has contributed significantly in helping to build the newspaper’s audience.

“Apart from the financial benefits, the technical assistance [from the NAMIP programme] is very impactful in terms of manpower development and capacity building,” he said. “We have been assisted, as a start-up, to run administrative and operations well without compromising our editorial independence.”

In addition to the financial support it received from NAMIP, Kupoluyi said the newspaper generates its own funds through advertisement, sponsorships, and donations. But Kupoluyi said the newspaper still needs more funding support for its expansion drive.

“There are so many farms and institutions to visit, but the means are not there,” he said. “Hence, we limit our operations and this affects our income and outreach initiatives.”
Meanwhile, as part of the newspaper’s effort to improve coverage of agriculture in Nigeria and address common problems facing the sector, it will be hosting its first national conference on agricultural journalism from August 26 to September 2, this year, in Abuja, the country’s capital.

Kupoluyi said the conference “would bring together journalists covering agriculture and environment beats, executive arm, legislature, non-governmental actors together to address common problems facing the reporting of agriculture and food security for national development.”

Reporting supported by a micro-grant from Jamlab

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