International Women's Media Foundation - IWMF


Reporting on Women & Agriculture

Reporting on Women and Agriculture: Africa has transformed the way the news media cover agriculture and rural development.

The IWMF’s initiative provided capacity assistance and training to journalists in effectively covering agriculture and the role of women in transforming food production and rural development in African countries.

Goals included raising the quantity and quality of reporting on farming and rural development, focusing more of the reporting on the importance of women to the economics of rural areas and creating more gender equality in newsrooms. The project also highlighted the critical role women play in agriculture and rural development.

Sowing the Seeds
The IWMF conducted quantitative and qualitative research in 2008 on how the media cover agriculture, rural development and women in three target countries:
Mali, Uganda and Zambia. The results of the study, released in February 2009 in a publication entitled Sowing the Seeds, revealed “a profound disconnect between African media coverage and people’s lives" when it comes to reporting on agriculture and women in agriculture.

Key findings from the study were:

§                                 Even though agriculture plays a crucial role for Africa’s economic growth, it comprises only four percent of media coverage.

§                                 Whether female or male, farmers’ voices are seldom heard in agricultural coverage. In the agricultural stories monitored, 70 percent of the sources were government officials and experts/professionals. Only 20 percent were farmers and other rural, agricultural workers.

§                                 Women are almost invisible in the media. Even though women produce 70 percent of food in sub-Saharan Africa and make up half of the region’s population, just 11 percent of the sources and 22 percent of the reporters are women.


Click here to read the report.

Partnering with Local Media
After conducting the research, the IWMF chose media outlets to partner with in Mali, Uganda and Zambia. Participating media houses, called Centers of Excellence, were selected based on their openness to receiving training and their ability to maintain sustainable coverage on agriculture and rural development.                       

 Read a Q & A with the managing editor of The Times of Zambia.

Launching the Project
In February 2009, the IWMF launched Reporting on Women and Agriculture: Africa in Kampala, Uganda, bringing together journalists and editors representing media outlets in Mali, Uganda and Zambia. Immediately following the launch, the IWMF held a three-day leadership institute in Kampala to train women journalists from the target countries.

The IWMF provided on-site instruction and mentoring of editors and journalists, empowers women journalists and helps increase coverage of women’s issues. Experienced local trainers who are well-versed on the topic of agriculture and rural development conduct the training.

Changing the Media Landscape 
The Reporting on Women and Agriculture project changed the information landscape in the focus countries –
Mali, Uganda and Zambia. Journalists have steadily ramped up their reporting about women, rural development and agriculture. Before the IWMF project, women farmers were largely invisible in the news media. Since the project began, “we have seen more reporters coming out to ask questions and to know about our work,” said Mable Chisambo of the Ndeke farming block in Lusaka, Zambia. More women farmers are increasingly the focus of news report, opening up to journalists and reporters about their experiences as farmers. In ongoing monitoring activities, trainers in all three countries report an increased number of women as news sources in agriculture reports.
Field trips are a key component of the training approach. John Phiri, managing director of the Times of Zambia, told the IWMF that he has “noticed reporters are doing more research and getting out of the city and into the rural areas to gather information.” According to Edward Muzaga of the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation, “this unique project is bringing a much overlooked topic into national prominence as journalists broaden their knowledge of women and rural communities.”  In
Mali, the project has garnered a lot of attention from various government ministries especially the agriculture ministry. Mali’s Minister of Agriculture, Aghatan Ag Alhassane commended the increased media attention on a “critical development issue we face in our country.”

Journalists had been doing basic reporting and conducting field trips in groups, but the next phase of activities will emphasize one-on-one interaction with farmers and strengthen journalists’ capacity to do investigative pieces.