Stanley Kadzuwa, a reporter with the Malawi Institute of Journalism (MIJ) FM Radio, recently interviewed David Poulson, senior associate director of the Knight Center and professor of journalism at Michigan State University.
Kadzuwa participated in a workshop put on by Poulson and Amol Pavangadkar, director of Sandbox Studios and a senior specialist with the Media Information Department at MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences.
Phillip Kamwendo finished explaining to a group of African reporters how he used “friendly bacteria” to improve groundnut seeds.
Then the Malawi researcher turned to a nearby team led by Michigan State University experts, flashed them a wide grin and gave them two thumbs up. It was a highlight for our team that had worked for days with Kamwendo and others at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) to refine how to explain their research.
“When he asked the reporters how many of them understood what an innoculant was, I felt like a proud grandmother,” said Emmanuella Delva, a program officer with USAID, the project’s funder, and who pitched in on the training.
The work in Malawi was the start of a two-continent, three-country training tour that I’m still on. I just finished work with other scientists – including two MSU alums – at the Rwanda offices of the International Potato Center to help them explain their research story to funders and others.
Now I’m in Lima, Peru, about to do the same thing this week at that center’s South American headquarters.
When geographer Joe Messina first analyzed satellite images of Malawi farm fields, he figured he had made a mistake.
Almost everywhere he looked in the East African nation he found maize harvest declines over the previous decade. But this was the site of the Malawi Miracle, a fertilizer subsidy program so successful that it was lauded by researchers in scientific journals and by writers in the New York Times and The Economist.
It became a model program used to justify similar enormous investments by the international community in other African nations.
“I assumed I was wrong,” said Messina, a researcher at Michigan State University’s Global Center for Food Systems Innovation.