Agriculture is key in Nigeria. These two outlets are trying to keep farmers informed.
At least 70% of Nigerians engage in the agriculture sector, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). However, it’s still rare to find media outlets whose primary focus is reporting on agriculture.
Launched in April 2022, the digital news outlet FarmingFarmersFarm (FFF) is trying to fill this gap. Its editor-in-chief Adewale Kupoluyi hopes that a more thorough coverage of agricultural-related issues would contribute to addressing some of the problems facing the sector.
“Agriculture is largely underreported,” Kupoluyi says. “Farming brings food to the table and is a good source of revenue. It’s also a good alternative route to economic development. Our newspaper was born to address these challenges through the practice of agricultural journalism.”
Kupoluyi’s decision to found a newspaper is shaped by his experience as a lawyer, a teacher and a journalist in the past 30 years. He thinks FFF can meet the needs of thousands of farmers and address the many problems they face. “There is a nexus between journalism, farming and the law,” he says. “This nexus is worth examining because agricultural production is seriously affected by laws and regulations,” he says.
Kupoluyi explains that his law background gave him the opportunity to examine challenges such as the acquisition of land, documentation, insecurity, anti-grazing, and archaic laws inhibiting farming in Nigeria. All these assessments are then translated into in-depth analyses and reports published on the newspaper’s website.
As Nigeria faces so many challenges related to climate change, media development experts think that the media can play a critical role in educating the public about this issue and in helping farmers to adapt to global warming and improve their crop yields.
Most newsrooms in Nigeria, however, do not prioritise this kind of coverage. “Agricultural journalism is not as visible as political coverage,” says Nigerian journalist Lekan Otufodunrin.
Areas of coverage
FFF covers a wide range of subjects related to agribusiness, food processing and agricultural products. This coverage is aimed at providing real-time information to farmers, who are its main audience. They reach them by trying new approaches to local news gathering and information dissemination.
Kupoluyi says there’s a clear connection between agriculture and the environment. “Agricultural activities affect the ecosystem while environmental factors are directly or indirectly related to farming yield and production,” he says.
In his view, the understanding of this intersection has helped the newspaper provide an in-depth analysis of agricultural events with the aim of helping farmers, investors, financial institutions, and researchers find solutions facing the sector.
According to Kupoluyi, weekly metrics show that the number of people visiting FFF every day is increasing, with most readers coming from Nigeria. Still, others also hail from the UK and the US. “We are gradually becoming a household name when it comes to agricultural journalism in Nigeria,” he said.
An example of the kind of pieces FFF publishes is a story from October 10 that examined the immense potential of plantation farming. The article suggests the country can leverage its diverse agro-ecological zones, fertile soils, and thriving population to invest in plantation farming, which in turn, could transform the country’s economy by contributing significantly to its GDP. Additionally, the piece looked at the broader significance of plantation farming and how harnessing it could create jobs for Nigerians.
Kupoluyi said the publication employs about 20 people, including full-time, and part-time staff, columnists and technical board members.
In August, the newspaper hosted its first national conference on agricultural journalism in partnership with news outlet Prime Progress. This two-day event brought together about 100 participants including journalists and policy-makers.
FFF is not the only Nigerian news organisation in the agriculture space. Lavun Community Radio was established to meet the information needs of farmers and to connect them to available markets. It was first conceived by Fadama, a government-led, World Bank-assisted project which was established in 1992 and designed to offer irrigation and other support to farmers across the country.
As Nigeria’s first community radio station, Lavun helps to create awareness of the agricultural value chain. “The aim is to have a radio station communicate effectively to the farmers,” says Mustapha Ahmed, the station’s unit head of production.
Ahmed says the Lavun community has always yearned for a radio station and this yearning has contributed to the success of the project. The community quickly allocated land for the radio station. Through the support of the World Bank’s Fadama II and III projects, the Lavun radio station was commissioned in August 2015. The station is equipped to serve as a platform where farmers can get real-time information to help them improve crop yields.
Live on 95.5 FM, the country’s first licensed community radio station has provided information to farmers since its launch in August 2015. This information includes climate-smart methods of farming and ways to reach the right market for their products.
The station also broadcasts programmes on other issues, ranging from health to education, community development and religious programmes like Christian and Islamic sermons. These programmes are aired in English, Pidgin and local languages like Nupe, Hausa, Fulani, and Yoruba, Nigeria’s dominant local languages.
Lavun Community Radio has built several global partnerships. For example, it receives agricultural scripts from Canada-based Farm Radio International every week and rebroadcasts programmes on irregular migration from Dakar-based West Africa Democracy Radio. Due to the associated risks of irregular migration, the programmes are aimed at raising awareness of these trends and encouraging migrants to explore the legal process, which is safer.
The station is run by a team of 15 volunteers from the community who were first trained by professional journalists from Ghana and the Philippines in 2015 through the support of the World Bank and Fadama.
This month-long training program focused on areas such as station management, production, news and current affairs, storytelling and editing. They were also trained in the technical aspect of the operation, specifically in the management of the transmitter and the audio output.
Ahmed says the training is producing results as the quality of the programmes has improved and other radio stations are requesting to rebroadcast their programmes.
In 2020 Lavun Community Radio received a 2,000-Canadian-dollar grant from Farm Radio International which helped the station purchase a laptop, two back-up mixers and other materials. “We are making headway and progress,” Ahmed says.
FFF and Lavun Community Radio were among the 11 media organisations selected to participate in the Nigeria media innovation program (NAMIP) in 2022. NAMIP is a three-year initiative working to support the editorial independence of media organisations in Nigeria by strengthening their financial sustainability.
Both media outlets acknowledge that NAMIP helped improve their coverage of issues. In addition to the financial support, the programme has contributed significantly in helping to build their audience.
“Most of the successes recorded by our organisation may not have been possible without the intervention of the NAMIP,” Kupoluyi says. “Investing in agricultural journalism is not common. NAMIP took the risk and I feel this is highly commendable.”
“NAMIP is the best thing so far that has happened to Lavun Community Radio,” Ahmed says, noting that their support has enabled the station to recruit experts who will train the staff in investigative journalism, community development and programme management.
Ahmed also says that NAMIP’s support is helping Lavun Community Radio strengthen its online presence. For instance, the radio station did not have a website before, but this changed with NAMIP’s support. Now the station has hired online editors and social media managers.
Both media outlets generate their own funds through different revenue streams. While FFF generates revenue through advertising, sponsorships and donations, Lavun Community Radio gets funding by distributing recordings of its programme to interested individuals in exchange for money. Last June alone, the radio station generated over N150,000 ($180) from this.
Kupoluyi says the figures are not stable. “In the last few months, revenues have not been too encouraging due to the harsh economic situation in the country, occasioned by fuel subsidy removal that affected businesses in general,” he said referring to a government scheme to sell petrol to Nigerians at below cost to minimise the impact of rising global oil prices on Nigerians. The removal has seen a 200 percent increase in the price of petrol.
Despite this progress, both media outlets still face many challenges, especially getting more funding in a very challenging environment. Kupoluyi says FFF cannot visit some farms to document first-hand issues due to its funding deficit.
“The means are not there, so we limit our operations and this affects our income and outreach initiatives,” he says.
For Lavun Community Radio Station, Ahmed says that poor power supply is a big problem. While someone donated solar power which is serving some sections of the station, they would still need adequate funding to power the entire station.
Despite the difficulties, both media outlets are committed to promoting agricultural journalism to enlighten local farmers. “In the next few years, we would like to expand in terms of operations, spread and impact,” says Kupoluyi.