, 30 July, 2020 / 9:00 PM
Journalists drawn from various parts of Zambia completed a media training organized by Caritas Zambia, the humanitarian and development arm of Catholic Bishops in Zambia.
The two-day training that concluded Wednesday, July 29 aimed at equipping the reporters with necessary skills to report on climate change, seed politics and nutrition in the Southern African country, an official of Caritas Zambia told ACI Africa in an interview.
Organized in the country’s capital, Lusaka, the training had also the purpose of encouraging journalists in the country to drum up support for indigenous farming techniques, which faced a threat from commercial seed and farm input companies, Caritas Zambia Director, Eugene Kabilika told ACI Africa Wednesday, July 29.
“There has been an increasing interest in seeds by companies which are interested in profits at the detriment of our farmers. Farmers are being encouraged to obtain seeds from the companies and to rely on farm chemicals which are harming the soils and threatening food security in the country,” said Mr. Kabilika.
Consequently, according to the Caritas Zambia Director, laws that are being made in the country to regulate acquisition of seeds are limiting access to small scale farmers who he says have, for years, shared seeds for planting among each other.
The Church, as well as civil societies that say no to these laws are not given a voice, Mr. Kabilika told ACI Africa, underscoring the need for the training of journalists who will henceforth tell stories from the Church and civil society perspectives.
“We want to tell our own stories; the stories of indigenous farmers who have been exchanging seeds for years and getting huge harvests without relying on farm chemicals,” the Caritas official said, and added, “There are many such success stories but they are not given visibility. Instead, it is stories about the interest of the corporate world that takes center stage in reporting.”
The training that kicked off on Tuesday, July 28 was delivered in partnership with Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Zambia, a non-governmental organization that empowers small-scale farmers in the rural communities in Zambia, Livelihoods and Climate Change in Caritas Zambia and CSO SUN, a movement of Civil Society Organizations working to raise the profile of nutrition on the national development agenda in the Southern African country.
Speaking to ACI Africa on the sidelines of the training, Livelihoods and Climate Change in Caritas Zambia Programs Specialist, Musamba Mubanga observed that Caritas Zambia does not receive support from the media.
“There is a lack of knowledge on some of the critical issues around climate change, seed politics and nutrition. Therefore, if we are going to ensure that our advocacy actually achieves its purpose, we need to have a buy-in from the media in terms of sharing some of the key issues that we advocate on,” Ms. Mubanga told ACI Africa.
Ms. Mubanga highlighted the drought in Zambia in the last two farming seasons, issues related to climate change and responding to it responsibly as some of the topics covered during the two-day training.
Addressing seed politics, the Zambian national said, “The issue is national, regional and global. We are seeing that a number of policies have been revised and are aligned to the objectives of multinational companies.”
“But the concern is where does the right of the local farmer lie in all those policies, programs and protocols around the seed?” she probed.
The Programs Specialist on Livelihoods and Climate Change in Caritas Zambia noted that multinational companies in the seed industry “are the ones influencing decision making in the nations, regional, (and) globally.”
She invited journalists to pay attention to these issues affecting the vulnerable population rather than focusing only on “political issues.”
“The question is what key political aspects are you picking out?” she probed and continued, “There is something about the seed that is politically driven. We do have some climate programs that are being politicized so if you find the language of politics being more appealing why can’t you pick on certain issues that touch on politics (and) governance.”
As a follow-up to the training that took place at the Kapingila Guest House in Lusaka, the Programs Specialist on Livelihoods and Climate Change in Caritas Zambia said the members of the third estate will be required to submit stories about seed politics, climate change and nutrition for a media award later in the year.
“We will ensure the journalists do something about this training. They could pick on certain issues based on the three thematic areas we have discussed then go out there and do some investigation, feature some articles and do some documentary for a media award around November,” Ms. Mubanga said.
She added, “This is not a one-off activity. The plan is to ensure that we have frequent engagements.”
“We are also thinking of getting activists, musicians who speak about these issues and form a network that will be established at the end of this training,” Ms. Mubanga said.
She told ACI Africa that the media training was organized in preparation for media awards that are planned for later in the year to journalists who show exemplary performance in writing about climate change and seed politics.
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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa