INTERVIEW: Musdalafa Lyaga, 2017 Food Sustainability Media Award Winner

by Helen Reeve | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 4 September 2018 10:06 GMT

Musdalafa Lyaga

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We sat down with Musdalafa Lyaga, Winner of the 2017 Food Sustainability Media Award – Unpublished video category, about the inspiration behind his winning piece and how farmers in Kenya are cutting waste.

What was your main motivation for entering the Food Sustainability Media Award?

I was looking for a platform for the voices of farmers to be heard and where people could learn about the challenges they face, reaching more people who could suggest innovations and strengthen the efforts farmers are already making to overcome these problems. Farmers in Kenya put a lot of effort into their farms and they produce so much, but very little of the food they produce reaches the market. In Kenya, there aren’t many people covering post-harvest losses and post-harvest handling, which also have a negative impact on food security and nutrition. There are regions where levels of starvation are high, and there are also areas where a lot of food is grown but does not reach the market.

Where does your interest in food sustainability come from?

I make radio programmes for farmers and through this I have learnt the importance of information for farmers. They need to know how to cope with the various risks they face that have a direct impact on food production.

What role do you think journalists can play in addressing the challenges within our food systems?

To identify the various challenges that farmers face and then to search for possible solutions. As a journalist, what I normally do is look for other farmers who have faced similar problems and have come up with ways to solve to them.

What do you think the main obstacles that you or others might face in reporting on food sustainability challenges?

One challenge we face is reaching the farmers to cover the stories. Getting to the farms can be complicated and we might not have enough resources to handle the logistics. Another challenge is providing training for journalists to cover the stories properly.

Can you tell me a little but about your experience since winning the award?

I think people have more trust in me now, because if you are recognised internationally then it means you are doing something with authority behind it. Many people watched the awards and are now reaching out to me to do more stories.

Why did you decide to focus on mangoes as part of the food waste problem?

I chose mangoes because in that region they are the main source of farmer livelihoods. There are challenges in accessing the market, and the farmers have come up with a clever way of overcoming this by forming groups and central collection centres which can be easily accessed by lorries I wanted farmers in other regions to learn from what they are doing.

Did you get a sense of how effective the changes your report talks about have been in cutting waste? How sustainable do you think they are?

What I really liked about these farmers is that they learnt from other farmers though exchanges and group visits. One thing they learnt about was value addition. When they harvest and are not able to sell all their mangoes they no longer just give it to their cattle - they also make juice out of it. They sell this juice to the local schools and hospitals and to people who are travelling through the towns. I wouldn't say that waste has been completely eradicated but it has been reduced significantly.

I think the solutions are sustainable because they are farmer-driven. This is not something that has been imposed externally.

What’s next for you and your food sustainability coverage? Do you have any plans to cover any other related issues?

My stories are influenced by the farming calendar. When farmers are preparing to plant, most of my stories are based on land preparation and seed selection. Then after the rains I look at field management and when the farmers harvest we come to issues around post-harvest management and value addition. The big story I'm doing for this year is on potatoes and post-harvest management and I'm also looking at doing something on aflatoxin in groundnuts.

I also go to farmers and show them the videos I produce. After this we discuss the technology and whether it is something that they can implement. The story I did on mangoes was packaged on DVDs and is being given to farmers in mango-producing areas. It is having an impact. Traders tell us it is now easier for them to get the mangoes. Communities say that now parents can pay school fees. We are looking holistically at how mango farming is improving the lives of communities who grow them.

View Musdalafa’s winning entry here. Finalists for the 2018 Food Sustainability Media Award will be announced soon. Click here to stay informed