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Although media technologies (radio, television, internet and newspapers) have the potential to impact future development initiatives in Africa, media coverage and usage are still limited in rural areas. A central question is how can journalists effectively cover development issues in rural areas in Africa? My encounter with journalism in Kenya is that reporting is still polarized. In order to get perspectives from a broad range of experts, I would like to learn more about your experiences in other countries. I hope that the insights and suggestions from this discussion will spur a deeper examination of how to enhance media and journailsts' contributions to rural development initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa

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Hi Marie

I am interested in communication for development, see www.commdevelopment.ning.com. I am glad that somebody finally raised the issue of media coverage in rural areas. My experience is that in South Africa, there is limited coverage.I think the problem is that media houses are more concerned with the bottom line (profit making) and they don't see development issues as contributing to the bottom line. I think that development practitioners must set the agenda for the media. I am not a journalist,but I think I can work with you based on my experiences.
Hi 19781803,

This articled entitled "Science and Technology Communication for Development" by David Dickson charts away forward for a need for better communication for development --http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=314483. Though this thread is drawing little response, I think that it is an important topic that deserves greater attention by development practitioners and journalist alike who strive to reach out members of the public through various channels of communication. Dickson argues that "it was with this in mind that the Science and Development Network (SciDev.Net) was launched in December 2001 as a source, through its Web site (www.scidev.net), of online news and analysis about the role of science and technology in meeting the needs of the developing world." A

Comment s are welcome
I believe the IWMF is currently conducting a survey and needs assessment on the coverage of women, agriculture and rural development. This would be a good source of information once theyr findinds are out mid next year.
The challenge in covering rural development for me has been that most media insititutions are based in urban centres and news organisations are unwilling to cover the costs.
Also related to this is that the people in rural areas are so removed from media and there is a lack of interaction between the media and the rural population. Community radio is the most successful in covering rural issues but newspapers and radio have failed.

According to the 2005, Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) out of the total 12893 of the news items monitored in 76 countries on the 16th of February 2005, only 1% related to rural economies (agriculture and rural development included).

Really journalists need to be exposed more to rural communities and vice versa.
Hi! Murugi Murekio,

I do appreciate your concern about the media not reporting about events in the rural areas in some of the regions of the world. Firstly, I would like to say, we as journalists we are happy to go to the counter and get our pay cheques at the end of the day. Up to date, I am still looking forward to that particular day when a journalist together with his/her counterparts come together and decide that, hey! enough is enough and establish their own publication which will be destined for reporting as you say a lot about the global rural events. I have met some women in South Africa working for publications focusing on agriculture and a variety of issues in the rural communities. This is not however on a national level but at least something is being done to inform the public.
I would like to konw from you as to hwo big is the market for radio and mainstream newspapers in your area. Community radios are very effective in this regards and they need to be given a bigger platform to address the urban and other region on a national scale and not only when there is a negative event which in the long run will have a negative impact on the social and economic aspect of a particular city, etc. This could be in a form of an outbreak of a disease or an illegal dumping of a dangerous chemical. Issues of rural development to attract investments for journalists and other media as you say to report about have been deliberately denied publicity by what you have mentioned. I would like to stop here.

Wandile
Marie, it's a very good point -- i have trouble even here in Canada. Little chance to travel in such a big country but at least there are good phone and internet connections. However many publications are not interested in the plight of farmers here. I'm not sure what you mean by reporting being polarized.
Could I take this liberty to attract your attention to my write up on the forum that is on 'How to communicate science to illiterate people?That enlists some ingenious methods being practiced in India.
Visiting Tanzania recently - the World Vegetable Centre regional centre - I was struck by the huge potential for good rural journalism in Africa. The local farmers I spoke to at a field day and the ladies I spoke to in the Arusha market all said they were very keen to watch/listen/read any media reporting on market prices and new technologies for food production both on farm and in the home garden.
While there are not at present many farming or food media, (except for the wealthy or cities), there is a huge market opportunity ,as ordinary people are very keen to learn about better nutrition, new things to grow and new ways to grow them.
Most of those I spoke with could read, many had mobile phones and all listened to radio - which is a great start. They were smart, and interested. We need to develop the agricultural media products to suit theire needs. Many were getting TV and I was told, in West Africa, the internet is now available in most villages. If so, it should become available over much of Africa within the next 10 years.
Many farmers said they would like to read a farmers' paper, with simple, plain language stories about new and better ways to produce - especially to avoid overuse of pesticides - and stories about farmers like themselves who are using new techniques or growing any of the 400 native African vegetables that no-ne (except the locals) has ever heard of. There is a big project funded by Bill Gates to develop these unknown but very healthy foods.
My experience from Australia and many other countries suggest that farmers get most of their information about new and better ways to farm from such mass media sources (rather that from govt departments or agencies) and, with the right media, there is potential to reach many millions of producers and consumers in Africa for a relatively small cost. It just hasn't been much tried, that's all.
I am convinced there is a very big opportunity in this space, for people who understand about communication at this level, and are prepared to listen closely to what poor farmers and consumers want and need.
The problem about there not being enough rural reporting is that, in countries like India, transport infrastructure is extremely bad. Besides, once one is in the rural hinterland, one is under pressure to finish off one's job fast enough to get back to the nearest town, since there is no place to stay. Besides, one must get back to the bus-stand so that one does not miss the last bus to catch.If there are trains, they are erratic, few or far between. When a reporter travels to a remote place, the person is not available for a full day, since travelling to and fro is a back-breaking task. The expenses may not be much, but the time spent does not make the effort attractive for newspaper managements.An equal amount of time spent on some lifestyle pieces can attract millions worth of advertisement.
Transport is a problem certainly, Rina. However in WA we overcame this by having a network of correspondents who could attend and cover local events such as fild days etc. In any case, when reporting about technological advances in farming, the reporting usually comes from more central places such as research centres, universities etc. Then it is the distribution of media in rural areas which is the challenge.

best

julian
In India, the media is extremely reluctant to do this either...(I mean, maintaining a network of correspondents to report on local rural news) The most they bother to do is appoint stringers (who are of course, no full-time correspondents bu locals who send some news across in their spare time). Actually, with the boom in the economy, everyone here, including the media, wants to make more money. As a result, there is more in terms of investment, column space and everything, given to Page 3 glamour stuff, than serious issues concerning development.

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