Alternative Media and Promotion of Food Security in Rural Communities in Nigeria
Emmanuel JEGEDE, PhD
Department of Theatre and Performing Arts
Ahmadu Bello University (ABU)
Zaria, Kaduna State, Nigeria
There is a high level of insecurity in the land. Security challenge is not only a development crisis in Nigeria, but also a cankerworm that has eaten deep into the fabric of the entire globe. There is no room for development in any nation of the world where security challenge is rife and rampart. This explains why a country like Nigeria invests a lot of human and material resources on protection of lives and property as well as making concrete effort to achieve and sustain health and food security among its citizenry. However, the role of communication especially the alternative media in safeguarding peace and security in the country has not been adequately stressed. This paper critically surveys food security situations in our local communities and examines the role which the alternative media can play not only to enhance it but also to empower the rural communities for peaceful, healthy and productive living. This is against the background of the failure of the urban or conventional media not being able to sustainably and effectively meet the development needs and security challenges of the rural communities. The urban media have been criticized to be too elitist, highly top-down, vertical, Western-oriented and too commercial and as a result ‘excommunicating’ the rural people. This paper therefore explored the nature of the alternative media and their potentials for promoting food security and agricultural development. The paper recommends that a peaceful and secure community is one where self-sufficiency, peace, and food security prevail and supported by a reasonable degree of economic development. It concludes by emphasizing that peaceful and secure societies do not just emerge from nowhere, but are built gradually through the collective efforts of the citizens as they labour together to promote and strengthen the institutional and behavioural foundations of solid agricultural and economic productions through effective deployment of alternative media resources.
Key Words: Communication, Alternative Media, Food Security, Agriculture, Rural Communities, Development
From the last half of the 20th century with more free peoples of the world, some scholars have described the ‘main stream’ media models as inadequate having failed to keep pace with the communication needs of the majority of developing nations, especially the rural communities. The freed billions of people from colonial dominance demand particularistic means of communication to meet their peculiar social, physical and communal needs and their fight against hunger, squalid environments, insecurity, drought, poor harvest, cultural domination, unemployment and under employment, low-priced commodities, etc. The strand that defines these means of communication is called, Alternative Model of Communication or Alternative Media. This paper is therefore structured to locate the place of the alternative media in meeting security needs of the local communities in Nigeria especially in terms of food supply and sustainability.
Understanding Alternative Communication
Alternative communication or alternative media is the model that describes a range of media reactions to the mainstream media. It emphasizes the social and community function of media, rather than technological functions. At its base, Fashomi asserts that alternative communication model expresses dissatisfaction with established media, which tend to promote vertical and one-way flow of communication. As a result of the pluralistic nature of the cultures which it proposes, alternative communication model has a wide variety of expressions (124-125).
Howley sees alternative media as grassroots or locally oriented media access initiatives predicated on a profound sense of dissatisfaction with mainstream media form and content, dedicated to the principles of free expression and participatory democracy, and committed to enhancing community relations and promoting community solidarity. Community media are those media which are developed and managed by people sharing common values and aspirations in a small geographically defined area which promote access and participation for development. These are media, be it folk music, folk poetry, drama, folkdance, storytelling, festivals, carnivals which have been adapted for use at the community level for the purpose of development (2). That explanation emphasizes the geographical community in terms of locality and the audience. It stresses the participation of its members in almost all aspects of the process of mass communication: from ownership and establishment of the means of communication to management and production.
Karikari cited Masilela to posit that no distinction between alternative media and community media. According to him, alternative media are distinguished by their ownership and management structures, their financing, their regulation, their programming and their policy stances on issues of access and participation. In terms of their ownership and management, alternative media are community-owned and managed through duly elected representatives or direct and voluntary community participation (46). In terms of their programming, alternative media carry community-oriented programming produced by community members for community members. In terms of their policy stances on issues of access and participation, alternative media are highly responsive to highly targeted audiences and use interactive methods as much as possible. The characteristics of community media include: local/community ownership and management; localised contents and programming; decentralised and democratisation of the media; participatory and interactive; non-profit oriented; limited coverage or reach; and utilise appropriate, indigenous material and resources.
However, McQuail identifies two types of alternative media as emancipatory and communitarian.
1. Emancipatory Media Model:
This espouses small scale and grassroots media, completely separated from the dominant influence and operations of the mass media of radio, television and newspaper. The whole idea is to emphasise the community as the fulcrum of effective communication rather than the market-based and elite-government and commercial communication. According to McQuail, the feature of community and the evolution of new technologies which promote interaction and ‘do-it-yourself’ approach support the growth of the emancipatory media model. He insists that the communication technologies of video recording, cable and internet have put communication in the “hands of the people and out of the hands of the publishing monopolies,” while the individual is allowed to determine contents of communication. The model emphasizes the progress channels of messages. The main principles of emancipatory media model are: participation, interaction, cultural autonomy and variety small scale, emancipation and self-help.
