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Improving reporting on El-nino as a climate change phenomenon

By Bob Aston

The Low Emission and Climate Resilient Development (LECRD) Project being implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities (MENRRDA), held a training workshop for journalists on reporting on El-Nino and its related disasters as a climate change phenomenon. The two-day workshop was held on November 14-15, 2015 at Lake Naivasha County Club in Nakuru County.

A total of 40 journalists drawn from disaster prone areas and hot spots as well as environmental journalists from across national media houses, learned different strategies on reporting on El-Nino, related preparedness and risk reduction. They gained skills on creating awareness on how El-Nino related disasters may affect communities and coverage of such stories.
Speaking during the opening of the workshop, Knowledge Management and Capacity Building Officer for the LECRD Project Ms. Sheila Mbiru noted that they aim to support Kenya’s efforts to pursue long-term, transformative development as well as accelerate sustainable climate resilient economic growth, while slowing the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.

“We are currently developing a disaster information portal that will facilitate disaster data and information sharing. The portal will enable stakeholders and members of the public to get accurate information related to climate change disaster,” said Ms. Mbiru.

She said that the outcomes of the LECRD Project include enhanced national climate change coordination process, enhanced access to clean and efficient energy systems, creation of a sustainable greenhouse gas (GHG) emission system, enhanced national and County Government decision making on climate change intervention, contributing towards minimizing the impacts of extreme climate change and capacity building on climate knowledge management.

During the workshop, journalists noted that the media are a powerful instrument for disaster communication. By having the media appreciate El-nino and its associated disasters, the media can play a huge role in educating the public as well as helping in preventing disasters by playing an active role in disseminating information about mitigation, preparedness, relief, and recovery.

Mr. James Muhindi from the Kenya Meteorological Department noted that enhancing how journalists report on El-nino would not only improve their objectivity but also their knowledge on climate change and the El-Nino phenomenon itself.

He said that most journalists have sometimes erred on how they report on El-nino, since some of the information disseminated through the media is not factual. He noted that effective reporting on the effects of El-nino and La-nina phenomena and the early warning systems in Kenya could save many lives during such disasters.

Mr. Muhindi said that increase in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level is a clear indication that the media needs to give climate change coverage more prominence.
“Journalists are critical stakeholders in the mobilization of disaster response. It is important to avoid the use of weather and climate only in post-mortem analyses of disasters but instead focus more on mitigation and preparedness,” said Mr. Muhindi.

He added that climate change signals are quite apparent in Kenya through rise in temperature, decreasing rainfall trends, reduced mountain glaciers, frequent flooding, and prolonged droughts.
Among the areas covered during the training included: Media as agents of change in the development process; disaster management cycle; climate change and climate related phenomena with a focus on El-Nino.

Other areas included coordination of disaster risk management in Kenya; effective disaster reporting on El Nino; how journalists can use new media to report on disasters; ethics and sensitivity in disaster reporting; and safety and security of journalists in disaster reporting.
The training not only reinforced capacity building of the climate knowledge management system in Kenya but also highlighted the important role played by journalists in reporting on El-nino as a climate change phenomenon including the related disasters.
The LECRD is implemented by the MENRRDA with funding support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through UNDP.