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Sub-Saharan Africa is highly vulnerable to climate change, I have learned in my interviews with scientists and in the literature that I have read on the subject.
I have also noticed that some questions keep on popping up in discussions among journalists. Is the African media doing enough to create awareness and influence policy on climate change? Are the stories compelling enough to influence national policymaking?
These questions arose again during a training workshop on climate change communication for journalists in Kenya last week (24-27 September). The training that brought together journalists from the Kenya Environment and Science Journalists Association and the Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture was organised by Uganda-headquartered Panos Eastern Africa in collaboration with Internews.
It is therefore vital for science journalists to read and research widely on emerging climate change issues to help them report compelling stories that can influence policies.
As I paid attention to the proceedings, I realised the importance of journalists differentiating between weather-related and climate-related matters.
Often, many stories on weather patterns have been equated to climate change and the stories do not provide policy implications. It is therefore vital for science journalists to read and research widely on emerging climate change issues to help them report compelling stories that can influence policies.
I agreed with Stephen Ndegwa, the director of the Kenya-based Center for Climate Change Awareness, when he expressed concern that few, quality stories are reported in Kenya. .
His contention that climate change stories in Kenya are event-based and not issue-based persuaded me to accept that as journalists we should be innovative enough to make our target audiences, especially policymakers, get our message.
My participation at the workshop also revealed a glaring knowledge gap — that many local journalists lack access to credible news sources on climate change. Stories require scientific and expert voices to make them credible, create public awareness and influence national policymaking.
How can we as journalists help improve reporting on climate change in Sub-Saharan Africa? I asked Sophie Mbugua, a Kenya-based freelance journalist who was a participant at the workshop. Her answer summed up my view on how this challenge can be addressed.
As I pondered how this revelation could inspire me in the task ahead, I became convinced that science journalists need to equip themselves with relevant tools and skills to effectively provide information on climate change, which poses a major threat to development in Sub-Saharan Africa.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk