Monday, May 11, 2009

Climate change reporting training

You are welcome to this blog, which will talk about the experience, issues raised and lessons learnt from the journalists’ training I have undertaken with the Uganda Media Development Foundation (UMDF) on environmental and climate change training.
Eventually, this blog will turn into something big I hope with other science related postings since I am science journalist.
But for now, I am facilitating workshops in over 35 districts in Uganda but with 10 stations where journalists converge to train. This blog is where I am documenting some of my experiences and how much journalists know and report on the environment and climate change.
This project will therefore give you an insight of what environment and climate change problems as well as climate change adaptation issues, journalists in different parts of Uganda have observed and have written about. Plus, the role journalists that think can play in the climate change arena.
The training takes 4 days with about 25 participants for each training station. Here below is the programme as it runs. The project is sponsored by Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAF). It started in February 2009 with Masaka district as the first training station.
Arrival of journalists and the training team of 3: We have informal introductions and dinner together. 
 The facilitator, Esther Nakkazi –a Science Journalist and two officials from UMDF the organization coordinator John Bosco Mayiga and workshop assistant Gertrude Banderana.
DAY 2- 8.30-9.00am
Participants’ registrations, introductions and their expectations. Expectations are as varied as expecting to get a certificate from the workshop to learning how to write an environment story.
9.00 -9.30 am
Official opening of the workshops. 
(Usually done by the district LCV chairman or the RDC) but the presidents of the press clubs in the particular region usually invite them. (We have never had any of the officials invited come in on time except in Mbarara. So we usually get to business when the officials invited get there we pause for them to officially open the workshop.
Environment policies, institutions and other players. 
 Uganda has many policies that pertain to the environment. We have the Land Act, the National Environment Act, and Fisheries Act etc. The purpose of explaining these polices is to create awareness among journalists about the fact that they exist (the majority are not aware) and to help them understand that in their work they can link governance issues to these policies and see if they are being enforced.
I also talk about the major institutions both government, non-governmental organizations and international organizations that are players in environment issues. (Usually the participants list them as I write them on the flip chart)
10.30-12.00am District Environment Officer (DEO):
The DEO of one of the districts will come over to highlight the major environment problems in the region/district and the role of the media in covering environmental news. This also gives the journalists an opportunity to get to know the DEO as a source for their stories and to engage him with questions and concerns.
12:00-1.00pm Continuation of policies. 

(Usually the time allocated is not enough to go through policies and we cannot hold the DEOs so we continue with our programme when they have finished)
1.00-2.00pm Lunchtime:
2.00-4.00pm Climate Change session: 

A brief about local and international context of climate change. We talk about 
CO2 emissions, Carbon trade (CDM projects in Uganda), Climate change and agriculture, 
Social Justice in climate change. 
 Climate change adaptation and Copenhagen negotiations in December 2009.
Participants get into two groups. 

Group 1: Identify the major environmental problems in the region. Impact and challenges. 

Group 2: How have people in the region adapted to climate change?
4.00-4.30 Tea Breaks
4.30 -5.30pm How to write an environment story?
• Story approach. 
• News Values.
• Sources.
• Working with editors.
• Using Its for research.
• Investigative skills.
• Resources (websites and bogs)
8.30 -9.00 am Registration and recap of previous work. 
9.00-12.00 noon Case study
• Participants come up with the major environment problem in the region. 
• the problem- causes and effects. 
• Institutions/ players. 
• Sources to contact for the story. 
• What questions to ask the sources identified. 
• How do we the story and align it to become an environment story. 
• Identification of an environment story by each participant.
12.00 -5.00 p.m Field Work
Journalists go to the field and practice what they have learnt. Each of them is required to write an environment or climate change story.
DAY 3: 8.00- 9.00am Registration and recap of previous day.

9.00am -12.00 noon Evaluation of individual stories. 
 We distribute the different stories written to non-owners and critique them. The writers talk at the end of the critiques kind of defending their stories.
12.30 pm Official Closure. 

The Resident District Commissioner (RDC) gives a speech and also hands over certificates of attendance to participants.
1.30 pm
Lunch and Closure.

