ICPAC Journalists’ Training Focuses on Enhancing Readiness for Effective Crisis Reporting

The IGAD Climate Predictions and Applications Center (ICPAC), in collaboration with the Wanahabari Center, recently conducted a comprehensive week-long Crisis Reporting training for journalists within the IGAD region at Naivasha.

The primary aim of this training initiative was to enhance the preparedness and efficacy of journalists in reporting crises, with a particular focus on the looming threat of a locust invasion, as evidenced by the recent transboundary pest incursion in Eastern Africa. The overarching goal was to equip journalists with the requisite skills for effective coverage, ensuring timely and impactful dissemination of information to stakeholders and policymakers.

This training facilitated capacity building among participating journalists, enabling them to contribute meaningfully to communicating transboundary pest outbreaks. ICPAC data reveals that despite the anticipation and prediction of the last locust invasion as early as 2018, there was unpreparedness and lack of awareness among the public and decision-makers.

This is attributed to the costs of up to $800 million responding to the actual event while early warning and preparation would have reduced the costs to $ 2 million. The locust invasion which occurred two years later from the warning period underscored the importance of proactive crisis reporting.

ICPAC underscores that bridging the gap between scientists and journalists is imperative for expeditious information sharing. However, refers to the delay in disseminating updates during the last locust invasion was a sign of communication inefficiency either from the journalists’ side or from a lack of understanding of the scientific jargon or research documents.

Emebet Jigssa Communications and Reporting Officer for ICPAC emphasizes that it’s important for media to establish robust engagement with the scientists. She points out that this is a significant step toward fostering comprehension and accurate interpretation of scientific research findings which will boost the impact of the information to audiences and stakeholders.

The Transboundary Pest Platform within ICPAC assumes significance as it fosters collaboration among countries, aiming to devise common, innovative, and vetted solutions for both current and future pest invasions.

According to Emebet, journalists within the IGAD region play a pivotal role in crisis management, and if appropriately cultivated and leveraged, can significantly enhance awareness about impending crises, thereby improving response and salvaging of the disasters.

Mr. Kenneth Mwangi, a Project Manager in the Transboundary Pest Platform at ICPAC, acknowledges the cited gaps in communication during the last locust invasion adding that delays in data dissemination to decision-makers hindered possibilities of effective crisis management.

As a scientist, Mr. Mwangi emphasizes that early warning, preparedness, and continuous information flow are critical components in crisis management and mitigation.

Mr. Kenneth Mwangi, a Project Manager in the Transboundary Pest Platform at ICPAC

He adds that to address pest invasions like locusts, quelea birds, or armyworms, which are very likely it’s important to equip and prepare journalists within the region through capacity building. Revealing that if not for control measures, there was to be a probable pest invasion from the quelea birds that had multiplied in Tanzania and were migrating towards Narok side where wheat was almost ripe.

“Scientists need to start doing more attribution science, that is research that attributes certain events to aspects like climate change, for example, climate extremes to get into plans for the future. This should be followed by developing tools that can be operationalized and help in building future preparations and scenarios,” said Mr. Kenneth.

The collaborative efforts of journalists and scientists are deemed essential for reaching the most affected demographic, who are the primary stakeholders; farmers. Acting as mediators, journalists are pivotal in issuing early warnings and disseminating solutions highlighted by experts in the field.

Shitemi Khamadi, a journalist’s trainer from Wanahabari Center, underscores the significance of informing primary stakeholders, the farmers, through efficient means, such as local community radio, translation of messages into vernacular languages, use of social media, national television, and online platforms

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