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Help people grasp complex messages, journalists told

Sunday August 25 2019

Jocelyn Brown Hall

FAO Deputy Regional Representative for Africa Jocelyn Brown Hall who urged journalists to help break down complex messages on development into simple language. She said this would help boost efforts in achieving development goals. PHOTO | COURTESY 

JULIUS SIGEI
By JULIUS SIGEI
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Durban, South Africa

Journalists have been challenged to help break down complex messages on development into simple language that is relatable to both the ordinary citizen and the policymakers.

Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) Deputy Regional Representative for Africa Jocelyn Brown Hall said this would help boost efforts in achieving development goals championed by the UN, the Africa Union and countries such as Kenya’s Big Four agenda.

“The media are an important partner as they set the attitude of the public about food and agriculture,” Ms Hall told journalists at a workshop in Durban, South Africa, which ended Saturday.

OVERSIMPLIFICATION

She, however, cautioned that while breaking down the complexities of the underlying causes of food and nutrition insecurity, there is a danger of oversimplification that dilutes the message.

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FAO Senior Policy Officer for Africa Dr Kofi Amegbeto, urged the continent to shift to more sustainable production and consumption measures.

“Food security is about how food is grown, produced, traded, transported, pro-cessed, stored and marketed. It is also about the fundamental connection be-tween people and the planet.”

OPEN MIND

Mr Mohamed Atani of the United Nations Environment Programme in Nairobi challenged journalists to approach development reporting with an open mind and not look at it as something negative that has to be covered from a point of view of threat.

“Look at waste management, for instance. It can help absorb the 400 million un-employed youth in the continent,” he said at the workshop organised to review the capacity of journalists in understanding the messages of the UN Food Agricultural Organisation-led ‘ZeroHunger’ and AU’s ‘TheAfricaWeWant’ campaigns.

BUZZWORDS

The AU has, over the years, rallied its development aspirations around such buzzwords as Agenda 2063, Malabo Declaration Goals and the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme, a policy, aimed at reducing poverty and increasing food security in the continent.

Mr Atani said for stories to become relatable and compelling there is a need to re-late the cost of the inaction on food security with other development challenges, such as youth unemployment in cities, and the rise of informal settlements.

He was speaking even as it emerged that Kenya is likely to miss the development goals it set for itself with other African countries.

NOT ON TRACK

An analysis of the 2018 African Union biennial review indicates that Kenya is not on track to meet the Malabo commitment of ending hunger and reducing poverty by half by 2025.

Instead, poverty has increased, according to the review, with 257 million or one in nine people in the continent facing hunger.

Only 20 countries out of the 47 members of the review mechanism are considered to be on-track because they obtained the minimum overall score of 3.94 out of 10 (as per the 2017 benchmark) but the continental average is a paltry 3.6.

LOW BUDGET

Kenya came under the radar for its low budgetary allocation to agriculture — which fell further this financial year to 2.53 from the 3.5 per cent of 2016/17, the highest in recent years.

The paltry allocation ran counter to the prominence and commitment accorded food security in government policy as one of President Kenyatta’s four flagship projects.

The country also fares badly on the pledge to bring down undernourishment to five per cent or less by the year 2025 and is off-track in achieving the six per cent annual growth of the agriculture gross domestic product.

In a damning indictment on African countries’ lip service to climate change, only one country is on track with respect to aligning government budget-lines on resilience building, the report shows.