Communications and Outreach Specialist

Food and Agriculture Organization

Colombo, Sri Lanka

Experience: 3 to 5 Years

Skill Required: Media and Communication

The project is an EU funded initiative implemented by FAO of the United Nations on supporting Sri Lanka's food control system to adopt better standard based practices in the agriculture and food sectors.  The current food control systems is not based on prevention of risks along the nodes of the food chains, but rather on the inspections of finished products. In addition, current food standards don’t take a risk-based food safety standards approach to quality and composition, which is considered to be a key quality specification to ensure products are safe for human consumption.  This is reflected in Sri Lanka’s primary food law- the Food Act of 1980, which applies food control at the end of processing, manufacturing and retailing, instead of the entire food chain. There are laws for animal, plant and fisheries sectors that largely apply to their primary production, however food safety along these respective food chains is not adequately covered. Institutional coordination between government institutions is important to enable comprehensive management of food control along the food chain. The statutory Food Advisory Board is a mechanism under the Food Act and is an important tool for cross-sectoral coordination and advice to the Minister of Health on food issues. However, this coordination needs to be reinforced through formal mechanisms and service level agreements so that each government institution plays an effective role in food control. For this purpose, the representation in the Food Advisory Committee must take into account all authorities responsible for food control and their technical and scientific capacities must be significantly strengthened.

In view of addressing challenges faced in the agri-food private sector, food control system and quality infrastructure system, FAO is supporting a component of these aspects through a larger EU funded four-year project, which entails upgrading the food safety and quality control system.  The other component of this EU funded program is implemented by the Lead Agency UNIDO, which focuses on building capacities of producers, processors and food business operators and promoting linkages along the agri-food value chains.  Both agencies through their respective components will engage in effective communication methods and campaigns for advocacy and behavior change, based on a market-driven approach and shaped by consumers. This has direct benefits for Sri Lanka's agribusiness and indirect benefits for the livestock and fisheries sectors in terms of increased competitiveness and long-term benefits.  It will enhance consumer safety and product quality and lend to developing agriculture sustainably for economic development.

Overall Objective 

  • To contribute to a more productive, sustainable, diversified, climate-resilient, market-oriented and inclusive agriculture and agri-food production sector in Sri Lanka.

Specific Objective

  • Increase food safety and quality profiles of agri-food products through development, adoption, and compliance with enhanced food safety, hygienic practices, and quality requirements by food producers and processors and an updated risk-based and well-coordinated food control system.

Reporting Lines

  • The National Communications & Outreach Specialist will work under the overall guidance and supervision of the Assistant FAO Representative (Programme) Sri Lanka and the Project Management Specialist. He/she will interact closely with the national consultants, international consultants, the lead technical officer and relevant FAO Technical Officers and will be supported by the Project Management Unit (PMU).

Technical Focus

  • Result Area 4 - Consumers, enterprises, institutions, and other stakeholders are more aware, informed, and demanding of food safety and quality.
  • Sub-result Area 4.1 - Consumer-driven communication campaign implemented to change the social behaviour of consumers towards improved food safety. 

Tasks and responsibilities

In close collaboration with OCC branches and focal points, the incumbent will:

  • Serve as a member of the project team and work in partnership with the relevant national stakeholders to change the social behaviour of consumers towards improved food safety.
  • Facilitate a study to analyse food risk data among the general public (particularly consumers in urban areas) to develop a public outreach strategy.
  • Keep track on media reports (including digital media), evaluate the impact on social behaviour and propose interventions to counteract negative behaviour promotions.
  • Develop a validated public outreach strategy to change consumer behaviour towards purchasing safe, healthy, and nutritious food in partnership with the national stakeholders.
  • Identify the media trends to utilize opportunities to promote the necessity of strong food control system in Sri Lanka. 
  • Draft a communication strategy to be submitted to the Technical Advisory Group and to be revised taking comments into consideration.
  • Develop key food safety messages, tools and communication material designed to induce behaviour change in food control system and awareness in targeted subsets of the population.
  • Implement a national level consumer-driven social and behaviour change communication campaign on food safety in partnership with relevant national stakeholders.
  • Identify and measure the impact of messaging penetration and effectiveness.
  • Develop targeted food safety education material designed for schoolchildren of 8-12 years old with the support of an identified expert group and identify opportunities to introduce it as part of the regular school learning curriculum.
  • In collaboration with the civil society organizations (CSO), consumer associations (CA), and trade associations (TA), build advocacy capacity towards the dissemination of food safety messaging and identify opportunities of creating a sub-group dedicated to food safety education and sustain action.
  • Develop TORs, oversee, and monitor the service providers hired for delivering identified outputs.
  • Ensure completion of all sub-tasks required in achieving/pertaining to project technical outputs and deliverables under SE-R 4.1.  
  • Work closely with the UNIDO (implementing partner) communications and visibility officer to develop common project campaign materials on food safety and quality.
  • Provide overall project communications support on visibility for the project and maintaining branding guidelines (e.g. social media, labeling, signage, PR activities, etc.), including supporting the National Communications Analyst at FAOLK to carryout “Food Safety Day” and other related event and activities.
  • Familiarize him/herself with FAO’s corporate communication policy and operational guidelines, including processes to be followed in the PWS system to ensure mandatory coherence of all communication and information outputs in consultation with the National Communications Analyst at FAOLK.
  • Study all relevant FAO guidelines on communications and then demonstrate a strong understanding of FAO Style in drafting documentation, without the need for continuous correction or oversight.
  • Liaison with the Office of Communication (OCC) will be maintained, either directly or through an agreed focal point/coordinator, to ensure compliance with OCC standards, appropriate review and clearance processes. 

Candidates Will Be Assessed Against The Following

Minimum Requirements    

  • Advanced university degree/ Master’s Degree in communications, media relations, journalism, international development, or a related discipline with three years of experience in the communications and media field.
  • Or Bachelor’s Degree with over 5 years of experience in the communications and media field.
  •  Excellent command of the English Language (reading, writing, listening, speaking) and working knowledge of Sinhala and/or Tamil.
  • National of Sri Lanka.

Technical/Functional Skills 

  • Experience in international development would be an added advantage.
  • Good understanding of agriculture/food related development issues and similar activities in Sri Lanka. 
  • Demonstrated experience in working with government structures at national level and wider stakeholders and being well versed with national communication processes an added advantage.  
  • Knowledge of UN administration and related procedures is an advantage.
  • Proficiency in the use of office software packages and in handling web-based management systems. 
  • Excellence in research and writing skills, with experience in drafting communication strategies and contents that communicate key messages in a simplified and easy-to-understand manner.
  • Demonstrated experience in developing contents that clearly communicates development ideas for media, web, print production, and audio-visual productions.
  • Skills in developing interactive, informative and engaging digital content would be ad added advantage.
  • Substantive knowledge and practical experience in planning, designing, and implementing communications campaigns and initiatives preferably on social behaviour change.