Journalists in Kenya engage project scientists on Striga control

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Simplicity of language, availability as experts and continuous engagement with journalists were some of the key issues discussed during a two-day workshop involving Striga Control in Maize project scientists and media held in June 2013 in Kisumu. Bureau chiefs of key media houses met with scientists involved in Striga control initiatives to share ideas on how to improve awareness on the effects of the weed and on available control technologies.

The first day of the meeting involved an intense interaction between the journalists and scientists to discuss the challenges in reporting science and agriculture and how the two could work together. The scientists provided a brief on the project while the bureau chiefs shared the various stages of the news story cycle process. The discussion on what makes news helped the scientists to understand how to package information to make it newsworthy and support their goal of raising awareness on the technologies they are working on.

The second day provided an opportunity for the journalists to visit farmers and get a first-hand account of the Striga weed problem and the opportunities that the available technologies are offering. The discussions and interviews generated a number of stories and follow-up issues.

Key points that came out of the discussions included the need for simplicity by scientists in their information with impact of the technology being of greater interest than the science behind the technology. Availability by scientists as experts was also noted as important, noting media deadlines and clarity on details were non-negotiable with regard to news items. It was also agreed that the journalists-scientists relationship was a mutual one and thus there is need for continuous engagement through updates.

In Tanzania a farmers’ field day was held in Muheza, Tanga, for farmers, local leadership, and agricultural extension officers. The participants were able to visit demonstration plots where performance of the TAN 222 IR maize variety had outperformed the commercial check in controlling the Striga weed.

For more information on the Striga Control in Maize Project contact Gospel Omanya (g.omanya@aatf-africa.org)

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