By Jean de Dieu Ininahazwe (John), Burundi
What is a process? We may have different definitions around the word but with a common meaning of one aspect: it takes “a time”.
The process I want to share with you took almost two years— when I expected to finalize it in six months. When one needs to create something real, it is clear it takes a time. When I attended, for the very first time, the IFAJ Master Class and Congress in 2012 that took place in Sweden, the African representatives came together with the brilliant idea to establish the African Network of Agricultural Journalists. We were strongly supported by Owen Roberts, IFAJ vice-president. We arrived home, we exchanged emails and realized the first thing to do was to create national guilds, and think about the African one next. Each one of us was very convinced to go ahead and proceed.
As far as I am concerned, it was very tough. I had many difficult encounters trying to convince journalists of national and private radios to join. I was disappointed. But did I stop? Of course not, I continued the process, because I knew what it was for. Burundi is a small country with an area of 23.834 km2, it consists of 17 provinces, and I needed at least 10 people to establish a guild in order to cover the country.
I remember during the second meeting with some of the journalists, one attendee from a national radio asked me, “How much are you going to pay me?” Journalists here are very interested in political stories. Telling them to get involved in agriculture was a lot to ask, but it was necessary in order to involve them.
Take a look, 90 percent of the Burundi population is farmers, why can’t we promote that sector? Why do you work to interest only three percent of the population? We are currently facing hunger in our country, what can be done and what should be the role of journalists in this? Reporting the appointment of a new Minister? Or agriculture related stories? During the meetings, we raised these questions to see the real reason to create a platform of communications related to agriculture— a platform that will help raise farmer issues, to facilitate access to national and regional markets as Burundi joined the East African Community alongside Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and next-door Rwanda.
The short, informal meetings gave a birth to something beautiful. I convened the 13 interested people, of which two were women, to attend the first ever general meeting for the establishment of the Association of Agricultural Communicators and Journalists (ACOJA-Burundi). Meanwhile I developed a proposition for a constitution and internal rules to be presented in the meeting. This remarkable meeting took place on Wednesday, April 2. It was very exciting to share the concept, constitution and ACOJA goals. Besides participants, we had guests from several farmer associations.
During elections of the executive committee neither of the two women wanted to be a part of it. When asked why, they replied: ‘next term we will’. We encouraged them to keep this promise. An executive office including a president, secretary-general, treasurer and communications officer were elected. Guess who was elected President…?
Those who attended exchanged on constitution and rules. Amendments will be made. For the time being, we are projecting partnerships at national level while waiting for the legal paper from the Ministry of Home Affairs. We cannot operate officially without the paper and the recognition of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock as we will be dealing in that sector.
Ultimately, I have a very good future project. We are looking forward to establishing a rural radio network that will only broadcast agriculture related news. I have had the idea for two years and I am hoping the guild will contribute to work toward the goal by proving the impact that radio has for many farmers. Of course we will also need to seek funds for this purpose.
For those who have already established the guild, how did you find it: easy or tough? And for those in process of doing so, please go ahead, it is a matter of time, the art of convincing people with opposite ideas.