Developing a Communication for Development (ComDev) strategy: An eye-opener in our work towards reaching small-scale farmers better!

Developing a Communication for Development (ComDev) strategy: An eye-opener in our work towards reaching small-scale farmers better!

Start a dialogue!

I felt it would be a very difficult task to develop a Communication for Development Strategy,” says Baraka James, an ICT Officer at MVIWAMA telling his learning experience in embracing the Communication for Development approach that has just been introduced to Farm and Forest Producers Organizations (FFPOs) in Tanzania under the Farm and Forest Facility.

He says, “For the first time I was anxious because I had never been involved in such kind of task before, but when I was told that there will be training before preparing a strategy my anxiety went down“.

For his part, Daniel Lukas, the Project Coordinator at MJUMITA says even though he had previously participated in drafting a Communication Strategy, he thought this time it would be challenging to accomplish in-time the given assignments, hence wished he would rather not participate in. “The volume of my daily activities made me feel even more uneasy about the work but little did I know that this strategy will actually simplify my work”, says Lukas.

Besides, Lukas had the feeling that developing a communication strategy is a complex task, which requires time and in-depth thinking and only possible for those that studied communication or journalism. Subsequently, he managed his time for training and job responsibilities that he accomplished all the assignments and now is happy to find that his organization is almost finalizing developing the ComDev strategy that will help the organization provide better services to members which he said was an “eye-opener”.

A ComDev strategy is in fact different from a Communication strategy. While the latter tends to focus more on outreach and the use of media, the former has its foundations on participation, dialogue and two-way communication. A ComDev strategy fosters stakeholders’ engagement while also enhancing visibility.

“For the first time I was scared because I had no idea of what real I have to do. Thinking is would not be an easy task to me, but now I do not regret participating in this exercise”, says Tutindaga Korosso who is the finance and administration officer at TTGAU. Korosso was worried on what would happen if she would fail to accomplish the given task while the organisation had entrusted her to be a communication focal point through the training process.

MVIWAMA is the Network of Farmers and Pastoralists groups in the Manyara region commonly known in Swahili as ‘Mtandao wa Vikundi vya Wakulima na Wafugaji Mkoa wa Manyara’. Similarly, MJUMITA is the Tanzania Community Forest Conservation Network commonly known in Swahili as ‘Mtandao wa Jamii wa Usimamizi wa Misitu Tanzania’. TTGAU is the Tanzania Tree Growers Associations Union (TTGAU).

The three organizations are among the six Forest and Farm Producer Organizations (FFPOs) that are receiving technical assistance services from Farm Radio Trust in improving the Communication for Development mechanism to contribute to the organizational objective of the Forest and Farm Facility (FFF)-Tanzania, 2021 Workplan, Outcome 4: ‘Improved and equitable access to social and cultural services’.

Effective participation in the process

The orientation session for communication focal points, gave James and Lukas a sense of understanding of the whole process of developing the Communication for Development strategy, something that encouraged them to participate diligently in the exercise. They go on to say that the considerate support from the facilitators encouraged them to make a full commitment to participate in the process.

What came to my mind was that the institution is going to improve its communication interventions, hence big achievements to the programs implementations“, says James mentioning this to be another pulling factor for his commitment to the process. Korosso says, “Apart from being too occupied, I managed to set aside a time to participate in training sessions and doing assignment with the support of my colleague at the office”.

Lesson learned through the process

Before the training, each FFPO appointed a Communication Focal Point who fully participated through the process of training for developing the communication for development strategy.

Korosso who is part of the management team at TTGAU after she has participated in the training has the opinion that, communication activities are not been given priority, citing an example of this year’s annual budget which have less than 10 percent dedicated to communication for development efforts. She add on saying, from what she have learned, communication interventions are the key drives to the achievements of the organisation’s goals.I have learnt that as an organisation we have to invest more the communication matters”

Lukas who is the MJUMITA Communication Focal point says the process has increased his knowledge and confidence on developing communication strategy and other related documents. His main topic of interest learned is the significance of doing thorough analysis and profiling of stakeholders, the knowledge which will be applied even to other programs that require the engagement of stakeholders. “There’s a need of understanding the key issues to address and knowing relevant stakeholders to engage…, my head has repeatedly been recalling this idiom”, says Lukas.

James a Communication Focal Point for MVIWAMA says, “I have identified the value of using a participatory approach in developing communication strategy or other document is much better and creates a better vision during the implementation, hence programs objectives and ultimately organizations goals“.


Facilitation methods applied

The technical support was done through virtual meetings organized for two-hour sessions at the convenience of the participants. Afterward, participants had time to work on the main steps of drafting the strategy on their own while receiving coaching support from the consultant.

Facilitators who were readily available to reviewing the assignments and providing further clarification to the areas that needed improvement, significantly contributed to the effective participation”, says James who was commenting the sequences of the facilitation methods applied.

Methods applied include, introducing participants to the learning module to build up a general concept of Communication for Development and process in developing the strategy; practice in developing the strategy; coaching support from the facilitators.

Online meetings presentations and the shared lessons from other countries helped me to understand the key element in developing communication strategy”, says Lukas who always was available for training sessions.

Generally, participants have their view that the developed communication strategy will not only be a vision to the implementation of the FFF projects, rather is going to apply to other ongoing interventions, whereas some have started looking to the possibilities of modifying the ordinary techniques to applying the newly learned one to entire organization programs.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, through the Forest and Farm Facility (FFF) Tanzania engaged Farm Radio Trust to provide technical assistance support to the six FFPOs in Tanzania in improving the communication mechanisms. The involved FFPOs are the Network of Farmers and Pastoralists groups in the Manyara region commonly known in Swahili as ‘Mtandao wa Vikundi vya Wakulima na Wafugaji Mkoa wa Manyara (MVIWAMA), the Tanzania Community Forest Conservation Network commonly known in Swahili as  ‘Mtandao wa Jamii wa Usimamizi wa Misitu Tanzania’  (MJUMITA), the Network of Farmers and Pastoralists groups in the Arusha region commonly known in Swahili as ‘Mtandao wa Vikundi vya Wakulima na Wafugaji Mkoa wa Arusha (MVIWAARUSHA), the National Network of Smallscale Farmer’s Groups in Tanzania commonly known in Swahili as ‘Mtandao wa Vikundi vya Wakulima Tanzania’ (MVIWATA), Tanzania Tree Growers Associations Union (TTGAU), Maendeleo ya Wakulima (MAYAWA).

Written by Susuma Msikula for Farm and Forest Facility in Tanzania

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