Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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HAGOS Nigussie, Mekelle University, Ethiopia

This paper examines public meetings and their significance for citizen participation in food security programs in Irob and Gulomekeda districts, Eastern Tigray. Public meetings are the forms of communication most commonly used to convey socio-cultural, religious, political and development messages in rural areas. The continuing use of public meetings in rural areas is attributable to lack of infrastructure and of access to modern media outlets. The global question of this paper is: to what extent do public meetings help rural people to participate in the design and implementation of food security programs? Methodologically, it employed an ethnographic research approach. The findings of the study were that public meetings are dominated by the views and interests of government officials and development agents, which limited the participation of local people in the strategic design and implementation of the food security programs. Thus, public meetings in Irob and Gulomekeda districts are ineffective in conveying food security messages. There are three main reasons for this: first, public meetings employ a top-down communication approach, which limits participation in the decision-making processes; second, food security messages in public meetings are not communicated in the languages of the people (especially the Irob people, many of whom do not speak Tigrigna); third, because of the urgency of most government programs, three to five programs are addressed in a single meeting, making it difficult for people to decide priorities. Overall, though government officials and development agents believe public meetings to be an inclusive communication strategy, public meetings are unproductive in connecting rural people to food security programs.