STATION 4: Busoga media club- Environmental reporting, 6th-9th May 2009, ZAMO Hotel in Jinja.
We had 22 Journalists from the Busoga region – Kamuli, Mayuge, Bugiri, Iganga, Jinja and Kaliro. The Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Jinja district Mr. Christopher Bagonza opened the workshop. The contact person was Mr. Moses Lwocha.
The RDC highlighted environmental issues in the region like forest conservation, carbon trade, protection of biodiversity, he summarized by saying everything that was created by God should be protected.
Mr. Bagonza demonstrated to journalists what we all know and acknowledge that the wisdom of our forefathers conserved the environment. The older generation used to attach spiritual beings to water sources and trees. In that way word was passed around the community that if say a tree were cut, the spiritual bodies would be angry with the community. There were no scientific explanations to it but it worked. This was respected and thus conservation of the environment.
A brief survey in the room revealed that very few journalists have done much environmental reporting but some few especially the ones that have just joined the profession want to try it out.
The environmental Officer, Mr. Eris Nabihamba Jinja Municipal Council urged journalists to specialize in environmental reporting and stick to a particular arm of environmental reporting.
He explained the issues below as the major environmental challenges in Jinja district.
1. Encroachment and degradation of wetlands- they are used for agriculture and development because of the growing population.
Some sections of Lake Victoria have turned green because the lake is fertile due to pollution. This could lead to the lake dying. A survey revealed that the most degraded wetlands are in Jinja.
2. Solid waste disposal- Jinja district generates at least 220 tones are generated everyday of waste but 120 tones are collected when the district does its best. When the waste is piled there is lack of oxygen and so there is no decomposition. Methane and carbon are created which are affecting global warming and climate change. A composite plant is being built that will serve 9 municipalities under the World Bank CDM compost project. Green House emissions are reduced. Initially everything will be composted and manure will be made and sold off to households. The challenge is to change the community culture to start roper disposal of rubbish.
Solid waste is a challenge because it is expensive and requires many players each doing their work. One of the major problems is lack of proper disposal of especially medial waste.
3. Pollution- factories and runoff are the biggest pollutants. Those who make crude beer and the skin and hides tanneries.
A tannery is good because it would use skins that would rot but the process of tanning uses too many chemicals. They are supposed to put pre-treatment plant but they do not use them because the power used is too much and the power tariff in Uganda is high.
There is a lot of air and water pollution.
Pollution is the major environmental challenge in Jinja because as an industrial town it has a lot of industries. The high level of corruption where industrialists give some politicians money because they are not properly disposing off and treating their waste is a big problem in this area.
There is also a lot of Noise pollution especially from the places of worship. Some denominations have warned him and threatened a holy war for cautioning them over noise pollution. He said in future noise polluters are going to be penalized.
4. Care of the natural environment-deforestation. The officer has tried to plant trees but the public especially small children just unpluck them because they are not informed or educated. Children should be taught in schools on the importance of trees.
When there are political campaigns, supporters of the different candidates just destroy tree branches and trees to wave while shouting names of their candidates to show support for them.
5. There is a lack of awareness because the environment is an issue that needs a concerted effort.
6. Investors and sugar cane estate owners are offering out-growers a service of clearing their land for replanting. But when the estate owners are clearing the land with tractors for growing sugarcane they clear everything including trees.
NB: The environmental officer gave each participant a soft copy of all the environmental laws.
Climate Change:
We discussed climate change problems, effects and adaptation. Adaptation I explained is unique to particular regions and although some issues are cross cutting some are just unique to some region.
1. Some adaptation issues highlighted were similar to other stations but what was different and stood out in this region was the fact that crocodiles are now resorting to eating and hunting man in Mayuge. Although not scientifically proven it was discussed the loss and decline of aquatic life has made them resort to man for survival. The journalist who presented this was asked to go ahead and make research about it.
2. Farmers are resorting to intensive organic agriculture on small pieces of land in order to intensively utilize and maximize output.
CASE STUDY: Garbage disposal in Jinja.
STATION 3: Kigezi region –Kanungu, Rukungiri, Kabaale, Kisoro.

Ebenezer Bifubyeka talking to fellow journalists at the Kigezi region workshop.
Date and Venue: 21st-24th April, Hotel Riverside Rukungiri.
Mobilizers: Patson Baraire President Kigezi Press Club- The Daily Monitor correspondent Rukungiri. 
Goodluck Musinguzi General Secretary Kigezi Press Club-Uganda Radio Network correspondent Kabaale district. 

We left Kampala on Tuesday 21st with Savanna Bus Company. It took about 2.5 hours for the bus to fill up. It was a long 7-hour journey to Rukungiri. None of the training team knew much about Rukungiri. It was the first time UMDF did any training here but they had had trainings for the Kigezi region in Kabale.
UMDF abandoned the region after journalists demanded that they be paid to be trained. So it was 4 long years since UMDF ever came back here and it was quite different from other stations most of the journalists did not even know the basics of writing a story. But the General Secretary said they had actually preferred to train the young, fresh journalists.
Some unique issues about the training in Station 3: 
We had 4 non-journalist participants- 3 young people from Kanungu press club and the police community liaison officer Rukungiri. All these participants appreciated the most and seemed to benefit more from the training. Rukungiri also had the least number of female participants ever, only four women among over 20 males.
The police officer Sgt Baruku was genuinely interested in establishing good working relationship between police and journalists. He was very active and upbeat through the workshop. I must also say his story ‘Impact of electronic magnetic rays from masts on health and environment’ was one of the best in the group. He was also interested in knowing policies on environment, which is important as he is charged with policing the community.
The LCV chairman, Rukungiri district Mr. Zedekia Karokora opened the workshop, the most knowledgeable of environment problems in his district, of all the politicians we had at any of the training stations.

