Public Financing for Agriculture(PFA) project being implemented by ActionAid Tanzania(AATZ) in Dodoma and Singida Districts aims to enhance the capacity of smallholder farmers and women in the planning processes and engage with the government to influence effective management of public resources in agriculture sector. Through associations and forums, smallholder women farmers are expected to advocate for policy change, participatory planning process including budgetary process to guarantee sufficient resources in agriculture sector and its effective use.
With this aim, there is no doubt that media has a key and broader role to play in achieving this. Using their professionalism media can help in raising the profile of the sector amongst decision makers as well as public ,communicate smallholder farmers needs, informs about importance of quantity,quality and appropriate use of the resources allocated to the sector, generates political ideas, mobilizes political and social action groups, and generally helps to shape the public policy agenda and priorities for the sector.
Recognising the need, AATZ organised a training for media personnel and other members of District Budget Committee members on Agriculture Budget tracking and advocacy in which more than 30 participants including media personnel from different media houses and forums from Chamwino and Singida Districts attended.
Objectives of the training which took place at Dodoma from 27th-30th Marchwere: Building capacity of media outlets on how to analyse and monitor agriculture budget to enable them to report information with an informed mind while considering small holder farmers priorities for improving their agricultural production, Enabling them to provide clear advocacy message to the government and decision makers in light of smallholder women farmers demands/priorities and creating a linkage between media, budget monitoring committees and smallholder women farmers platforms.
Key topics of discussion in the training included budget analysis and processes, legal aspect, public financing projects monitoring, how to develop and use Social audit tools and advocacy work. Participants learnt in groups, plenary, presentations and actual analysis exercises of different projects from their districts.The training was facilitated by a trainer from MS-TCDC.
During the sessions, participants shared that the training has came in the right time because media has not been giving enough coverage to agricultural issues. Some of barriers includes; journalist not reaching down to the smallholder farmers areas and report their needs, agriculture stories not sellable,cost of following and making stories,right to information challenge, inadequate number of professional journalist and capacity of journalist in analysing and reporting
"Eg in Dodoma Region there are 71 professional journalists… and the total number of villages is around 426.The same journalist are the ones supposed to be fully time in the newsrooms for editing and production of news from the field. Its very difficult for them to be able to reach all this villages and report about agriculture issues…."explained Habel Chidawali, chairperson of Dodoma press club.
They also added that many public financing for agriculture projects are poorly implemented due to lack of monitoring especially from media which has a role of checking accountability and transparency in the implementation of the projects and report for the purpose of making responsible parties aware and taking action incase of any gap.
At the end of the training, participants were advised that the exercise of analysing public projects from their districts is not enough. They need go back to the field and verify the information through direct interviews with respective groups, physical verification and confirmation from government leaders. This will help to come up with a balanced story.
While concluding, participants appreciated AATZ for organising the training which was key to them."We have learnt a lot and now we promise that we will work closely with smallholder farmers in monitoring and reporting agriculture issues which will help in the development of the sector"...said one of the journalist…