Because the emancipatory model takes sides with the struggle for basic rights, it is grouped under the generic term of ‘rebellious communication,’ which also refers to media in the vanguard for social and political changes against oppression and domination. Such oppressive tendencies could be political, social or class as in the case of women in a male-dominated environment or authorization rule, etc. In such situations as identified above, emancipatory media break the top-down, one-way communication by directing communication to the power centres. They also build a resistance by way of solidarity and networking against oppressive policies. It is observed that this process sometimes leads to organized social movements which protests and resists oppression by the elite.
2. Communitarian Media:
Like the emancipatory media, communitarian communication espouses the essence of the community and the people as all-important in any communication process. Essentially, it contrasts with the libertarian theory of communication in that it emphasizes that much as the society demands some duties from the people, the people themselves have rights, social, political and economic, which they should claim from the society. This way, the relationship between the society and the people becomes more mutual and is cemented by the media of communication which serve the people and engage them in mutual dialogue. With the communication model, the media are expected to play more integrative and social organic roles which guarantee the people equal right to express themselves and articulate their opinions in a free and unhindered atmosphere. The public and the media relate as partners for social good. In essence, the media exist for the community; thus, promote all the features for the community’s well-being and coexistence, including its norms, social values, goals and objectives.
Although, communication model is still limited in its operations or its identifications in countries, scholars say its characteristics are more attuned to the environments in the developing countries. Its radical tradition makes it difficult to be applied in European countries. Fashomi, however, stresses that their common features of small scale, grassroots organization, participation, community essence, shared goals between media practitioners and audiences and opposition to the powers of the state and media monopolies. Alternative media are non-mainstream media. The model rejects libertarians’ universal rationality and the ideals of bureaucratic professionalism. It promotes the rights of cultures and sub-cultures to exist based on their peculiar and inherent nature, norms and values, while strengthening the bond and social ties of the community.
Some reasons are said to have necessitated the evolution of alternative media, as follows:
- Africa’s rural population has remained a voiceless majority for a long time. They have been marginalized in the scheme of things and their interests, as it were, subsumed by the urban interests. This necessitates an alternative media that will provide a voice for this neglected majority and bring their interest to the fore.
- Town-based politicians who represent the rural areas have not done much to inspire genuine development at the local level. The politicians only remember these communities, especially the rural ones during election campaign while canvassing for votes; but once the election is over, they are forgotten. Local media will be in a position to represent the local populace by reminding these politicians of their promises and projecting the needs of the communities.
- Rural/alternative media can be a potent tool of communication between the community and their kins as well as the outside world. The local media inform community of recent development and opportunities that can be explored for their development. It brings to the attention of the outside world development problems confronting the local communities with the aim of attracting external aid for their assistance. Imbalance of information flow exists between the rural areas and the urban centres. The rural areas are grossly under reported by the urban media, and where they are reported, it is from the point of view of town dwellers by the urban media. Thus, the presence of local media will make up for this imbalance and ensure that the rural communities are properly are adequately covered in the media.
- The peculiar environment of many developing countries lacking basic infrastructure, such as, electricity and roads, makes establishment and operation of mass media difficult, especially in the vast rural areas.
- The mass media have been assigned roles for which they are not fitted such as messages which are more effectively delivered as interpersonal communication. Messages about hygienic and health campaigns, religious, local political activities and harvest, drought and planting issues are effective through such channels as theatre, local fairs, experimentation, itinerant loud speakers and opinion leaders.
- In many countries, the gap is clearly defined between the rich and poor in resources translated directly and respectively into information rich and information poor because of the one-way flow, top-down and vertical communication. Thus, the alternative media only evolve as tools for the poor and the rural populations to express themselves.
- Closely related to the above is that alternative media come up as a way to redress the waste of resources in using the big and ineffective media in serving diverse audiences, including the poor, rich, rural, urban, low, middle and upper class, illiterate and educated.
- The alternative media provide the needed balance and serve identified audiences for which they are more effective.
- If neglected, alternative media will be overshadowed and forgotten.
- Alternative media expand and broaden communication more horizontally, rather than vertically as the mass media.
- Alternative media defeat the all-powerful or hypodermic syringe theory of mass media and confirm the place of Lazerfeld’s opinion leadership model of communication which says mass media messages do not have direct effect on the audience, but work in a two-step flow; received first by opinion leaders and later transmitted to the public through interpersonal communication (“Toward a Rural Press in Nigeria.” Oso).
In Nigeria, government seems to have realized the need for alternative media. Government now reinforces the mass media messages with alternative media such as theatre, puppet shows, experimentation, cultural shows, films shows, pamphlets, exhibitions and all forms of folkloric media. The range of these alternative media also include: local fairs, music festivals, wall papers itinerant information vans, which travel to rural areas, and other means and devices to attend to the information needs of especially the rural and urban poor, illiterates and woman, children and the hitherto neglected in the country. Also, public authorities, development officers, professionals such as teachers, rural doctors, local politicians and agriculturists use and create other channels of alternative media. In this way, the communities themselves and individuals continually evolve alternative media relevant to their needs and purposes.
