Poor Drylands communication and the lack of information seems to be some of the reasons why landscape challenges are prominent in Africa and beyond.
People are not aware about what they should do and how they should do it, to prevent aridity progress across the continent.
This problem according to experts should be addressed constantly by journalists according to Dizzanne Billy, of the Communications and Outreach Team of Climate Tracker.
“I think it’s important for journalists to report on challenges specifically in Drylands Restoration while also informing the public about the technical aspects in a simplified form” she said.
By grouping 50 journalists from 23 African countries for the fellowship on Drylands Restoration in the continent, Climate Tracker is contributing her own quota in Drylands Restoration.
Coming from diverse geographical, political, and economic spheres, the Media men and women have different experiences working on Climate Change related stories and Drylands Restoration in particular.
News Upfront sought to know from some of the participants at the fellowship, how challenging it is, reporting on Drylands issues in their respective countries.
Security challenges, access to information, misconceptions, language crisis, difficult access to resource persons and financial resources are some of the constraints captured by this reporter.
Politically, the challenges are even more serious as explained by Mbekezeli Ncube, a journalist from Zimbabwe.
“Challenges in Zimbabwe are mainly political. There are illegal gold miners damaging our land and they are backed by prominent politicians in our country. Top officials also make deals with the foreign bodies like the Chinese, giving them mining rights in the country to do as they please. So the thing is writing an article on that can get you into hot soup and at times you may not get the relevant information you need from sources as they will be in fear of victimization. And sometimes you may never know as state security agents are planted everywhere” he revealed to News Upfront.
Kimberlyn McKeever, is a reporter from the West African state of Liberia, on her part, she sees her challenges on multiple fronts.
“The challenges are enormous, ranging from freedom of information (FOI) from relevant authorities to mobility, finances to fast track your work be it investigative or feature articles. There’s still a need for journalists to be given access to information needed in every sector of government. Frustratingly is not only with government but citizens as well.” She said.
If Freedom of Information is an issue in Liberia, the situation is more serious in Cameroon, especially with difficult access to qualified sources. Nalova Akua, a freelance journalist in Cameroon has been a victim.
“My first challenge is at the level of getting good resource persons who can dissect the issues of drylands, and climate change in general, to the better understanding of the layman and policymakers alike.
This is indeed a big issue. Not only are these experts difficult to come by; even the few you get to aren’t media friendly at all. They are always hesitant to give out critical information which can help the public better appreciate the challenges of drylands.” Nalova said adding that;
“Another problem is the public disinterest in this subject. Many still believe wrongly that the occurrence of drylands is but a natural phenomenon. They have little hope anything can be done to reverse the fortunes of areas affected by drought. Consequently they show little interest in the subject you are writing on. And this could be demoralising for a journalist.”
Within newsrooms, the challenges are equally felt. That is the case with Daniel Samson, reporter in Tanzania.
“The great challenge I’m facing is in my newsroom. Editors don’t pay attention to climate change stories because the policy is different, thus I find another platform to publish my articles. Also to get credible sources especially from the government is an issue to respond to some critical issues. Apart from that I’m thriving to get knowledge and skills to be better on climate reporting.” He said.
Similarly and according to Locadia Mavhudzi, Freelance journalist from Zimbabwe, the biggest challenge on covering Drylands issues is lack of skills in science reporting.
“Journalists need to be equipped with skills to unpack the complexities associated with drylands from a humanistic point of view. Investment in this area will see dryland issues making top headlines and acquiring more space in various media publications.” She declared.
According to the 2020 Climate Change Performance Index, Algeria was ranked 46th. Imed Boumaraf, a scientific journalist for almost 5 years is materially equipped to do the job properly and deliver the facts in the best way possible, but the reporter has to comb all 58 States in the country just to tell Drylands and Climate Change stories, and to him, finances is just another challenge.
“In fact the financial side is a bit challenging since i’m doing this job completely by my own and this topic doesn’t find enough attention. I faced many challenges, i mean i can mention how i struggled to find official data about topics, or how hard was it to travel to some places to take original pictures and so on”. Imed Boumaraf Recounts.
Oumar ZOMBRE, is a journalist with the national TV outlet of Burkina Faso (www.rtb.bf). He is a News Host and field reporter, specialist of defense, security and also environment issues. To him armed conflicts up the Sahelian areas add to financial constraints.
“We focus on climate change consequences on people and production, drylands refugees and so challenges are mainly financial issues…and security threats in Sahel areas” Oumar told News Upfront.
Nigeria is quite a very large country in terms of population size and landmass. It comprises of 36 states and approximately 774 Local Government Areas across boards. Ten out of these States have been described as the major Drylands States in Nigeria. Also, between 50% and 75% of Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara States are being affected with desertification. A lot of effort from the Ministry of Environment and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development are being put in place to restore the Nigeria’s Drylands. To Abdulkareem Mojeed, reporter with Premium Times in Nigeria, insecurity is gradually foiling their efforts to tell Drylands stories.
“However, I think the increasing level of insecurity due to the devastating impacts of the insurgency activities ravaging the North – Eastern Nigeria, continue to undermine the reporting of these regions. Lack of sufficient funds, passion and safety of Journalists are also affecting the reporting of these regions.” He said.
Besides finances, access to information and security, language and communications also makes things difficult for reporter to tell Drylands stories. Guyo Golicha, is working with OBN Horn of Africa, a media based in Ethiopia, Living in the outskirt of Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia.
“Yeah exactly, every region has their own language, in fact my media reports with 14 languages now, (3 International and 11 local languages), English, Arabic and Kiswahili as international languages. For us, it is even hard to interview someone since language is a problem We don’t understand the dominated Amharic language, and many Government Officials and influential people speak it. Another challenge was how to get an expanded story from reoorters, little we get was from a Government Media Source. One of my indepth stories focused on Green legacy, a reforestation program initiated by the Prime Minister to plant 20 billion trees in four” Guyo told this reporter.
Journalists are supposed to ccompany the advocacy being carried out by Climate Tracker and other organisations, and that is why the expectations of the 50 media men and women from 23 African countries including researchers attending the Drylands Restoration Fellowship is to be equipped with the neccesary skills on how to overcome some of the challenges in their respective nations.
According to the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Ibrahim Thiaw, “Land restoration can contribute greatly to post-COVID19 economic recovery. Investing in land restoration creates jobs and generates economic benefits, and could provide livelihoods at a time when hundreds of millions of jobs are being lost.”
Worth noting is the fact that in 2021, the goal of Desertification and Drought Day coming up on June 17, is to demonstrate that investing in healthy land as part of a green recovery is a smart economic decision. This is not just in terms of creating jobs and rebuilding livelihoods, but in terms of insulating economies against future crises caused by climate change and nature loss, and in accelerating progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals the world recovers from COVID-19.