A multimedia story digging into how SMS text message technology is transforming the lives of rural farmers in Ghana has won Nana Boakye-Yiadom the top prize in the African Story Challenge.

Diana Neille?s story on land inequalities in South Africa for eNews Channel Africa (eNCA) came second, while Alex Chamwada of Citizen TV in Kenya was voted second runners-up for a series of reports on how a region of southern Somalia has overcome the odds of civil strife to feed people within and beyond Somalia?s borders.

In producing?Phone Farming, which was published and broadcast by Citi FM, Boakye-Yiadom travelled across Ghana to explore the impact that the simple but effective SMS technology is having on their farms and families.

With a goal to improve the health and prosperity of Africans through compelling and innovative multimedia storytelling on issues that really matter to people, the African Story Challenge is a programme of reporting grants to encourage journalists to experiment with new content ideas and ways to engage audiences through mobile technology, social media and other digital tools.

The winning story was chosen from 20 finalists. In all, 315 entries from across the continent were screened by a technical review panel that evaluated which ideas had the best potential to become top-quality stories on Agriculture and Food Security, the first of five themed categories covered by the contest.

?Boakye-Yiadom?s story was very well told,? said Omar Ben Yedder, chair of the judging panel and group publisher of IC publications. ?You can tell he has done the leg work: there?s lots of first hand evidence, he has spoken to people on the ground and went around the country to find out the impact of technologies on farmers.?

The award carries a fully-sponsored international reporting trip and laptop prizes for the first and second runners-up.

?We were impressed by the high caliber of journalists that we have attracted in this pan-African contest,? says African Story Challenge Editor, Joseph Warungu. ?We need more of this kind of journalism that makes a real difference in the lives of ordinary people by taking on issues that are often overshadowed by politics and entertainment news.?

The second cycle of the contest focusing on health is open for entries until 24th?November 2013. 20 of the best story ideas will be selected and the journalists will undergo an intensive story-camp with mentor support to improve their ideas. The 20 finalists will also receive funding to produce their stories that will then be reviewed by an independent panel of judges to select the top winner. Other competition themes including business and technology will follow next year.

The African Story Challenge is a project of the?Africa Media Initiative (AMI), the continent?s largest association of media owners and operators, in partnership with the?International Centre For Journalists.?Warungu, who is AMI?s content development director, developed the project while an ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellow attached to AMI.

The Story Challenge is supported by an $800,000 grant from the?Bill Gates Foundation. The programme also has support from the African Development Bank and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra).

Story By Pascal K. Kudiabor.

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