Reporting climate change in Kiswahili Challenging for Tanzanian Reporters

Dar es Salaam, Nov. 29 – The language barrier remains one of the major challenges for journalists reporting on climate change and agriculture in Tanzania. 


Climate change and agriculture reporters revealed this during a media training held in the capital, Dar es Salaam, recently.

“Most of us report in KiSwahili and translating the complex scientific language which characterises the information on climate change and agriculture to our language is a challenge,” said Daniel Semberya, who writes for The Guardian newspaper. 


His colleagues concurred. It is it difficult to unpack scientific jargon but understanding the phenomena of climate change and compiling simple yet factual stories for public dissemination is a hurdle too.


The intense one-day training exposed the journalists to the nexus between scientific research and policy, through the GCRF-AFRICAP, a programme focused on generating evidence-based policy to transform agriculture and food systems in Africa. GCRF-AFRICAP also aims to improve the productivity of farming systems and their resilience to shocks as a result of climate change. 


The programme, funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is being implemented in four countries – Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia. 


Policy think-tank, The Food Agriculture Natural Resources and Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) in partnership with Leeds University in the United Kingdom are leading the implementation of the GCRF/AFRICAP project. The Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF) is a local partner in Tanzania supporting the project.


As demonstrated during the training attended by 16 participants across all media platforms – print, broadcast and online – journalists have a role to play in ensuring that policymakers produce policies that are based on research evidence. 


Addressing the participants, GCRF/AFRICAP programme manager, Sithembile Mwamakamba, said African governments have committed to a number of regional and international instruments aimed at the sustainable development of agriculture in the face of climate change. 


These include the Sustainable Development Goals and the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth. She noted though that while some countries have made progress in meeting the targets outlined in these treaties, some have lagged behind. 


“As journalists, you have the responsibility to hold policymakers to account to the things that they commit to,” Mwamakamba said. 


While acknowledging that working in the policy space is tough, Mwamakamba said FANRPAN was part of the coalition that put agriculture at the top of the global agenda. 


Journalists also got to understand better the science behind climate change and how this global phenomenon was impacting their country. 

Harriet Smith, a researcher from Leeds University explained that rising temperatures pose a threat to the production of maize and rice in Tanzania. 


“Extremes of drought and intense precipitation are expected to increase, although there is less confidence about how average rainfall will change and how different regions will be affected,” Smith said.  


Through research, therefore, GCRF/AFRICAP is promoting the acceleration of Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) practices and crop diversification. Smith noted that while models show a decrease in maize production between 2000 and 2050, an increase in yield of soybean is recorded under the same period. Researchers are working closely with policymakers in Tanzania to understand the policy interventions going forward. 


“Although there are uncertainties in the projections, journalists need to communicate in such a way that helps policymakers to come up with the most robust decisions despite the uncertainties,” said Steward Jennings, another researcher from Leeds University working on the project. 


AFRICAP is also supporting researchers and journalists with training. Through this workshop, the journalists were also supported with tools to improve their reporting on climate change and agriculture.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2019