“Reporting science is at the heart of attaining the Sustainable Development Goals”
Kofi Adu Domfeh is a multi-award-winning development journalist and a long-standing correspondent for WRENmedia. In this interview, he explains why he is committed to reporting on climate science.
Over the course of your career, you have won both the African Climate Change and Environmental Reporting award, and the APO Energy Media Award. What initially inspired you to write about clean energy and the issues of climate change?
In 2009, as part of WRENmedia’s Better Science Reporting workshop, I had the opportunity to embark on a ‘science safari’ to Kenya’s South Rift Valley. During this trip, my climate change awareness blossomed through the interactions I had with East African pastoralists. They were battling severe drought and the water bodies had dried up, intensifying competition for the remaining water reserves.
Meanwhile, back home in Ghana, communities were experiencing a different kind of water-related problem – severe flooding. Unexpected weather changes were a reality across Africa, but communities lacked information on what was happening and how best to adapt. Farmers were especially worried about when to plant as the seasons became increasingly unpredictable.
Another WRENmedia workshop called Farming with Trees, which I co-hosted in Kumasi, Ghana in 2010, provided a great opportunity to learn more about climate change mitigation and adaptation mechanisms. It was through these learning experiences that I developed a passion for reporting on climate change and related environmental issues, including deforestation, water and land management, waste management, and renewable and clean energy.
Ghana will host the Africa Climate Week in 2019 from 18-22 March. How do you think Ghana is adjusting to the impacts of weather uncertainty?
In Ghana, there is increased awareness on the realities of climate change, but access to segregated weather information is critical for communities to plan when and what to plant with the seasons – and this is lacking. In 2017, the government established an ambitious initiative of providing each district with a dam to support year-round irrigation, and other positive steps have been taken, for example, in forest plantation and renewable energy production.
Achieving the country’s 35 climate ambitions will however largely depend on successful implementation of the Nationally Determined Contribution to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Ghana will need US$22.6 billion in investments from domestic and international public and private sources to finance its climate mitigation and adaptation actions.
You have been quoted as saying that radio is your first love as a journalist. What training did you receive from WRENmedia that helped prepare you for your work in radio productions on African agriculture?
WRENmedia exposed me to the world of radio features. In fact, I owe much of my journalism progression to the training, professional advice and opportunities offered by WRENmedia. Through the company, I was able to contribute to the Agfax radio service and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation’s Rural Radio Resource packs, which was a great experience for me.
In addition to on-site science reporting workshops in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria, the team of producers and editors at WRENmedia provided exceptional tutorials in radio story idea generation and development, audio editing and content management. Interactions with other African journalists also offered fresh perspectives in best journalistic practices.
My skills in radio feature production, which I honed with the WRENmedia trainers, helped me to produce stories that have won local and international media awards. But, most importantly, through my reporting work with WRENmedia, I have been able to engage with more farmers, researchers and other value-chain actors, and have contributed to agricultural policy decision-making.
As a mentor under the John Templeton Foundation’s Biosciences for Farming in Africa Fellowship, what is your advice to young journalists looking to report on food security and environmental science?
Highlighting key development issues for redress – which is a key element of science reporting – is at the heart of attaining the Sustainable Development Goals. It is therefore imperative for young journalists to work closely with scientists and other interest groups to first understand what they seek to report.
Telling a story on the environment or food security must be done clearly and accurately with the goal of impacting livelihoods and/or policy. Young journalists should also be interested in researching story ideas and building trust with sources to access quality information. They should also be ready to learn new things and make science interesting to their audience.