“It is painful to see the devastating effects of climate change and the impact it has had on people. Drought and famine have struck Juba land and Kismayo areas. There is no water and people have to walk a long distance just to find some water.”
These are the observations of Kiin Fakat, a journalist based in Somalia. Born in Buale town, southern Somalia, she did not have much time to experience life in her own war-torn country. Her family fled into exile in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.
Living in Africa’s biggest refugee camp was a mixture of pleasure and hardship, she says. “I know people find it strange that I say living in a refugee camp was pleasurable, but it was enjoyable compared to Somalia because there was peace.” .
After completing a journalism course at the NorthEastern National polytechnic and working for two radio stations in Kenya, Kiin decided to go back home despite the security risks and moved to the southern city of Kismayo. Here, she worked for Radio Kismayo. Now she reports for Bilan Media, an organisation with a special focus on climate change issues.
Kiin, together with five other female journalists from Bilan, have been in the frontline of climate change reporting in Somalia. Recently, they covered the devastating effects of flooding in Baidoa city, which claimed the lives of dozens of people following a prolonged drought. The team also ventured through rushing water and mud in a boat to provide coverage of the flooding in Afgoye, near Mogadishu.
Kiin shared her experiences of covering climate change during a panel discussion titled “Turning Climate Change into Exciting Content for Media” at the Kenya Editors’ Guild Annual Editors’ Convention held from November 29 to December 3,2023, in Mombasa County.
Facilitating the session, Mary Harper from UNDP, emphasized that climate change stories are perceived as very boring due to editors’ limited understanding of the science. ”People are frightened about climate change stories hence news avoidance, ” she said, and underscored the need to make climate change stories more interesting.
According to Kiin, climate desks in newsrooms are a good idea. She sees them as fundamental in creating more awareness on environmental issues and the impact of climate change. “Climate desks are dedicated to climate change stories and recognizes environmental challenges. These are untold stories that need to be brought to light,” she said.
Kiin further noted that the Somali media are mostly focused on stories about the ongoing conflict and politics with little attention given to climate change stories. “Most newsrooms in Somalia do not have official climate desks”.
Bilan Media stands out for its special attention to climate change, covering stories from different angles. It is Somalia’s first women-staffed and women-led media unit in the country. The team is hosted by Dalsan Media, one of Somalia’s leading media houses, and is supported by UNDP. Bilan is a game changer for Somalia as it has created an enabling environment for women to produce great journalism, free from the harassment and exclusion from decision-making roles that Somalia women journalists often face.
Faizah Mohammed, a youth climate change activist added that climate change has greatly impacted vulnerable communities living in the equatorial regions of Somalia.
Somalia youth have been involved in several interventions, including raising awareness among the communities on the causes, effects, and locally led action against climate change. They have also organised various engagement forums with those affected by floods.
Faizah also spoke about their efforts to engage journalists by providing capacity-building opportunities on climate change. “We recently conducted a training session in Baidoa to help reporters understand the impact of climate change to enable them to report effectively,” she said.
Faizah also highlighted that the youth’s ongoing clean-up campaign at the beaches in an effort to keep the environment clean.
Adrian Topoti, an external affairs associate at Base Titanium — a mining company based in
Kwale — gave insight on climate justice and the role of communities in policy development and application. He stressed the importance of companies incorporating sustainability into their mining activities and operations, including deliberate efforts for biodiversity and ecological restoration.
“The main challenge we have as Base Titanium is environmental degradation as we mine over a long stretch of land,” he said. However, 81 % of the land we have affected has already been restored. We are focused on building resilient communities,” he added.
Topoti disclosed that the company has an open policy on their mining procedures and welcomes journalists to observe and interrogate the process. “We have a friendly partnership with media. We have opened up the process from land acquisition, mining and land restoration. Our aim is to expose the media to the entire cycle,” he stated.
The Bilan team is currently undergoing placement in various media houses to learn how the Kenyan media works. The programme is a partnership between Kenya Editors’ Guild and UNDP. The team will interact with seasoned editors and learn while sharing ideas.