The International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) Congress held in Calgary, Canada reiterated its wish to see more young journalists venturing into agricultural journalism and exploring opportunities presented in the sector.
All the continents were represented with over a hundred members participating and attending in person and online.
Speaking to Food For Mzansi at the opening of the congress, vice-president of IFAJ Steve Werblow said a united agricultural journalism fraternity was set to not only benefit the media but the farmers as the end users.
“It is so important to have young journalists, besides the press information we get from the government,university and corporate sources it will be so great to see young agricultural journalists going out and covering their own stories.
“Agricultural journalism holds more opportunities than any other sector which one might report to, the more we see agricultural journalists, the more we will see the interests from the community with regard to agriculture topics,” he said.
Werblow said agriculture was part of everyone’s life daily. “Every day we are connected to agriculture on our plates in the food we eat,” he said.
Tiisetso Manoko: What have been your highlights of the congress?
Steve Werblow: It is exciting to be here in Canada, we had the opportunity thus far to see some of the agricultural projects mainly on canola farming, grain, potato, sugar beets, peas, and cattle which have been eye-opening for all of us.
But the main aim of these congresses is really to bring all agricultural journalists, young and old, together. We have everyone from all continents come under one roof to share ideas and explore Canada, and importantly to share the ideas from working and learning together on how to do our jobs better.
What are the challenges agricultural guilds are facing globally and what is IFAJ doing to assist them?
The biggest challenge that guilds are facing globally is showing the value of membership. People need to know what they need to belong to an organisation that represents agricultural journalists.
So guilds are constantly under pressure to innovate and show value. And what is exciting is that as IFAJ, we help in terms of creating some value on why it is important for agricultural journalism to close ranks and be one.
Another important aspect that we need to take into account is the economic pressure on the media. It is shrinking because there are a lot of challenges in finding careers in the media, especially in attracting people to agricultural journalist in particular.
For many of our members it’s a challenge to attract people to agriculture writing. But even with the challenges, there are also great opportunities that need to be explored because the media changes with new tools, and people get excited about agriculture.
For example, we just accepted a new member into the family of IFAJ, the Agriculture Journalist Association of India. They have launched a program training farmers to provide information straight from the field to the media, which creates a whole lot of new types of journalism. I do not think it will replace professional journalism but what it will do is give us more people to talk to and more content from the ground.
I think we need to take advantage of these opportunities to address from our challenges.
Where do you see IFAJ in the next five years?
I hope in the next five years it will continue to grow as a global network of agricultural journalists. This will help us to connect more with other journalists and contact sharing among our members should grow.
We need more energy especially from young people because they bring fresh perspectives and in that way, we will be able to see IFAJ grow.
The best we can do is to promote agricultural journalism and defend media freedom in any way possible.
What will be your message to countries that do not have guilds or are not part of IFAJ, what are the benefits?
There are so many benefits to being part of the IFAJ. Yes, we have had guilds and organisations that had problems with momentum and funds and it is our responsibility to get them back in our fold and strengthen their guilds because we need their voices and insights.
In countries where guilds have not been formed or IFAJ does not have representatives, we would like to encourage them to join us. It is not a huge financial investment, but it is a great opportunity to be part of this network because it means you are able to be part of the global conversation around agriculture.
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