At this point, we need to state, however, that alternative media in their varied forms should not be seen just as a reaction to the main-stream media which tend to favour or reinforce a one-way flow of information. Their evolution is based on the need for a more complete and holistic view of communication. They should, therefore, complement mainstream media as well as serve as their alternative considered on a case by case, and their relevance to place and situations.
The expanse and variety of alternative media are almost inexhaustible. Alternative media depend on each culture and a lot of values and effects can be extracted from a deep study of cultures and sub-cultures in individual developing countries. Alternative media can be used along with mass media for more effect of messages, especially in matters scholars usually refer to as, “little communication.” Alternative media are not just reaction to the defects in mainstream media, especially in developing countries; they can be used as both alternative and complementarily to mass media. Their use should be based on evaluation of effect, the peculiar audience need and character, and environment, etc. In particular, alternative media are part of the larger option to democratize global communication and break barriers which hinder the free and balanced flow of information in communities, within a country, between the developed and developing countries.
Food Insecurity in Rural Communities in Nigeria
Nigeria, according to Umaru is a country of over 140 million. This huge population is made of over 374 ethnic groups. It is from this diverse sources that one nation was formed by the fiat of the colonial government in the 1914 amalgamation (2) Since independence and mostly since the return to civil rule in 1999, various forms of violence and insecurity situations have been the order of the day in Nigeria. The background issues that frame the research into food security in Nigeria are defined by the deficits of a political system that is neither completely democratic nor totally military or autocratic. In such confused governance environment, the deficits include lack of freedom, lack of employment, absence of security and overall, a system in which the sense of belonging is patchy and constantly under threat by various conflicts ranging from ethnic, religious to the economic. This paper particularly focuses on the food security situation in Nigeria.
Oyero reveals that food security is a critical issue in Nigeria. Any nation without enough food supply is a dead one. A local adage says: “when the problem of hunger is solved, then poverty problem is to a large extent resolved.” This shows the importance of agriculture as a development issue. Putting food on everyman’s table is a major mission of any developing country. A country that cannot feed itself is not worthy to be one. Malnutrition is both a cause and a consequence of underdevelopment. Recent decades have seen consistent reductions in the daily supply of calories in many countries.
The International Conference on Nutrition held in December 1992 drew attention to the fact that more than 780 million people in the world suffer from chronic malnutrition and that, each year, some 13 million children below the age of five die from infectious diseases that can be directly or indirectly attributed to hunger or malnutrition. Nutritional well-being is not just a question of food availability and economics among families; however, it also depends on sufficient knowledge and acceptance of appropriate diets. At the planner's level, incorporating nutritional concerns into development initiatives for agriculture, food security, forestry, land use, exports and so forth requires an increased awareness of nutritional priorities since these are not spontaneously identified in such disciplines.
With an estimated population of 167 million people growing at the rate of 3.65% per annum, Nigeria’s population by the year 2020 will be about 201,320,000 million. Gladwin, Peterson, and Mwale state that if the current food production growth trend of 1.35% annually is not increased to tally with or surpass the population growth rate, then the country is in for a turbulent future. A popular knee jerk approach employed in a bid to raise adequate food supply in the country is the intensification of innovative agrarian programmes. A most remarkable campaign of this sort was the Operation Feed The Nation campaign (OFN) launched by the Federal Government on 20th May, 1976 with the motive of producing more food, specifically by persuading farmers to adopt new technological packages such as improved seeds, fertilizers, feeds, pesticides and herbicides.
OFN was regarded as a classic example of a diffusion campaign in which the mass media were involved. In the organizational structure of the programme, the media were assigned the onerous role of disseminating the campaign exhortations to farmers. The media diffusion strategies used in the campaign have been identified as including news stories, commentaries, editorials, features, cartoons and national advertising. Others included slogans, radio talks, discussion panels and special documentaries. In addition to these, publicity vans were used to address villagers, posters and handbills were distributed, films on modern agriculture practice were shown and plays popularizing OFN were performed, all in a bid to demonstrate the benefits of modern farming for effective food supply. Extension workers were also drafted to give further education and guidance to local farmers on the new farming techniques. Information about the OFN was so profusely diffused that even till this day, OFN remains a household concept in Nigeria. The profusion of information about OFN, however, could not induce the much-needed agricultural excellence. An indication to this fact was that food importation had ironically risen to astronomical heights during the campaign period while exportation of cash crops decreased. In 1977, for example, N780.7 million worth of food was imported. A year later, the import bill rose to N108.2 million (Umaru 2-3).
