By Wesley Lang’at
TerrAfrica in partnership with NEPAD organized a four-day training in Nairobi, Kenya between the 4th and 8th of October, 2017. The theme of the event was “Using Media for Development” and it was attended by communicators and public relations practitioners in charge of communication in ministries that implement Sustainable Land and Water Management (SLM) activities in their respective Francophone or Anglophone member countries in Africa.
The main objective of the annual training is to raise awareness on the importance of the media in promoting the best farming activities and share best practices. In addition, the training aims to enhance communicators’ media skills in order to effectively promote SLM activities among the farmers in Africa.
The NEPAD-TerrAfrica partnership seeks to promote innovative land management solutions as well deal with climate risk factors that necessitate sustainable land and water management. While opening the session, TerrAfrica Project Manager Rudo Makunike pointed out that land degradation in Africa adversely impacts soil nutrients in farmlands thus affecting food security and as a result leads to loss of 3% GDP annually. “The loss is equivalent to 9 billion USD, so there is need for continued and vigorous communication and campaigns for sustainable land practices to reduce the losses”, she said.
In order to raise awareness and policy advocacy on climate change related issues, the media plays a critical role in promoting and driving the agenda. Therefore, the training aims at imparting valuable media skills to participants and at the same time challenge them to adequately explore various ways of using the media to highlighting sustainable land and water management activities in their respective countries.
When asked about their expectation for the training, most of the participants stated that they were looking forward to learning how to use a variety of media platforms to reach out to a wider audience. In addition, they said that they looked forward to learning how to identify the right target audience for their communication in order to make an impact. “I would like to learn how to develop an effective communication strategy for our ministry,” John Brownell, a communication officer from the Ministry of Agriculture, Liberia, said.
TerrAfrica and NEPAD, through their partners, spearhead SLM targeted programs at the country level led by African ministries of agriculture, environment, and finance in respective countries. To explain more about TerrAfrica, Teko Nhlapo, the agency’s communication officer mentioned that they leverage funding support from bilateral partners like Strategic Investment Program (US$1.25 billion) and the Sahel and West Africa Program amounting to US$1.8 billions for the Green Wall Initiative.
“There is need for working closely with communicators like you so that all these resources and results are communicated to the intended audiences. This is why we want to strengthen communication towards SLM activities,” said Teko.
The training also focused on key steps for creating a campaign strategy. This fascinated many trainees as it enhanced their understanding of some issues that have led to poor land use resulting in land degradation. This further laid emphasis on the need for successful media campaigns to help initiate SLM practices as interventions.
Consolata Acayo from Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries cited a case study in Western Uganda where land is frequently affected by landslides due to poor land use practices by the farmers. She said that the skills gained from the workshop, especially the training on campaign strategy, will help her in strategizing for a campaign to promote SLM practices in the region. “This training is timely for me, there are a lot of things on the ground that need a drastic shift like the way farmers do their farming, I‘ve got an assignment to work on,” said Acayo.
According to a TerrAfrica report, 65% of Africa’s land is affected by degradation thus training communicators on effective communication is vital for Sustainable Land and Water Management messaging. This, in turn, supports and improves knowledge on progressive initiatives and policies that improve land management to build climate change resiliency in Africa.
When asked how they will apply the acquired skills in their respective ministries, some participants said they had already developed a work plan on how to implement the same in their respective communication offices. Hamilton Chimala from Malawi pledged to review the communication strategy for the ministry he works for. “We have a lot of issues to tackle, now we have gained knowledge and it will be much easier to plan and roll out a campaign for farmers.”
Sustainable land and water management require integrated solutions from all the stakeholders and communication plays a major role in spreading information on the SLM practices.