LCV chairman, Rukungiri district Mr. Zedekia Karokora talking to journalists.
Some of the issues the LCV Chairman highlighted in the opening speech:

• Politics overriding environment conservation, reporting and policing. 

• NRM government is positive about the environment as they have mainstreamed environmental issues and set up structures.
• Road construction disturbs the soil structure which is predisposing the environment to soil degradation. 

• Gravity flow schemes are degrading the ecological systems. There are many gravity flow schemes, which are being started without real research and it’s affecting the ecological system. The schemes get water from higher grounds, however, the demand is too high and politicians are using them to garner votes without following proper engineering procedures. So the problem is being made worse by political pressure. 

• Residents are also using the schemes to get back at politicians. When the water pipes are flowing through some a community and it does not have water, they cut the pipes. 

• In Insingiro district, River Kagera is full of mud (silting) with thin water flowing because the residents have cultivated up to the riverbanks. 

• The RDC suggested that maybe journalists should use scaring messages (similar to the ones used for HIV) to bring about change. He cited an example of showing people crossing Lake Victoria on foot from Luzira in Uganda to Mwanza in Tanzania. Perhaps if such scenarios were created it would change people’s ways as we drum up support of change of behavior to mitigate climate change. 

• Food security threatened by polythene bags. 

• Poor waste disposal- Lack of proper dumping of electronics, no refurbishment centres. 

• Lack of laws governing electro-magnetic pollution. High voltage electric lines can predispose people to leukemia, blood cancer but this is not scientifically proven. 

• Noise pollution: two laws in contradiction. Freedom of praise and noise pollution especially from churches, which law, prevails over the other?

Participants who attended the workshop in Mbarara.
The Kigezi Group identified these as some of the environmental and climate change problems and effects:

• Soil erosion, exhaustion and reduced soil fertility.

• Water pollution and silting of water bodies.

• Decreased biodiversity some tree species and fruits are scarce.

• Depletion of wetland resources and drainage.

• Reduced vegetation and increased open ranches.

• Forest deforestation, encroachment on forests for agriculture, bush or forest fires.

• Climate change-erratic or unpredictable whether conditions.

• Brick making in swamps or wetlands.

• Poor waste disposal.

• Water sources drying up.

• Livestock resources- inbreeding, poor breeds, water shortage, poor pastures, unhealthy animals, overgrazed farms.

• Farmland resources: poor or low quality seed, increased diseases and pests.
Some unique observations of adaptation due to climate change:

As a result of warmer conditions because of climate change in Kabaale district some fruit trees have started growing like Jackfruit and Pawpaw. Some of the other fruit trees like mangos used to grow but they never used to bear fruit or it would take them so long. Now they grow and bear big fruit.
In the same district participants say there is better hygiene because previously especially men used not to wash or could do it just once a week because it was very cold. Now as the temperatures are warmer they wash at least once a day. (hilarious but true)
Station 2: Masaka District

This was the first training station we had in February. The turn up was good and the participants were very active and vigilant. Most of them were professionals, a few had written environment stories. They showed a willingness to learn and all were able to come up with amazing stories.

Micheal Ssali gets his certificate after the training workshop in Masaka.
Adaptation issues that Masaka participants pointed out:

• Change of seasons- dry and wet season.
 Farmers used not to plant in the first months of the year but now they are planting in different season. Communities are cultivating in wetlands- crops such as beans, rice and others.
 Some farmers have began irrigation of crops.

• Due to increased drought the cattle corridor in Sembabule and Lyatonde, pastoralists migrate in search of pastures. Pastoralists gang up in groups and zone off some pastures so that during the dry season the zoned off areas are used to feed the animals. This never used to happen earlier.

• Bush burning has increased so that the grass grows fast when the rains come. When the dry season is about to commence, pastoralists sell off cattle at very low prices- before the animals start dying, which makes the pastoralists poorer.

• Due to declining water levels has meant that there is a reduction in water consumption- for domestic use, hospitals, etc which has means people observe less hygiene.

• Low food production means there are reduced meals. Families now have one big meal a day which is a result o threatened food productivity and security.
Group 2: this Group answered the question- what does climate change mean to them.
 Although some examples had been studied as seen in the training manual, the researcher was looking for more in-depth and local examples only unique to this region. This is what the participants said:
• The day-to-day change in the whether conditions which are both negative- feminine- dry spells-high food prices.
• Increased malnutrition due to lack of good nutrition. 

• Changes in whether with increases fog, snow, hail storms in Sembabule. 

• More people are getting mad because of the hot season (of course this has to be scientifically endorsed) but as a positive aspect to this they say a proper unit has been built for mad people. 

• Technological discoveries as a result of climate change. (Not elaborated)

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    We have just added your latest post "Ugandan ScieGirl" to our Directory of Environment . You can check the inclusion of the post here . We are delighted to invite you to submit all your future posts to the directory for getting a huge base of visitors to your website and gaining a valuable backlink to your site.

    Warm Regards Team


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.