Key resources and story ideas for journalists covering food and nutrition

Countries across Sub-Saharan Africa are grappling with an array of challenges related to hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition. The region is home to a substantial portion of the world’s chronically undernourished population, with millions of individuals facing the daily scourge of hunger. Persistent food insecurity, driven by factors like inadequate agricultural productivity, climatic variability and economic constraints, casts a long shadow over the region.

Within these challenges lie ample opportunities for journalists to deliver nuanced and varied reporting on the subject. Journalists have the opportunity to tell stories of resilience, innovation, and community-led initiatives aimed at addressing these issues. They can shed light on successful agricultural practices, sustainable food production models, and grassroots movements that are making a difference. Furthermore, the interconnectedness of hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition with broader issues like climate change, gender equality, and socioeconomic disparities provides an expansive landscape for explanatory and analytical journalism.

In this tip sheet, we present a selection of resources and story concepts to enrich your coverage of the agrifood sector.

Story ideas

ECONOMIC DISPARITIES

Poverty and poor nutrition – Examine the connection between poverty and malnutrition. Explore how inadequate access to education, healthcare, and nutrition services may perpetuate the cycle of poverty and malnutrition.

Nutritional inequalities – Analyse the variations, by region or district, in children’s nutritional status in the country, focusing on stunting and wasting rates in different regions. Unpack the causes behind the disparities, including poverty, food insecurity, and disease prevalence.

The economic toll – Look into the economic consequences of child malnutrition. For instance, you can explore how malnutrition affects healthcare costs, education performance, and overall productivity in different countries within Africa. Report on the long-term costs to healthcare systems, workforce productivity, and economic development.

Food choices and rising incomes – Explain how economic transformation, including higher wages and per capita incomes, is influencing food preferences and the demand for processed and livestock-based foods.

 

THE LAND CONNECTION

Land access and food security – Investigate how access to land affects food security. Interview farmers and experts to gather insights into the challenges faced by households with small landholdings and how they cope with food insecurity.

Land rental markets – Analyse the efficiency and impact of land rental markets in rural areas. Explore how land-constrained households are utilising rental markets to access additional land for cultivation and whether this is effectively improving their food production and overall food security.

Land tenure and food security – Look into the connection between land tenure policies  (including issues of unequal land distribution and insecure tenure) and food security in various regions in the country. Explore how equitable distribution of land can improve living standards and food security, particularly among marginalised communities.

Land tenure reform – Analyse the economic impact of comprehensive land tenure reform on the agrifood sector. Assess the potential benefits, including increased household wealth, property values, and overall welfare, and how these outcomes relate to food and nutrition security.

 

CLIMATE CHANGE

How climate change impacts nutrition – Investigate the possible connection between rising undernourishment rates and climate change-induced droughts. Explore how these environmental challenges affect agricultural production and food security in the country.

Climate-resilient food systems – Report on efforts to promote sustainable, climate-resilient, and nutrition-sensitive agrifood systems. Investigate how these systems can improve returns on investment and contribute to long-term gains in nutrition and food security.

Policies for resilience – Highlight government policies and initiatives that focus on building resilience and improving agricultural productivity in the face of climate change. Interview experts and farmers benefiting from such programmes.

Sustainable farming practices – Explore the strides taken towards sustainable farming practices that address both food security and environmental sustainability. Interview local farmers and agricultural experts spearheading innovative techniques to promote resilience in the face of climate change and ensure a stable food supply for the nation.

 

URBANISATION AND POPULATION 

The impending land scarcity crisis – What are the consequences of rising land scarcity due to population growth and urbanisation? How do they impact on food production and land values?

Urban food deserts – Is there a problem of urban food deserts in cities in your country? Visit underserved communities and explore initiatives that aim to bridge the nutrition gap.

Health disparities in urban areas – Are there any health disparities related to nutrition and food security in different neighbourhoods within urban areas? Explore the factors contributing to these disparities and potential solutions.

Urbanisation and tradition diets – Examine how urbanisation is affecting traditional diets and nutrition in urban areas. Investigate the changing dietary patterns and their implications on public health.

Cultural diversity and food choices – Explore how urbanisation has led to greater cultural diversity and its influence on food choices and nutrition. Highlight restaurants and food businesses that reflect this diversity.

Food waste in urban environments – Food waste in urban settings is a growing problem across the country. Unpack the issue and highlight initiatives and technologies that aim to reduce food waste and improve food security.

 

POLICY AND REGULATION 

Nutrition as a human right – Report on the efforts of advocacy groups and individuals working to make child nutrition a recognised human right. Share their stories and discuss the potential impact of such recognition on policy and resource allocation.

Governance and institutions – Explore the role of governance mechanisms and institutions, including local governments, in addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by urbanization in agrifood systems. Highlight successful initiatives.

Government interventions – Examine the role of government in intervening in food production and distribution. Investigate the effectiveness and efficiency of these interventions, and their impact on food prices, competition, and crop yields.

Subsidies – Investigate the effects of subsidies for fertilizer and seeds on agricultural practices. Explore how these subsidies may encourage overuse and hinder crop diversification, affecting long-term food security.

 

FINANCE AND INVESTMENT

 Global nutrition financing needs – Explore the global trends in nutrition-specific financing needs. Investigate why these needs have increased and the potential consequences of inadequate financing for nutrition programmes.

Government spending – Explore government’s spending on nutrition. Investigate how budget allocations for nutrition compare to other disease categories and the implications for public health.

The investment gap – Examine the investment needs in agrifood systems and explore innovative finance mechanisms, such as blended finance and supply chain financing, to bridge the gap.

Nutrition financing players – Explore the roles of various stakeholders, including governments, international organizations, private sector actors and civil society, in driving nutrition financing agendas. Investigate how each group contributes to improving nutrition outcomes.

Incentives – Investigate strategies to incentivise food producers to prioritize the distribution of nutritious foods. Explore subsidies, grants, and tax breaks to make healthy food options more affordable and accessible to consumers.

 

OTHERS

Hygiene and nutrition nexus – Investigate the link between poor water, sanitation, and hygiene conditions and their impact on children’s nutritional status. Speak with experts and researchers to understand the health implications and explore potential solutions to improve access to clean water and sanitation facilities.

Gender and food security – Examine how land tenure systems can have implications for household food security, especially when they favour one gender over another. Focus on the cases where women play a significant role in ensuring food availability and child feeding.

Obesity and undernourishment – Explore the coexistence of obesity and undernourishment and its impact on public health. Interview health professionals, nutritionists, and community members to understand the lifestyle, dietary, and economic factors contributing to this dual burden. Highlight any initiatives and policies aimed at promoting balanced nutrition and healthy living.

 

Websites and reports

 

Data sources on food and nutrition

  1. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations): FAOSTAT provides comprehensive agricultural and food-related data for countries and regions.
  2. World Bank: World Bank Data offers economic, social, and environmental data, including information on agriculture and rural development.
  3. United Nations Data: UN Data provides access to various United Nations datasets, including those related to sustainable development goals and agriculture.
  4. African Development Bank: African Information Highway offers economic and statistical data specific to African countries.
  5. World Food Programme (WFP): WFP Data provides data on food security, hunger, and nutrition in regions around the world.
  6. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI): IFPRI Data offers research and data on food and agricultural policy issues.

 

Handbooks and guidelines for journalists

ACME Mwalimu

The African Centre for Media Excellence's training unit, known as ACME Mwalimu, scours news platforms and online resources to curate the best training tips and resources for journalists and media organisations, empowering them to become impactful contributors to public debate and development. If you have a training tip or question, you can reach out to ACME Mwalimu at training[at]acme-ug.org.

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