During the first phase of the project, research was conducted in 3 African countries - Mali, Uganda, and Zambia - to document the challenges media face in covering agriculture, rural development, and women. The 3 countries were selected based on agriculture's important role in their respective communities, their geographical spread, the diversity of their media sectors, and their accessible media environments. Results revealed that:
- Only 4% of media coverage is devoted to agriculture, yet agriculture makes up 34% of Sub-Saharan Africa's gross domestic product (GDP) and 40% of the region's exports, and it accounts for 70% of total employment.
- Women are almost invisible in the media. In the agricultural coverage monitored, women were focal points of just 7% of the stories. Yet women produce 70% of Sub-Saharan Africa's food and make up half the region's population.
During the second phase of the project, which launched in February 2009, frayintermedia, on behalf of the IWMF, established partnerships with 6 media houses in Mali, Uganda, and Zambia. The 6 selected media houses will participate in a programme that provides continuous on-site training and specialised attention to the journalists at these media houses. In Mali, the media houses are L'Essor, a state-owned daily newspaper, and Radio Klédu, an independent radio station. In Uganda, they are The Daily Monitor, an independent national daily newspaper, and the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation. In Zambia, the media houses are The Times and the Zambian National Broadcasting Corporation. The selected media houses are expected to establish foundations for best practices on how to cover agriculture and the role of women within agriculture and rural development, and to support gender equality in their newsrooms. The media houses have been selected after an assessment of their professional output, their openness to receiving training, and their ability to maintain sustainable coverage on agriculture and rural development.
Organisers say that by making use of a proven training model, the project strives to:
- increase and sustain accurate, consistent, and more rigorous news media reporting on agriculture and rural development;
- incorporate women's role, stories, needs, and solutions in the coverage of agriculture and rural economies;
- develop gender equality in the newsroom.
According to IWMF board member Akwe Amosu, the key component of this project is incorporating reporting on, by, and about women in agriculture in Africa. Amosu added that, "women reporters should have a better chance of getting out there and telling that story, trying to influence policymakers on behalf of the women who are living the real rural life in Africa."