Climate change: voices from the field

06 Dec 2011

Upon their arrival in Durban, five African journalists who recently participated in a UNDP-sponsored climate change awareness raising caravan traveling from Nairobi, shared their extraordinary, first-hand accounts of climate change with participants at the UN Climate Change Negotiations.

Termed “We have faith: act now”, the convoy of buses travelled from Nairobi to Durban, through Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Botswana, organizing concerts and rallies and signing a petition asking that policy-makers take decisive action to tackle climate issues.

Arriving in Durban, the convoy, carrying more than 150 youths and artists from across the continent, was greeted by Nobel Peace Price Laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as well as Christiana Figueres, the Head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which coordinates the climate discussions.

The journalists were on board the caravan to undergo a media training on climate change. Their fellowship was financed by UNDP’s Africa Adaptation Programme, a USD 92 million scheme financed by the government of Japan that is helping 20 African countries to develop climate change adaptation plans.

In Durban, they embarked on a series of interviews to continue their coverage of climate issues. They also shared their experience on the caravan.

Audrey Wabwire, from Kenya, recounted how she met a 24 year-old woman married for ten years, with two children, who opted for contraception because she could not afford food.

Bernice Atabong, from Cameroon, said that floods forced some of the families she met in Malawi to vacate their houses for six months before they would dry up again. She intends to return to her country and create a youth climate network to  influence decision-makers.

Lily Mengesha, a young Ethiopian who belongs to an association of environmental journalists, noticed that people were aware of climate change but did not know its causes. “As a journalist, she says, “I feel responsible for informing the public and raising awareness among communities”.

Tina Ogbonna, a journalist from Nigeria, noticed that because of frequent droughts, Kenya’s Maasai are increasingly unable to raise cattle on their own land. As a result, they are moving to cities to find jobs, including in neighboring Tanzania where they run the risk of losing their culture.

Youssouph Bodian, from Senegal, says he doesn’t believe that Durban will result in a binding climate deal, but he is hopeful that it will produce a roadmap that will incrementally move the issues forward over the next few years.

On 7 December, the journalists will meet with a group of young South African journalists on the margin of the U.N. climate negotiations in Durban to share their skills and knowledge of the issues at hand.