African journalists shared their experiences covering climate issues across the continent at the COP26 climate conference held recently in Glasgow.
In a session organized by the African Development Bank and the non-profit Climate Tracker, the journalists discussed the innovative solutions they use to report on climate change in a way that is relevant to their communities.
“Climate change is the new politics,” said James Chavula, a Malawian journalist, adding that it was important that reporting on climate change gives “back to the people.” He said too many journalists in Africa are reporting on climate change as an international diplomacy issue and not a human interest issue. He said the COP conference seemed to exclude many developing country journalists.
A Reuters Institute analysis of climate change journalism in South Africa and Nigeria found that in both countries, “the bulk of the publications on the subject even in African newspapers and magazines are culled from foreign institutions and researchers. The problem is that much-needed local angles to the issue are often left out.”
Chavula said he was inspired to start reporting on climate change when his family moved to a rural village upon his father’s retirement in 1995. What he witnessed disturbed him. The village fell victim to both floods and droughts more frequently. Currently a features editor for Nation Malawi, Chavula follows a solutions-focused approach to climate change reporting.
Zambian Mutetelenu Kalama, co-founder of the Agents of Change Foundation, told the audience that traditional leaders can play an important role in helping young reporters produce climate change stories that people relate to.
“It was challenging at first because local languages don’t have phrases for the environment and climate change. Using traditional leaders was helpful to communicate to people in a way they could understand,” said Kalama. Her organisation provides training and resources for young people between the ages of 15 to 25 to report on environmental and climate change issues affecting their own communities.
Arona Soumare, Principal Climate Change and Green Growth Officer at the African Development Bank, commended the role of journalists and communicators in facilitating the flow of information from institutions to people. “Journalists are ambassadors of climate messages…Institutions need to speak to the people who are left out of the negotiations,” he said.
Find out more here about the Bank’s activities at COP26.