On IITA’s quest for enhancing African public’s understanding of agricultural research

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Journalists from across the African continent recently converged virtually for a 5-day training on research evidence dissemination, courtesy of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)

 

 

The dissemination of research findings to the public is crucial; it helps the people assess and appreciate the impact of the work of research institutions on their lives which subsequently justify the funding of research and development (R&D) by governments, foundations, non-governmental organisations as well as the organized private sector. Yet, the major dilemma of many researchers engaged in impactful research is how to transform and assimilate their seminal research findings into policy and practice, which will consequently impact people’s life and answer their curiosity and yearnings.

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), was established as a nonprofit in 1967 to serve as Africa’s premier research-for-development (R4D) in agriculture. Subsequently, the Institute generates agricultural innovations to meet Africa’s most pressing challenges of hunger, malnutrition, poverty, and natural resource degradation.

Since its establishment, the IITA has remained committed to science-driven improvement of agriculture and related food value chains through the various institution’s research-for-development (R4D) programs. IITA recognizes the importance of capacity development in strengthening research for development (R4D). Accordingly, it has supported hundreds of research and training activities for scientists and researchers as part of its strategy for improving food security, reducing poverty as well as enhancing the translation of research into policy in Sub Saharan Africa.

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In 2017, the IITA received a three-year research grant for the “Enhancing capacity to apply research evidence in policy for youth engagement in agribusiness and rural economic activities in Africa” (CARE) project, from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The grant provide IITA opportunities to improve youth participation in the use of evidence in policy and decision-making for agribusiness and rural economic activities.

IITA says the overarching objective of the CARE project is to improve the availability, exchange, dissemination, and use of research findings by young African scholars – working at local, national, and regional levels in Africa – in the fields of agribusiness and rural economic activities, in policy and practice, as well as in support of economic growth and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Thus, the 5-day training on research evidence dissemination by IITA, in collaboration with the Inter Press Service (IPS), built the capacity of journalists to access, appraise, and disseminate research evidences to the public. IITA’s quest is to accurately disseminate research discoveries and results generated from the youth engagement project (CARE), through delivery of improved policies and investments that are effective at supporting Africa’s youth in agriculture.

“Reading and understanding science can be a bit complicated especially for the category of publics that the IITA-CARE project seeks to engage. Hence, the project seeks to work with the intermediaries [journalists] that participated in the training over time, to tell the stories of the young researchers, who are beneficiaries of the grants sponsored by IFAD, in a way that people will not only know about the great work they are carrying out in rural Africa, but will understand how it can influence policy decisions, good governance, and economy on the continent,” Timilehin Osunde, communication officer of the IFAD-CARE Project, told African Newspage.

The 5-day virtual training was all-encompassing as it covered aspects of 21st century journalism, namely multimedia reporting, and fact-checking, as well as exposing reporters to various agriculture policy issues in Africa and opportunities and challenges facing African agriculture, amongst others.

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Stella Paul, an India-based, multiple award-winning journalist reporting on environment and development using multimedia tools, was one of the trainers. She described her facilitating of the training as an, “Impressive experience of working with a group, with the group members not just being listeners but also taking each opportunity to express and share their ideas. Every journalist enthusiastically took part in interactive sessions, posted thought-provoking questions besides sharing their individual experience of working on the field, all of which enlivened the training further,” she recounted.

Paul said although online trainings were now considered the ‘new normal’, the virtual trainings were subject to frequent disruptions such as slow internet speed, sudden power outages as well as causing digital fatigue. “Despite these recurring disruptions, the trainees were in full attendance each day and stayed on till the very end. This showed the attending journalists’ deep interest in science and agriculture as well as their keenness of learning the ropes of emerging reporting trends such as online journalism and multimedia reporting, which were some of the highlights of our training modules,” Paul said.

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Other than presentations on recent agricultural research findings from various parts of the continent, the interactive training was full of discussions on emerging issues around agricultural policy issues in Africa. It was a platform for sharing of ideas and diverse views. Thus, IITA hopes the training will enhance accurate reporting and dissemination of research evidences from the CARE project and consequently shape the public’s understanding of agricultural research and most importantly, influence agricultural policymaking on the continent.

 

Abdulrahman Olagunju was one of the select group of African journalists who participated in the 5-day training on research evidence dissemination, by International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), with support from International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

 

 

 

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