Climate change is happening at a speed beyond belief and in its wake, millions of people across Africa are vulnerable to climate-induced hunger, weather disasters, conflicts, and many more. The problem of understanding climate change and providing timely mitigation to it has been one of the major challenges confronting the continent. Concern over the negative impact of climate change has strengthened fears that environmental degradation and demographic pressures will displace millions of people in Africa and create serious social upheaval.
So, on the 3rd of February 2022, we met with climate experts and journalists to discuss the various ways we could collectively work together to build a climate-resilient Africa.
We had Rahma Diaa (Egyptian Climate Journalist), Anderson Kehbila (Program Leader at Stockholm Environment Institute Africa), and Gregory Akall (Independent Researcher and Director/Co-founder, Turkana Guardian) who did us the honor of speaking at the community hangout and shared with us some of their tips and experiences on the topic.
Rahma Diaa shared with us two ways to identify climate adaptation stories, the first being to start with the problem and search for the adaptation technique for it. For example, when agricultural crops in a region are damaged because of extreme heatwaves, this problem can send you on a path to look for direct solutions and initiatives that encompass climate-smart agriculture or you could look for indigenous techniques that already exist that resolve this problem.
The second way to identify adaptation stories is to search for official and unofficial projects that are related to climate adaptation in your region. You can find them on governmental or ministerial websites dedicated to the environment or climate change as well as local or international NGO pages and sites. These resources could help you find your stories. Rahma shared with us some useful resources which you can access here.
She also spoke about some essential tips on telling climate adaptation stories; “As important as the numbers are they can be difficult for people to understand. To address this, try to incorporate data visualization and solution journalism into your climate adaptation stories.”
Anderson Kehbila took as through the process of how science can be bridged into policy to help accelerate climate action. He shared with us a detailed framework that he developed to help bridge science and policy. The framework takes into consideration political strategy, proposed governmental policies, institutional innovation, and the finances involved in policy implementation. He also spoke about the challenges that occur when this framework is not fully utilized.
Most policy scholars focus on policy innovation and institutional innovation, but they fail to talk about the politics that affect policy and the different governmental institutions as well as the financial strategy to implement those policies. That is why most policies are on the shelves with very few of them being translated into practice.
He also spoke about the need for Journalists to collaborate with researchers and scientists to amplify advocacy for critical findings. “Journalists and climate scientists need to work together in Africa to best communicate the findings and analyses related to the local climate situation. To make it understandable for decision-makers and the public.”
Gregory Akall shared with us a stark truth about the fact that a decade ago the impacts of climate change were not fully understood by even the governments in the West. He also spoke about the inequality in climate change as most of the communities that experience the brunt of its effects are mostly remote and so don’t even understand why they are experiencing these changes in their environment. He also shared that some of these communities are actually more poised to fight against climate change.
“The local communities are more knowledgeable about their environment because some of them have lived in those areas for over 2000 years and they’ve faced the same climate events such as droughts, floods, etc. Many times, however, the mainstream media and scientists ignore the knowledge of the indigenous community.
According to Gregory, there is a lot of hype on “flying journalists” which involves journalists coming in to scoop the next big story to deliver breaking news which he termed as the “CNN effect”. He however said that “We are past talking about the problems of climate change…I started community journalism, trying to work with some local journalists who are from those local areas, who understand the local region to tell their own stories, their own way.” He shared that this initiative helped the community to share stories that were more development-oriented. He also stressed that communities that are at the center of climate change impact should be in the spotlight and need to be at the center of global climate action.
What Does the Future Hold?
All our speakers agreed that the need for swift and timely climate action is essential to the development of the continent and the importance of journalists, researchers, and policymakers working together is critical to this happening. Africa is on the precipice of a climate crisis and so there is a need is prioritize climate information and action. Watch the full session for the in-depth tips shared by our speakers.
Join our African communities to further engage with us and our growing community of journalists and climate activists on this topic.