With the inauguration of a new civilian regime in 1979, Umaru asserts that the OFN was labelled a dismal failure, discarded and replaced with a supposedly more radical agrarian revolution. In 1980, the Green Revolution was launched with the usual objective of attaining self-sufficiency in food production, this time, through increased production and processing of good raw materials, livestock, fish and cash crops. In the manner of its forerunner, the Green Revolution was propagated through the mass media but did not enjoy as much publicity as the OFN. Part of the problem was that the Green Revolution was born in a tense political climate. For the mere sake of discrediting the political party controlling the centre, state governments controlled by other parties insisted that the media under their control never gave space or time to the programme. On the other hand, the distribution of inputs followed a spoil system in which only party loyalists who turned farmers overnight were granted loans, inputs and other related facilities to the detriment of genuine full-time agriculturists and peasant farmers. So, at the end of it all, the Green Revolution failed to produce enough food for the nation. Rather, Nigeria's import bill, as ever before, continued to mount. Between April and December 1983, a staggering sum of N5.5 billion was spent on food importation, especially rice (3).
Between the demise of the Green Revolution and now, a series of innovation campaigns have been quietly launched. The food situation, however, has not shown any signs of meaningful improvements. For instance, it is estimated that between 2007 and 2010, Nigeria spent about N98 trillion ($632 billion) importing food into the country.
The Communication Challenge in Food Production
The non-adoption of agricultural innovation by rural farmers and families can be explained by the inappropriateness to their special needs and resources of the technology to be transferred. According to Umaru, the development and introduction of improved cotton in Northern Nigeria illustrates this point. The scientists, concerned with low yield of the local variety of cotton set out to develop an improved cotton variety. The outcome of the research was a very successful one. The improved cotton was highly productive with demonstrated yield increase of 100 percent in the farmers' fields. The improved cotton was to be planted during the months of June – July (4). In addition, the improved cotton was recommended for sole cropping. The improved cotton also required spraying and the recommended spraying technology was a water-based method with a hand pump. It was found out that, even at a reduced rate of 135 litres per hectare, 800 kilograms of water per hectare were needed (Huesca 499).
Despite the dramatic increase in yield, farmers rejected the improved cotton. An evaluation (Huesca 500) indicated a number of reasons for the rejection. First, the improved cotton was to be planted during the months of June – July, exactly during the period when labour requirements for food crops are high. In the traditional system, this constraint is avoided by planting cotton after the food crops have been planted and partially weeded, a clear sign of the family's priority for maximization of food crop production over cash crops.
Secondly, the improved cotton was recommended for sole cropping while the predominant farming system in the area is mixed cropping. In addition, the adoption of the improved cotton costs a significant amount of money. The farmer must not only use fertilizer but must also spray the cotton. The small-scale farmer is not likely to have the resources to finance such a project from his/her meagre earnings, especially when the financial demand occurs at a time when the farmer's cash resources are lowest, that is during the rainy season before any crops are harvested. Above all, the average net return from cotton using recommended practices was only 13 percent better than cotton grown in crop mixtures. The farmers' rejection of the technology forced the scientists to re-examine it and to introduce changes. First, a later planting date was accepted to avoid competition with food crops. The scientists were able to develop a new package with equivalent yield performance. A new spraying technique using an oil-based insecticide and an ultra-low volume sprayer operated with a battery-powered spinning disk was also introduced. Despite these changes most of the farmers rejected the improved cotton because the cost was more than they could afford and the sole spray cotton did not fit their farming system.
This paper is therefore justified on the premise that the involvement of farmers in the research process is critical to the success of any food or cash-crop production, agricultural innovation and research. As can be seen in the example above, farmers’ involvement in the research process could save scientists time and cost. The cost and time devoted to the development of the sole spray cotton would have been significantly reduced if the farmers had been involved in the research process from the beginning, which would have enabled the scientists to gain an understanding of the traditional farming system.
One of the reasons for advocating farmer involvement in the research process is that farmers are more aware of their own problems than outsiders and hence are in a better position to identify the issues to be researched. Although this could be a debatable point, the fact remains that the involvement of farmers would increase the relevance of research outcomes in the field. Supporting evidence also comes from the International Potato Centre in Peru. The Centre scientists, on the assumption that some potatoes were stored over a long period before marketing, and since it was known that post-harvest losses occurred, considered that a declining quality of potatoes through storage would be a problem.
The Centre scientists, therefore, devoted much effort to developing potato strains that would endure long periods of storage, but without consulting farmers. Upon completion of their work, however, they were surprised to discover that what to researchers, had seemed a critical issue, was of little importance to the farmers. The farmers said that their big problem was sprouting during storage and the new strains developed by the scientists were just as bad as the traditional ones in this respect.
Umaru believes that the integration of farmers' perspectives and knowledge into the research process could enhance the relevance and acceptability of the technology developed. No doubt there are limitations to the farmers' knowledge, especially technical knowledge, but the examples given above clearly indicate that in many cases, scientists could have improved their research results and made the technologies recommended more acceptable if farmers' knowledge is seriously incorporated into the communication research process. Agricultural communication that will guarantee effective food supply in rural communities in Nigeria is such that will involve the farmers in production processes and deploy alternative communication media that meet the needs of the farmers themselves and other stakeholders within the value chain. Below is the analysis of some of the alternative media relevant to effective food production and supply in rural communities in Nigeria (6).
