Spore: highlighting impact and innovation in agricultural transformation
For over 34 years, CTA’s flagship magazine, Spore, offered guidance to smallholder farmers across Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, enabling greater productivity and income generation. As a tool contributing to sustainable agricultural transformation, its influence was widely felt and well recognised.
Born out of a pilot in 1985, Spore magazine was launched in English and French as a bi-monthly technical bulletin to ensure the widest possible dissemination of information on agricultural development. With changes in the global perspective on agricultural development, the magazine evolved to provide in-depth coverage of the topics and issues of broader relevance to agribusiness and sustainable agriculture, including entrepreneurship, smart-tech innovations and climate-smart agriculture.
As editors of Spore’s English language version since October 2012, WRENmedia was appointed as the Executive Editors in January 2017. The team was responsible for the coordination and production of quarterly issues and weekly articles, in print, web and electronic formats. The WRENmedia team was also responsible for liaising with the translators and French editor and overseeing layout with the design team. Improving the quality of science journalism
Spore articles were written to appeal to a general readership, but the magazine was particularly targeted at agricultural development actors (both technical and policy) in the European Union and ACP countries.
To complement the in-depth analyses written by the WRENmedia team and selected science writers, a network of around 20 ACP science correspondents helped produce short thematic articles, field reports and interviews. Supporting journalists to report on vital agricultural research and development issues (climate change, land, nutrition etc.) has been a key part of WRENmedia‘s activities for over two decades, so providing regular advice and feedback to our correspondents on how to approach a given subject and tips for strengthening their coverage was critical to the collaborative approach for working on Spore.
To respond to the demands of a more digitally-minded audience and to appeal to a younger readership, WRENmedia increased the digital content of the magazine and developed a detailed, weekly social media strategy to enhance monthly impressions, follower gains, link clicks, retweets and likes. As a result of these developments, in 2019, the print version of the magazine reached 22,654 readers, whilst the electronic PDF version had almost 120,000 downloads, and webpage views exceeded 137,000.
Spore’s social media channels also provided a valuable way to interact with readers as well as contributors. One tweet on a young woman entrepreneur’s presentation particularly resonated with the social media audience: “Did you eat insects for lunch today at the #AGRF2019? Great #circulareconomy presentation by @HuijbersTalash on using #insects 4 #livestockfeed”.
Looking to the future
Capturing the dynamism of young agricultural entrepreneurs was a real pleasure for us as a team of writers and editors. The energy and enthusiasm of young people to transform agriculture and make a real difference was aptly captured by an interview with Isaac Sesi in the final edition in December 2019. Sesi exhibited a real passion for inspiring other young people to get into science and technology. Sharing his interview on LinkedIn, he received over 250 reactions in just one week – using his network to extend the reach of Spore.
One year since Spore came to an end, the archive of articles continues to be available online and the legacy of the magazine will continue for some time, although there are many that grieve the demise of this valued publication. Nevertheless, without the support and interest in receiving the information provided in Spore, the publication would not have endured – over three decades is a lasting legacy indeed.
And during 2020, the WRENmedia team has been fortunate to continue to highlight the dynamism and determination of young agribusiness entrepreneurs in several other initiatives (see Vijabiz and SBN) and in collaborating with several of our Spore correspondents. Spore might have come to an end – for now – but our work to communicate the efforts of the organisations and individuals working for agricultural transformation carries on.
‘Thank you @Spore_mag team for your contributions to broadening our intellectual horizon in Agriculture and Food Systems and spreading the message on the indomitable power of human imagination. #Grateful @CTAflash’ - Twitter message from Debisi Araba, Regional Director for CIAT.