Dr Hagos Nigussie Kahssay
Dr Hagos Nigussie Kahssay

Dr Hagos Nigussie Kahssay

Thesis title: Folk media forms and their potential for food security communication in eastern Tigray, Ethiopia (available here)

 

Supervisors:  Associate Professor Elske van de Fliert  & Dr Levi Obijiofor

Abstract:

This study examines the potential of folk media forms for food security communication in chronically food insecure areas in eastern Tigray, rural Ethiopia. Ethiopia has been reported as one of the most food insecure countries in the Sub-Saharan region despite the Ethiopian government has introduced diverse strategies to tackle rural food insecurity. It seems, however, that the communication approaches applied to take these strategies to rural communities have not been effective in alleviating food insecurity. Hence, the main questions of this study are: what is the potential of folk media forms for food security communication? Can these communication forms connect rural people to the food security programs in eastern Tigray? Specifically, this study analysed the current food security communication strategies in eastern Tigray, the role of folk media forms in contemporary society in eastern Tigray and their potential for food security communication. It also explored the opportunities and challenges to integrating folk media forms into food security communication strategies. The multiplicity paradigm of development was used as a lens for this study. This paradigm focuses on the cultural and social multiplicity perspectives emphasising on endogenous development and self-reliance of the people.

Methodologically, this study employed an ethnographic research approach. Individual in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, participant observation, and document reviews were used to collect data. To validate results from different data collection techniques, data analysis was made using methodological triangulation. The findings of the study show that there are no explicitly designed rural food security communication strategies in eastern Tigray but food security messages are communicated through frequent public meetings organised by the government representatives or development agents. Respondents indicated that public meetings are dominated by the views and interests of government officials and development agents that limited people’s roles to participate in the strategy design and implementation of the food security programs. Therefore, despite frequent public meetings to communicate food security messages, meetings became unproductive to convey food security messages. Firstly, public meetings employ predominantly a top-down communication approach, which limits people’s participation in the decision-making processes. Secondly, food security messages through public meetings are not communicated in the languages of the people (especially to the Irob people whom a number of them do not comprehend Tigrigna, the office working language). Thirdly, referring to the urgency of most of the government programs, three to five programs are addressed in a single meeting session that affects peoples’ choices of what to prioritise out of all the topics addressed in a single meeting session.

Both rural people and development agents expressed their conviction about the appropriateness of folk media forms to convey food security messages. Respondents believed that Aa’dar (oral poetry) and Goila (songs and dance) have the utmost potential to convey rural food security messages. Goila and Aa’dar are preferred to other folk media forms as both are performed in public gatherings such as cultural weddings and religious festivals where a large number of people can participate. Compared to other folk media forms, both Aa’dar and Goila are recognised for their entertainment and informative roles. Despite varied perceptions among respondents in Gulomekeda districts, respondents in Irob district indicated that folk media forms have the potential to integrate them into food security communication strategies. Development agents and food security experts also believed that these communication forms have the potential to integrate them into food security communication strategies. Therefore, being credible sources of information with a potential to effectively address different needs of rural people, folk media continue to dominate the lives of people in rural areas. Thus, harnessing these communication forms to food security communication strategies can help to raise the awareness of people about the nature, relevance and applicability of food security programs in eastern Tigray, rural Ethiopia.

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