Farmer’s Field School
One of the strategies to increase food production and ensure food security is through farmer’s field school. The Agricultural Extension Transformation Agenda recommends the adoption of Farmer Field School in order to promote productivity in agricultural sector. It states thus: It is therefore important to institutionalize, strengthen, and take the Farmer Field School (FFS) approach that has already been initiated in Nigeria, to the next level in order to promote effective food supply. The NPFS/FAO commenced the implementation of the FFS Extension approach in 2007 and we have noticed significant changes in extension delivery and impact in the participating States. Unfortunately however, the successes could not be sustained and scaled up for lack of funds. The effectiveness and efficiency of the approach for farmer empowerment and productivity improvement were clearly proven.
The FFS extension system is a unique participatory extension approach that offers an alternative to traditional extension approaches. While the traditional approaches and the World Bank-promoted Training & Visit (T&V) system view the farmers as passive recipients of information and provide supply-driven extension services, the FFS on the other hand, is a “learning process where farmers are gradually presented with new technologies, new ideas, new situations, and new ways of responding to the current trends in food production and agricultural problems. The knowledge acquired during the learning process builds on existing knowledge, enabling farmers to adapt existing technologies to become more productive, more profitable, and more responsive to changing conditions, or to adopt new technologies” (Gladwin, Peterson, & Mwale 524).
The FFS aligns with the need to put the farmer first in agricultural research but very importantly, it looks beyond communicating with farmers in the research process to communicating with diverse multiple actors across the agricultural value chain because only by forging interactions among diverse views can socially-informed research and development processes be forged. The research is steeped in the constructivist evaluation based on the premise that the world has multiple, socially-constructed realities.
Using audio tapes for communal agricultural projects has the potential for reaching audiences, as groups or as individuals. Their use for group listening, feedback and production is the preferred approach. This creates an atmosphere for dialogue, discussion, and the promotion of understanding and a culture of healthy debate around agricultural issues. Audio tapes can be an effective facility for interactive education in a range of agricultural and food production issues from credit facilities, planting, application of fertilizers and manure, insecticides and pesticides, control of erosion, mulching, weeding, cultivation, food preservation, harvest of farm products, prices, marketing of farm produce, repairs and maintenance of agricultural implements, farm management etc. This medium, however, raises some issues pertaining to production and resources. As the communal agricultural needs increase, audio cassette production on a corresponding scale would require appropriate facilities, e.g. a studio with more sophisticated equipment.
Food production process could also employ the use of audio cassettes or compact disc where information can be recorded on cassettes in a studio, where many copies can then be made for distribution to farmers who will listen and have the opportunity to playback and respond to the food production or agricultural issues raised in the production. This can be recorded in as many dialects as possible.
Agricultural or food production can also involve the use of cultural forms of communication for better results and sustainability. These include folk Songs, local poetry, folktales and dances, puppetry, proverbs, stories, folktales and other mythological narratives acquired from their ancestors. These strategies could be utilized in a participatory way to illustrate the benefits inherent in the technology or agricultural innovation for easy adoption and build the capacity of the farmers thereon. They should be used to cater for local situations and response from the audience. No modern technology is required and these media are especially useful where literacy levels are low. By involving local farmers in preparing the plot of a play, extension agents can stimulate the process of problem analysis, which is a fundamental part of the educational aspect of extension and this will facilitate the adoption of modern agricultural research and innovation for the effective enhancement of food production and sustainability (Jegede 175-176).
For example, Jegede also believes that local choreographies, poetry, dance-drama, folk drama, story-telling and sayings conceived and staged by community farmers can help generate incisive, thought-provoking, and critical issues about agriculture and food production in local communities in Nigeria. These cultural tools are vital in agricultural development process for they do not only provide entertainment value that are capable of stirring communal enthusiasm, they are also traditional ways of life of the people capable of being used to effectively portray socio-political, cultural, economic and religious realities in the context of communal living (199).
Oral poetry is one of the most vital tools of alternative media for agricultural productivity. As a local vehicle of communication for development, Obalugemon believes that oral poetry could be used to express and provide critical food production and security issues. In addition to this, considering the eloquence and effectiveness of this media, the community’s traditional discourses, farmers’ psychology and mind, their attitudes and cultural dispositions, their peculiarities of agricultural practices, farming principles and ethics, their egalitarian, social structure and indigenous knowledge can be superbly captured and expressed by the traditional oral poetry. This communication tool can be used effectively in providing valuable information on the community’s perception on agricultural practices and attitudes, traditional mode of farming. Summarily, it can be used for knowledge creation, generation of deeper insights and understanding of farming phenomena or problem within the community. It has the capacity to generate critical agricultural information that can lead to effective shared learning experience and stimulate action among the farmers. For instance, after the oral poetic rendition on agricultural subject, community participants and extension agents can be made to identify the critical issues raised in the poetry and discuss them, analyze and debate them participatorily, and at the end arrive at a consensus and positive decision-making during planning session.
