In addition to building the capacity of journalists and developing a series of environmentally-focused local content, the purpose of EJN’s mentorship program is to increase the knowledge of journalists in Nigeria on the challenges of covering climate change. This mentoring program will provide a comprehensive overview into the science behind climate change-related issues, link budding reporters to scientists and other experts in the field, and produce journalists with a long-term commitment to climate change reporting.
The journalists selected for the mentoring program are:
Innocent Onoh: A radio journalist, Onoh is the head of the Environment & Science Desk at the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) in Lagos.
Augustina Ogbonna-Armstrong: Ogbonna-Armstrong is a freelance multimedia journalist who focuses on environmental, sustainable development and community development reporting.
Kayode Aboyeji: A print journalist, Aboyeji is the head of the Environment Desk at the Daily Newswatch Newspaper in Lagos. He is very passionate about climate change, environmental and sustainable development reporting
After several weeks of communicating with the mentees over the Internet, I had the first face-to-face meeting with them on June 18, 2015 in Lagos.
I introduced the goals of the project and outlined both what is expected of them and how they can benefit from participation. We discussed and agreed on other avenues of communications and outreach, including a Twitter hashtag, Facebook page and a WhatsApp discussion group.
The mentees were elated over being selected for the program. While commending EJN for backing the initiative, they expressed the desire to learn and engage with each other over the course of the 10-month project.
We discussed climate change-related story ideas and several mentees took the opportunity to pitch stories, which I evaluated and gave suggestions for coverage. At this point, all three mentees have begun to submit original reports and ten stories have been published on EnviroNews Nigeria and Teenaijanews Blpgspot, while radio reports broadcasted on Radio One Lagos and Radio Nigeria Network were uploaded to AudioBoom.
The materials produced thus far have focused on the human dimensions of climate change, telling the stories of ordinary, vulnerable people that are hugely affected by shifting weather patterns. In some cases, stories have also highlighted the adaptation strategies of these communities.
Stories like: “Ocean surge: We’ve no place to go, laments Okun-Alfa residents” and “Too much rain threatening our yield, vegetable farmers lament” (written by Kayode Aboyeji) both capture the scale and dimensions of these climate change impacts.
The mentees are also being encouraged to apply for grants and opportunities to fund further reporting on climate issues. All three applied for a Climate Change Media Partnership program to attend COP21 in Paris this year. Innocent Onoh got through to the semi-final stage.
They also applied for Oak Foundation-funded story grants on climate vulnerabilities. Two applications were submitted – an individual effort by Kayode Aboyeji and a joint entry by Innocent Onoh and Augustina Armstrong-Ogbonna. The latter application was successful and Onoh and Armstrong are embarking on a trip to several states in the northern part of the country to investigate how climate change has impacted the region, and issues related to the Green Wall Project, among others.
Onoh remarked on the program: “I never knew some things I took for granted matter a lot. This mentorship (program) is really worth it..”
Michael Simire is the editor of EnviroNews Nigeria and member of EJN Council of Partners.