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Spore: a lasting legacy

For over 34 years, CTA’s flagship magazine Spore has provided in-depth coverage of topical agricultural development issues from across Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP). As the editors of this well respected, long-lasting publication since 2012, the WRENmedia team reflect on Spore’s impact over the years and how the publication’s influence has been widely felt.

Over 34 years, Spore articles have highlighted innovation and impact on thematic areas vital for agricultural transformation. © Inoussa Maiga

Born out of a CTA bulletin in 1986, Spore launched in English and French 3 years after CTA was established. In Issue 1, the stipulation for the bi-monthly printed publication was that “rather than promoting CTA, Spore aims to ensure the widest possible dissemination of information of relevance to the agricultural world, in order to fertilise ideas and allow them to germinate. It is in this down-to-earth way that Spore hopes to participate in the process of rural development.”

Since the early years of Spore, the global perspective on agricultural development has changed and so the magazine evolved from a technical bulletin providing agricultural production advice to providing detailed coverage (in print and later also online) of issues of broader relevance to agribusiness and sustainable agriculture. “Spore has helped shape curricula and training materials, set up new business ventures and been critical to providing readers with the latest developments in agriculture,” states Michael Hailu, CTA Director.

“The content – it’s truly brilliant. Spore has provoked conversations and changes.” Talot, general secretary of PROMODEV, Haiti

Collaborating with ACP correspondents

Highlighting innovation and impact has been key within all Spore articles, which, in recent years, focused on three thematic areas vital for agricultural transformation: entrepreneurship, digitalisation for agriculture and climate-smart agriculture (CSA). “The content of Spore is varied and rich. What I like in particular is the ‘Dossier’ where a problem is discussed in an in-depth way and well detailed, therefore giving lots of information, and this makes the reader reflect on agricultural issues in a general way,” emphasised Souleymane Nacro, a researcher at the Institute of Environment and Agricultural Research of Burkina Faso. To complement the in-depth analyses provided, short thematic articles, field reports and interviews were written by a network of ACP correspondents who regularly contributed ideas. “This has been an insightful experience, which has enabled me to blend specialised scientific agriculture research and farmer narratives with meticulous fact-checking, analysis and creativity,” says Zimbabwean agricultural reporter, Busani Bafana, who was a Spore correspondent for 20 years.

“It's been really very fulfilling working on Spore. I hope the website will still be available because the articles are all very enlightening, educative and would still be very relevant/useful to readers for many years. I am so glad to have been a contributor - very many thanks to you all.” Oluyinka Alawode (Spore correspondent), Nigeria.

Inspiring interviews

With monthly opinion pieces, Spore has also been able to encourage the sharing of different viewpoints from a range of highly respected organisations and, in Spore exclusive interviews, to feature high-level experts and practitioners in agricultural and agribusiness development to share their perspectives. See, for example, recent interviews with Dr Agnes Kalibata of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, and World Bank and African Development Bank experts discussing digitalisation for agriculture. “The information provided in Spore has been instrumental in knowledge exchange and in the sharing of different opinions and insights,” emphasises Hailu.

The energy and enthusiasm of young people to transform agriculture and make a real difference was aptly captured in the final edition of Spore in the business leader’s interview with Isaac Sesi. Sesi has a real passion for inspiring other young people to get into science and technology which shines through and sharing his interview on LinkedIn, he received over 250 reactions in just 1 week – using his network to extend the reach of Spore. Other impressive entrepreneurs include Ngabaghila Chatata of Thanthwe Farmers. Promoting CSA approaches (greenhouses and drip irrigation), Chatata has transformed her horticulture farm into an agribusiness hub that is incubating over 3,000 youth and smallholder farmers a year and is producing over 100 t of high-quality fruit and vegetables year-round for supply to local hotels and supermarkets in Malawi. Rodgers Kirwa, a 28-year-old Kenyan uses the profits from his harvests to sustain his iAgribiz Africa Model Farm and provide training courses to over 2,000 local farmers. His support to farmers has helped increase their yields by up to 100%.

Digital distribution

To increase the dissemination of Spore articles online, greater emphasis was placed in the last few years on increasing digital content – through the generation of more stories for the website, a bi-monthly newsletter and daily social media posts across Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. And, although Spore’s social media strategy was only established in January 2017, in less than 3 years, the magazine gained more than 5,000 followers on Twitter, 3,500 followers on Facebook and 500 on LinkedIn. Spore was also made available as an e-publication (e-pub) on Amazon’s Kindle Store, Google Books, Google Play and Apple Books.

Production of this publication in its multiple formats has been a great pleasure for us and it is therefore with great sadness that we acknowledge the end of Spore - over 3 decades is a lasting legacy indeed. We and our network of ACP correspondents have been proud to be a part of the Spore story, to report on such a wide portfolio of topics and to network with an extensive range of partners and organisations.

The archive of Spore articles will continue to be available online. If you haven’t yet checked out the latest issue – then we encourage you to do so as we particularly like the eye-catching cover on AI! And, if you have any feedback you would like to share about this and other issues of Spore, please feel free to share these with us:

Sophie Reeve

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