We hear about “development theatre,” “theatre for the oppressed,” popular theatre,” “community theatre,” and “intervention theatre,” “protest theatre” and “theatre for social change.” These are often used interchangeably and are associated with a transformation of a social reality by using community and individual participation. According to Lena, participatory theatre is an approach in which the actors interact with the public, based on a real problem. Throughout the participatory event, the public participates to adapt, change or correct a situation, an attitude or a behaviour that is developed during the show. This form of theatre aims to join entertainment with an exploration of attitudes and to share knowledge in order to stimulate positive social changes.
Participatory theatre takes its principles from the understanding that ordinary people who are on ground living the problem for which the research is being done have what it takes to give a better account of their lives and thereby benefit from the research process. “Research is seen not only as a process of creating knowledge, but simultaneously, as education and development of consciousness and mobilization for action” (Gaventa 271).
This form of theatre is useful in a number of ways for agricultural and food production processes. The play presented to the public becomes a mirror of the problems experienced in the community: The participatory approach provides an opportunity for the farmers to think, talk and ask questions about food production problems. The farmers are forced to propose an approach that could improve the situation presented on food security. Different audiences are on stage offering ideas. They become stakeholders in the piece and at the same time agents of social change. The audience can "live" a different future, which could become the tomorrow’s reality. A representation is not, in itself, the end of the process. But the farmers’ experience – dialogue, reflection, and active participation in seeking the solutions to issues of concern in their community – is the beginning of a process of conflict transformation.
Participatory theatre provides communal farmers a chance to break set practices and attitudes and think outside of their given contexts. As the audience intervenes in the performance, they are encouraged to explore options that previously would have been unacceptable or impossible to imagine. The stage provides a neutral space for them to attempt to take risks and attempt certain adventures that may break some problematic reflexes.
According to Elaegwu, in the wake of the increasing impacts of climate change in the country, there has been a renewed awareness of the potency of theatre as a viable tool for development and agricultural productivity and food security processes. The overwhelming support for theatre as a tool for promotion of food security is, in fact, a clarion call to revisit the past when theatre scholars such as Abah, Yerima, Asomba and Nasidi not only drew the linkage between theatre and agricultural development, but also accentuated the pivotal role participatory theatre plays as the watchdog or barometer of society, with a view to promoting social change and nation building (70).
In their works, they crystallised the common message that participatory theatre, when employed as a tool for development, can give form, order and expression to our collective struggles, existential realities and socio-political consciousness. This decisive message runs through the veins of the now legendary Zaria alternative theatre projects, which have become a top-notch reference point to the efficacy of theatre for development. This legendary theatrical experiment, well-articulated by Abah, Etherton and Bappa and whose ethos, praxis and implications are well discussed by Okwori and Kafewo, furnish researchers on food security with viable insights and tools for the communication of the subject through theatre. However, not many researchers, or even development organisations addressing the subject of food security in Nigeria, have accessed this great window of opportunity (Elaegwu 70).
Undoubtedly, across Africa, performances geared towards promoting food security and sustainability on the continent are being churned out. However, more needs to be done in this regard, not only considering the enormity of the environmental challenge on the continent, but also because of the need to have published play texts that could be readily analysed, adapted and replicated across the globe to depict the enhancement of food production from the African perspective. Mbajiorgu quoted by Elaegwu accentuated the above point thus:
In spite of the frightening increase in global atmospheric temperature, the rapid news report of horrendous natural disasters, the drastic change in the pattern of precipitation which have seriously affected human lives and agricultural yields, especially in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, only few plays have been produced on climate change yet we find many great movies and novels on the subject (Mbajiorgu 6 qtd in Eleagwu 72).
It is in response to the aforesaid lacuna that Greg Mbajiorgu’s play, Wake Up Everyone becomes vital to the environmental discourse and action. The play uses the tools of theatre to advocate for proactive and concerted climate action on the part of governmental and Non-governmental organizations. In it, Mbajiorgu focuses on the theme of climate change adaptation against the backdrop of the adverse weather, poor agricultural production and widespread hunger militating against the people. The play also links the persisting environmental problem to the avarice and corruption running through the veins of the political elite who are supposed to be steering the ship from the ocean of underdevelopment to the shore of environmental sustainability and prosperity (Eleagwu 72).
