By Charles Ogallo.
Sixteen prominent journalists from Kenya, the Seychelles and Tanzania converged in Zanzibar , Tanzania a month ago for an Environmental Journalism Course –focusing Coast Management, and declared to give marine environment issues a priority in coverage.
The Conference sponsored by Fojo (The Institute for Further Education of Journalists) of Sweden, in cooperation with WIOMSA (Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association) took place from 3rd to 14th November, 2008 at Mazsons Hotel in Stone Town, Zanzibar .
"Now that we have learnt of dangers of ignoring issues to do with Coastal and marine environment, as journalists within the Western Indian Ocean region , we have no option but to focus more of our attention to Marine environment and let our audience /public understand their responsilities in ensuring this important ecosystem is protected". one participant emphasized.
Though many argued that politics have taken over environment when it comes to media coverage across the WIO region , participants agreed that political will must be sort to ensure environmental issues are seriouly taken care of and given an upper hand in news rooms.
The Zanzibar course, the first of its own to be organized by FOJO/WIOMSA for the rigional Journalists came at a better time when the Western Indian Ocean region is facing numerous environmental problems such as the global climate change which is becoming a major threat to the entire global coastal marine ecosystem among them Mangroves forests, Coral reefs and fisheries.
The sixteen participants were taken through several environmental problems and how they could come-up with effective stories ideas and be able to produce good news contents. The Meastro concept was one of the new , most effective and easy to grasp method particiapants were recommended to apply in their news rooms for good contents.
Most important thing participants learnt from the course was how Coastal environment has become vital for the development of people living along the coast and the countiries within the WIO. That the Ocean is an important resource for empowering women and youths economically. And this could be seen during a visit at Sea weed farming at Bwaleo and Kidoti villages in Zanzibar, where groups of women have taken advantage of the vast ocean resources to earn a living .
The course was able to provide some of the basic tools in covering environment issues with a special emphasis on coastal and marine environment. Methods of reporting and planning of the work was also discussed and practiced in the course during field trips.
The course provided an opportunity for participating journalists to interact with scientists and experts on the regions environmental and coastal challenges. Participants were able to develop networks with promonent marine researchers from the WIO region.
The Scientists ; Mr.Edward Kimakwa from WWF Eastern Africa Marine Eco region was able to shade some lights on Fisheries Partnership Agreements. Mr. Christopher Muhando from the Institute of Marine Sciences dealt with a topic on Pollution in Coastal water as Dr. James Kairo from the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Institute took particiapants through a vibrant topic on Mangrove , where he ended up with a warning to countries along the coast of Indian Ocean to prepare for the worst ecological disasters unless they reclaim Mangroves forests.
Other key speakers cum trainers were Mrs Nariman Jiddawi from the Institute of Marine Science in Zanzibar.She was the most elequent speaker who took participants through challenges and opportunities for artisan fisheries. She took participants by surprise in her subject on using artisan fisheries to empower women. This was an eye openner to many journalists .
Mrs Eva-Pia Worland, a Journalist, trainer and Project leader from Fojo, was a mother and a concellor to all. She was able to introducing the participants on Maestro Method and social dimensions for artisan fisheries.
Later participants were assigned projects to be presented during the follow –up course.
The second course which is a follow-up on the Zanzibar's will be held from 27th April to 1st May 2009 at a place yet to be announced by the organizers .