This March, Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN) hosted Vanuatu’s first ever climate change journalism training workshop in partnership with the Media Asosiesen blong Vanuatu (MAV) and the Vanuatu Ministry of Climate Change.
Fourteen ni-Vanuatu journalists representing print and radio, along with three journalism students and several NGO communicators, participated in the three-day Pacific GeoJournalism Training on Climate Change, which focused on strengthening climate change journalism to build information access and community resilience to climate change.
Among the participants, only six said they had previously produced any stories on climate change, even though Vanuatu is considered one of the world’s most vulnerable countries.
Participants were trained on topics, including the science of climate change, the importance of quality climate change reporting within the Pacific, and how to link climate change issues to the day-to-day experiences of local communities.
The people of Vanuatu, a south Pacific archipelago home to at least 260,000 people, regularly see the impact of climate change on their lives. This impact is fueling locally-led adaptation efforts, which the journalists were able to witness first hand. In addition to two days of presentations and practice sessions, the group took a field trip to Tagabe Agriculture station to learn about efforts to develop climate-resilient crops, including an aquaculture unit where journalists were given a tour of the sustainable tilapia and prawn projects. Unlike coastal fisheries which have suffered due to more frequent and intense cyclones, these aquaculture efforts can be sustained even in the face of climate-related challenges.
“The workshop has helped me create new contacts with government and non-government organizations,” said Florence Vanua of the Vanuatu Independent. Charley Sikal of Capital FM 107 added that due to participating in the workshop, his goal is now to “go to the islands and report more on the actual climate change happenings.”
During workshop sessions, journalists grappled with some of the issues they’ll come across when covering climate change resilience – for instance, how to adapt to sea level rise. Some organizations have reportedly offered to come in and build seawalls, but these are likely to be temporary solutions and they can have dramatic impacts on the coastline, increasing erosion in places. Is it possible to use more dynamic solutions, such as the strategic planting of certain types of vegetation? Another issue that was raised is, if local villagers eventually have to move back from the coasts, where will they move to? There are already lots of land disputes, participants noted, and relocation will undoubtedly create more, and add to the migration to the cities.
The training workshop was part of Internews’ ongoing Pacific GeoJournalism project supported by USAID’s Pacific-American Climate Fund. To date, the project has implemented workshops in Samoa, Fiji and Vanuatu, developed a GeoJournalism site for the Pacific, and provided story grant opportunities for climate-focused reporting throughout the region.