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Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development Forum

Effective communication: strengthening environmental journalism / Kenya.

Posted By: Wambui Kiai
Date: Tuesday, 13 July 1999, at 6:33 p.m.

Key words: education, environmental management, resource book.

DESCRIPTION: The African Council for Communication Education (ACCE) has been involved in the promotion of the effective use of communication in development projects. In 1992, the ACCE convened a biannual conference entitled 'Challenges of Communication and Environment.' A follow-up meeting was held on Media and Sustainable Development in 1994. The local chapters of ACCE have been hard pressed to implement the resolutions passed, and one of these has been to strengthen the quality of environmental journalism. The Kenyan chapter of the ACCE has held 2 workshops on media and environment and collaborated in 1 workshop on the same topic. The project, a resource book, was the result of presentations from the workshops, and the authors incorporated comments from the participating journalists on their chapters. The approach was to educate journalists on the concepts of environmental management with a view to demystifying the fundamental principles, which often appear to be too technical for journalists.

STATUS: This 'wise practice' (wp) is in its initial stages and the publication is expected to be out by the end of July. Thus, comments on its usefulness and benefits can only be gauged in a few years time.

LONG TERM BENEFIT: This wp has the potential to be useful over a long time to students of journalism, environment, and environmental specialists. However, the changing trends would have to be incorporated, requiring updated versions of the book, to ensure that current issues are covered.

CAPACITY BUILDING AND INSTITUTIONAL STRENGTHENING: The resource book in itself will educate journalists and environmentalists, thereby enhancing capacity by building up a cadre of environmental journalists and highlighting the importance of coverage of environmental issues in the media. The ACCE, as an institution has been strengthened from organisation of the workshops, the management of the project and the fulfilment of one of its objectives which is to enhance the quality of journalism in Kenya.

SUSTAINABILITY: This wp has the potential to be highly sustainable as it is a resource book which can be used over many years by people in the media and environment. An idea being explored is that of having the book sold at a reasonable price to generate funds that would be used for a reprint if one were necessary.

TRANSFERABILITY: This wp has been implemented in Kenya. At this stage, the idea has not been adopted in any other country. However, the idea is simple meaning that it can is easily adaptable in other countries.

CONSENSUS BUILDING: This component was not ideal, as all the stakeholders should have been involved at all stages of the project. However, the media have been in consensus in most meetings about the necessity of having a resource book on the environment.

PARTICIPATORY PROCESS: As in the characteristic above, this was not ideal, but the participating journalists were involved and they gave useful feedback during the workshops. Ideally, there should have been consultation with others in the media such as editors during the process and before final printing for pre-testing. However, this was not possible due to financial and time constraints.

EFFECTIVE AND EFFICIENT COMMUNICATION PROCESS: There was dialogue and consultation with the participating journalists. The communication process could have been better however, if the financial and time constraints had not limited the whole project design and implementation.

CULTURALLY RESPECTFUL: This characteristic cannot be truly tested with this sort of design, although the authors of the chapters of the book are Kenyan and therefore cognisant of culturally appropriate terms.

DOCUMENTATION: This wp is based on documentation, this can be enhanced through proper distribution and networking to ensure a wide reach.

EVALUATION: This project has not been implemented as such. Any evaluation should be done after about 2 years among journalists, but the project had not accommodated this.

GENERAL COMMENTS: Like Gillian Cambers (A forward planning approach to coastal erosion / eastern Caribbean islands), I was amazed that this project seemed to cover most of the characteristics which indicates how general they are. I had expected that it would fall far short of them, but it looks like it contains elements of each. I think Gillian's suggestion that we should scale the characteristics is a good one, since we need some flexibility in the characteristics. The scaling needs to be formulated carefully since the projects are to be assessed by people closely associated with it ( kind of like evaluating oneself). The exercise is useful in that it forces one to really delve into intrinsics of the project and to think about impact, participation and so on, making it a valuable tool for monitoring and self- evaluation, as the weaknesses and strengths become clear. Any future implementation of a similar project to the one outlined above, for instance should involve greater participation and involvement from several stakeholders as well as a serious pre-test. There are other shortcomings that this exercise highlighted.

Assessing the needs of environmental journalists (by Louisette Gouverne and Michael Schweres - responding to Wambui Kiai)

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