The University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism has received a two-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop an intensive training program designed to promote high quality media coverage of agricultural development issues in Africa.
"We are thrilled," said Professor and Dean Neil Henry, a former Africa correspondent for the Washington Post. "There are so many untold stories from Africa about this subject in the U.S. and international media. We're delighted and honored to be able to play an important reporting role on the continent at a very critical time."
Today, more than a billion people live on less than $1 a day, and nearly 1 billion live in hunger. A majority of these people rely on agriculture for their food and incomes. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, agriculture accounts for about two-thirds of employment. Building public awareness of hunger and the issues that surround it can provide political leaders with the mandate and support to take action.
Berkeley's $767,800 grant will support extensive work in the U.S. and Africa by groups of reporters, including the School's graduate students and select visiting scholars from Africa and other regions of the globe.
Michael Pollan, the University's Knight Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism, and the author of best-selling books about food and agriculture including the The Omnivore's Dilemma, The Botany of Desire, and In Defense of Food, will lecture in a yearlong intensive seminar examining food issues on the continent.
"How will Africa feed itself? is one of the most important food stories of our time," Pollan said, "and this grant will help make it possible for our students to cover it."
According to Professor Henry, the project's chief goal is to produce compelling narratives in all media formats about the roles of small farmers in Africa --most of whom are women-- for publication and broadcast to general audiences in the U.S., Africa, and around the world.
The project will feature teaching collaborations between the journalism school, the University's Center for African Studies, and researchers in departments including Agricultural and Resource Economics and the Center of Evaluation for Global Action.
A yearlong intensive background course will explore topics ranging from the effects of western aid and trade policies on African development, to the role of genetically modified food in addressing global hunger and poverty, to the geopolitical factors contributing to hunger.
"We believe that meaningful, original, and independent works of journalism about these issues can translate into a far more enlightened and engaged public, and hopefully better decision-making by government leaders," said Professor Henry. "It's a very valuable initiative especially at a time when so many mainstream media organizations are cutting back on foreign coverage."
This grant is part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Global Development Program, which works to increase opportunities for people in developing countries to overcome hunger and poverty. The program's Policy and Advocacy initiative supports efforts to increase awareness of global development issues, identify and promote powerful solutions, and advocate for more and better investments, helping to accelerate progress against the world's most acute hunger and poverty.