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"Profound Disconnect" Between African Media Coverage Of Agriculture And People's Lives: IWMF Report

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There is a "profound disconnect" between how the media covers agricultural issues in Africa and how people actually live, according to a new study by the International Women's Media Foundation. The report finds that, in the media, agriculture gets too little attention given its importance to Africa's economy, and women are "almost invisible."

The IWMF is launching a program to improve media coverage of agriculture, rural development and women in Africa.

See their press release and links to the full report below.

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Kampala, Uganda - The International Women's Media Foundation today released a new report on the coverage of agriculture and women in African media. Called Sowing the Seeds, the report was based on a three-month study which monitored how the media covers the agricultural sector in Mali, Uganda and Zambia. The study concluded that there is "a profound disconnect between African media coverage and people's lives."

Sowing the Seeds is based on three months of qualitative and quantitative research as well as media monitoring. Key findings from the study are:

* 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.
* Eighty-four percent of the agricultural coverage focuses on breaking news; little coverage takes the form of analysis, in-depth features, investigative pieces and farmer education.
* 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.

"Agriculture as we know it in most of Africa is dominated by women whose voices are unfortunately muffled by the patriarchal systems in most of these countries," said Miriam Zimba, managing editor of The Times of Zambia, which will partner with the IWMF in its new initiative.

The release of Sowing the Seeds coincides with the launch of Reporting on Agriculture and Women: Africa, a three-year IWMF initiative to enhance reporting on agriculture and women in Africa and make agriculture a key subject for African media.

"Agriculture is a critical source of livelihood and a pathway out of poverty in most African countries, and the media have a crucial role to play in advancing social development and transforming lives," said Tom Mshindi, a Kampala-based IWMF board member and CEO of The Daily Monitor, another partner in the initiative.

Designed to incorporate women's roles in the coverage of agriculture and rural economics into reporting on those topics, the IWMF Reporting on Agriculture and Women: Africa project will provide six selected media houses in Mali, Uganda and Zambia with continuous, on-the-ground training. In addition, the project will strengthen the role of women in newsrooms by offering leadership training to the women participating in the project.

The participating media houses, called Centers of Excellence, were chosen after an assessment of their professional output, their openness to receiving training and their ability to maintain sustainable coverage on agriculture and rural development. They are:

* In Uganda: The Daily Monitor, an independent national newspaper and the public Uganda Broadcasting Corporation.
* In Mali: L'Essor, a national daily newspaper and Radio Klédu, an independent radio station;
* In Zambia: The Times of Zambia, a government-owned daily and the public Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation.

The Centers of Excellence have committed to establishing foundations for best practices on how to cover agriculture and the role of women within agriculture and to support gender equality in their newsrooms. "This project is of great interest to us and we look forward to contributing to the development of our country and of Africa through objective, in-depth reporting on these issues", said Celia d'Almaida, editor-in-chief of Radio Klédu.

Founded in 1990, the International Women's Media Foundation is a vibrant global network dedicated to strengthening the role of women in the news media worldwide as a means to further freedom of the press. The IWMF pioneered leadership training for women journalists in Africa and from 2003 to 2007 sponsored Maisha Yetu ("Our Lives" in Swahili), a project that improved reporting on HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria in African newsrooms. Reporting on Agriculture and Women: Africa is made possible through a grant from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

For more information about the IWMF and Reporting on Agriculture and Women: Africa, visit www.iwmf.org.

Read a PDF version of the report.