Elaegwu stresses that participatory theatre plays a crucial role as vehicle for improved agricultural productivity amidst climatic threats. A strategically progressive agenda has to be put forward to improve agricultural productivity in rural communities in Nigeria amidst the crippling threats of climate change. One of the ways of ensuring the rebirth of agriculture is through the provision of adequate access to knowledge and information in areas of new agricultural technologies, early warning systems (drought, pests, diseases, etc.), improved seedlings, fertilizer, credit, market prices, etc. Participatory theatre can play a significant role in communicating the aforementioned agricultural knowledge and innovations to farmers in rural areas where the bulk of farmers in the country reside and work. In support of the above, Aina buttressed that farmers would benefit from global information, if information centres, are sited in rural areas replete with all information and communication gadgets (74).
In a study conducted by Elaegwu on climate change using FGD in Zumba, it was discovered that theatre production is a craft that can be adopted to improve the quality and quantity of agricultural production in rural areas and across the country. This is substantiated by the 80% agreement among the respondents that theatre is an effective medium for communicating climate change and agricultural messages to people residing in rural areas. Through effective theatrical performances, rural farmers for instance, may have frequent regular access to agricultural innovations and climate-related information and technologies, these rural people will stand a better chance of not only mitigating their climate change risks, but also enhancing their food productivity and security, overall income and standard of living (66-67).
Agriculture plays a monumental role in the development of any developing country such as Nigeria, yet this sector is plagued with a plethora of ills that have retarded its contribution to the nation’s economy and holistic development. Both the government and the private sector have a crucial role to play in advancing agricultural development in the country, and one of the avenues through which they could ensure this advancement is through the adoption of agricultural innovations in rural communities through the instrumentally of the theatre practice. Such innovations and practice, if diligently introduced into the agricultural practices in different communities and local governments across the nation, would lead to effective and efficient agricultural systems that will not only increase the supply of food and animal protein but would also foster the deployment of natural resources in a sustainable manner. In the same vein, the lack of, or deplorable, access to knowledge and information meant to help farmers achieve maximum agricultural yield may not only lead to poor yields but may also force many farmers to urban centres in search of white collar jobs, which are very scarce (Eleagwu 67).
Eleagwu further asserts that as Nigeria braces up for a brighter future without oil, there is an increasing call for the country to diversify its economy to include non-oil sectors such as agriculture. If Nigeria is to make any meaningful headway in revamping its agricultural sector, much has to be done in equipping farmers with relevant information. This is partly because farmers’ lack of access to basic agricultural knowledge and information in most parts of the country have made them stick to their old traditional methods of farming system and animal husbandry practice, hence resulting in poor crop and livestock productivity, especially amidst current food security challenges. Where relevant environmental and agricultural innovations are kept from indigenous farmers or poorly disseminated to them as a result of certain constraints, the community’s agricultural development becomes highly impeded. And this has a ripple effect on the overall economic development of the country. Hence, more efforts need to be made to use participatory theatre in transmitting agricultural innovation as well as environmental warnings to farmers, especially those in rural areas, which account for the vast majority of the country’s agricultural output (68).
Omenesa, Ekumankama and Nwuzor observe that participatory theatre is increasingly assuming influential roles not only in entertainment but also in informing rural people in developing countries about an array of developmental issues (260).Their view substantiates the Elaegwu’s research in Zumba where 80% of the respondents agreed that participatory theatre is an effective medium for communicating climate change messages to people residing in rural areas. What makes participatory theatre, in particular, a significant force for entertainment and information sharing in rural areas is that drama making is affordable and the absence of facilities such as tarred roads and steady electricity do not serve as obstacles to the presentation of participatory theatre. Also, they rightly remark that, “literacy” is not a hindrance to participatory theatre production as the messages could be relayed in the language(s) of the audience. This point is reflected in the results of the questionnaire administered in Zumba, where 98.3% of the respondents buttressed that communicating agricultural issues in the local language of the people is more effective than doing same in English (63).
In the same vein, concrete efforts ought to be taken by government and all stakeholders to ensure that the legal frameworks for the promotion of participatory theatre and free flow of information are instituted and the resulting laws enforced. For instance, section 39(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees freedom of expression, “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.” Likewise, sub-section 2 allows for the right of private ownership of communication media: “… every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions.”
However, the reality on ground points to the contrary, as there are people who are being unjustly detained and punished for exercising their freedom of expression, especially if this expression challenges the actions or inactions of the ruling class. If these legal frameworks are not amended, it would also affect the effective deployment of community participatory theatre in tackling environmental disasters, food security and agricultural innovations, especially if government officials are adjudged to be guilty of corruption and misappropriation of funds and other resources meant to address impacts of climate change.
Notably, even though community participatory theatre has been significant in promoting environmental sustainability and food security in other parts of the world, this medium is still not very popular in Nigeria. However, this development does not detract from the usefulness of community theatre in addressing food security issues and environmental hazards or promoting change in society. Rather, it calls for more concerted efforts on the part of the citizenry, including communication experts, to ensure that this medium is strengthened and effectively deployed to ensure agricultural transformation in Nigeria.
