Building media capacity to cover climate change

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019 06:29 |
Media personnel at work. Photo/Courtesy

The world is finally coming to terms with the reality of climate change and measures are being put in place to address the phenomena. 

Closer home, critical interventions to offer training for communication professionals on information sharing relating to problem-solving and coping mechanisms for communities hit by effects of climate change are underway. 

Currently communications professionals, including journalists, are ill equipped to cover climate change issues as a matter of public concern. This inadequacy has ensured the country remains vulnerable to the devastating effects of climate change at a very costly price. Information sharing on the matter has remained largely focused on aftermaths of the adverse weather conditions rather than process-oriented. 

Given the lack of specialisation on the matter, journalists continue to treat the impact of climate change as mere sporadic natural events that Kenyans have no control over.  Far from it! We need to invest more in problem-solving information sharing and probably invest more in coverage of climate change.

The rains that have pounded the country in recent months and the resultant floods, loss of lives and destruction of property was not unforeseen.  Weather experts had, as early as last year, predicted that Kenya, and by extension the greater Horn of Africa would experience a longer than normal rainy season. Governments in the region were cautioned to invest in preparedness to deal with emerging disasters. This includes  planning on livestock diseases and feeding, farming and seed planting, storage facilities, emergency medical supplies. Overall disaster management was called for.

Previous experience shows that such weather conditions have always resulted in the destruction of bridges and roads thus paralysing the transport sector, destruction of human settlements, contamination  of water sources and blockage of sewers, among others. The IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) Climate Outlook report for the period ending December 2018 showed increased likelihood of above normal rainfall in the region. Ideally, the report should have guided meticulous planning ahead of the rains. 

Alive to the vagaries of climate change effects, the Media Council of Kenya (MCK), Environment ministry  and the University of Nairobi’s Climate Change Centre with the support from FAO and involvement of media associations and civil society are working on a comprehensive training programme for journalists to ensure focused reporting and information sharing on climate change in the country.

The initiative aims at enhancing Kenya’s capacity for planning and effective implementation of climate change adaptation. Kenya has been running the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Implementation Framework 2018-2027 and a number of documents have been developed to guide the country in response to effects of climate change. The documents  include a National Climate Change Response Strategy and National Climate Change Action Plan, and enacting the Climate Change Act 2016, the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act 1999, and development of the National Adaptation Action Plan. 

In addition, there are sectoral initiatives to address the impact of climate change and strengthen the resilience of communities. In addition to the evictions from forests and demolitions of establishments on water pathways, massive tree planting initiatives are ongoing. 

—The writer is Deputy CEO and Programmes Manager,  Media Council of Kenya

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