Photo-voice is another veritable tool that can be used to mobilize farmers for effective agricultural production and food security in our local communities in Nigeria. Photo-voice is not a one directional information tool; it is a concept that allows the sender to equally become the receiver of the message(s) of critically interrogated photographs. Photo-voice is a method that enables people to define for themselves and others, including policy makers, what is worth remembering and what needs to be changed. The photo-voice concept was developed by Caroline C. Wang and Mary Ann Burris and is described in a series of research articles. They used three main sources to create the photo-voice concept: the theoretical literature on education for critical consciousness, feminist theory, and documentary photography; the efforts of community photographers and participatory educators to challenge assumptions about representation and documentary authorship. Photo-voice blends a grassroots approach to photography and social action. It provides cameras not to agricultural specialists, policy makers, or professionals, but to people with least access to those who make decisions affecting their lives.
According to Ismail photo-voice encourages the use of documentary photography by enabling those that have traditionally been the subject of such work to become its creator. Local people are given control over how they are perceived by the rest of the world, while simultaneously learning a new skill which can enhance their lives. Photo-voice enables people to record and reflect their community's strengths and problems. It promotes dialogue about important issues through group discussion and photographs while engaging the policy makers. Photo-voice is a community based participatory research that ensures that community members are involved through the research process to produce data that are authentic to community experience and action (Hergenrather 686)
Photo-voice can be used by community farmers and photographers as a tool for engagement, advocacy, skill building and social innovation in their agricultural work. It recognizes that answers often reside within communities and that photography is a way to tap such underutilized assets. Photo-voice is a collaborative participatory methodology in which participants are supported in generating their own photographic work in order to share lived experiences and present the world as they see it. In doing so, individuals and communities gain tools and opportunities to create knowledge, understanding and imagery about the issues that are affecting them.
By creating alternatives to mainstream modalities of expression, previously excluded individuals especially rural farmers are facilitated to speak, be heard and be seen. This methodology also enables farmers and agriculturists to define how they want to be represented to the outside world. Facilitating individual farmers in a community to tell their stories using this alternative approach will enable them to have control over such a process and gain firm ownership over agricultural development programmes.
The device can be used to tell stories on a wide range of agricultural issues and address challenges militating against farming practices in rural communities. Moving beyond stereotypes, it could also help to convey a fuller picture of the issues, challenges, opportunities, aspirations and what it means to enhance effective agricultural outputs and food security in farmers’ communities. There are many good examples of photo-voice in action.
The applications of photo-voice in agricultural and food production and agro-based research are to:
- enable community farmers to record and reflect their strengths and concerns;
- promote critical dialogue and knowledge about important agricultural issues through large and small group discussion of photographs; and
- to reach policymakers on agricultural matters (Gladwin, Peterson, & Mwale 523).
Photo-voice is a good research instrument for agricultural development and food security in the Third World because it is: user friendly, easy to master, the exercise is fun, creative, innovative; it elicits dialogue, builds trust and rapport; it is a flexible tool for different age groups, bottom-up approach, democratic, provides narrative autonomy; it facilitates dissemination of findings; it uncovers positive and negative aspects while articulating action plans and facilitating follow up.
As an agricultural research methodology, photo-voice has the following ethical considerations:
- rights for participants;
- rights for researchers; and
Moreover, communicating around research is as often a problem around content as it is around the process. Engaging in photo-voice research is as much about changing minds and mental models as about supporting specific decisions. The way people understand issues from their stand point is the complex of past experience. The complexities are range of sensibility, accumulated images and imaginative patterns, interests, bodies of insights already appropriated, purposes, structured and unstructured passions, criteria of evidence and relevance, the repertoire of already affirmed concrete judgements, values, goals and decisions (Bottorff 245). Such a description draws attention to the complexity of the substrate on which this study might want social research like agricultural communication research to exert influence through the use of photo-voice, and not just general photography.
In practice, the stages of photo-voice use for agricultural purpose and food security in local interventions may take the following dimension: conceptualising the problem, defining broader goals and objectives, recruiting policymakers as the audience for photo-voice findings, training the trainers, conducting photovoice training, devising the initial theme/s for taking pictures, taking pictures, facilitating group discussion, critical reflection and dialogue, selecting photographs for discussion, contextualising and storytelling, codifying issues, themes, and theories, documenting the stories, conducting the formative evaluation, reaching policymakers, donors, media, researchers, and others who may be mobilised to create change and conducting participatory evaluation of policy and programme implementation.
The idea of alternative media is to enhance development at the local level, especially when properly integrated into the mainstream media. Most mainstream media are urban-based and are fraught with limitations ranging from ideology, structure of ownership and control, cost, access factor, high level of professionalism and bureaucratic nature, vertical design and top down pattern of operation. Alternative media can create conditions for marginalised people especially rural farmers to have their own voices/access so as to enhance agricultural productivity and food security in Nigeria. They have the potentials to enhance the opportunities for the wider enjoyment of freedom of expression and enrich and make real the realisation of media pluralism.
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