By Imma Mkong
Community media practitioners in Cameroon have taken up the responsibility of educating the public on conservation issues through specialised programs produced in a language more familiar to them; Pidgin English.
The over 30 journalists from media organs in the Western Highlands Region of the country took the commitment recently in Buea, Southwest Region, after a three-day capacity building workshop on conservation coverage, organised by a Cameroonian based development organization; AFRICAphonie, in partnership with the Earth Journalism Network (EJN).
There have also been several environmental reports on some Major Cameroonian Newspapers by-lined by journalists who took part in the workshop such as Fanwi Patience and Yannick Fonki of the Green Vision Newspaper. Other participants at the workshop like John Njiabi have decided to use their God given talent; music, to raise awareness on the importance of protecting our biodiversity. However, most of these specialised programs are still under production. It is worth noting that one of the expected outcomes of the workshop was the production and broadcast of thirty programs of thirty minutes each in thirty community radios.
The journalists are drawing inspiration not only from the rich presentations and experiences shared by carefully selected experts in the field of conservation during the workshop, but also from their personal observations in their communities, especially given that the workshop has instilled in them a new sense of environmental consciousness as most of them testified. According to Edith Atoneche of CRTV Buea, the workshop opened her eyes to the legal instruments backing conservation in Cameroon. Knowledge which she promised to transfer to her audience via her program ‘Planet Rise’. Boris Batata of the Christian Broadcasting Service (CBS) Radio in Buea was resolute when he said ‘… let my audience be ready because I am coming for them’ concluding a litany of environmental education program ideas he plans on producing in pidgin.
Coming from a biodiversity rich zone, Kwei Nathaniel of the Oku Community Radio pledged to give a pidgin touch and beef up the already existing conservation programs on his radio, sponsored by a local conservation organization in the area. Worthy of note here is that Mount Oku is reputed to be one of the Biodiversity Hotspots in Cameroon which plays host to important bird species like the Bannerman’s toracco which is endemic to the area. The presence of the Ejim-Kilum Mountain Forest and the Lake Oku which is habitat to threatened amphibian species makes the area even more important; hence greater need for conservation education.
One important message the journalists were excited to relay to the public was that the population has a lot to benefit from the conservation and exploitation of the biodiversity around them. This was detailly explained in a presentation by the CEO of the Environmental Governance institute, Mr. Takang John, titled ‘Biodiversity Governance in Cameroon’. The Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing was used to better explain what, why, when and how the local communities benefit from the conservation and exploitation of their natural resources.
The conservator of the Mount Cameroon National Park, Mr Simon Bessong revealed that some of the pertinent conservation issues around Fako included amongst others, Deforestation, Poor Waste Management and the effects of Climate change. Using the Lingua-Franca of the day, he urged the press men and women to develop programs that would raise adequate awareness on these issues and bring about more environmental friendly attitudes in the communities; a call which the new conservation advocates embraced warmly, and have been working on. Miss Akeh Nug of the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) emphasised on the urgent need to conserve Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity like Mangroves which according to her are endemic, diversified yet suffer threats like invasiveness, amongst others.
The journalists are more poised to carry out interesting and professional awareness raising programs on conservation issues via their different media, thanks to encouragement and inspiration gotten from award winning colleagues like Ngalame Elias Ntungwe and Tamfu Arison who drilled them on tips and techniques of climate change reporting and the Methodology in conservation coverage.
The CEO of AFRICAphonie, Mr. George Ngwane and the CEO of People Earth Wise, another conservation organization in Buea, Shey Benjamin Serkfem, both could not hide their satisfaction with the interactive nature of the workshop, and the eagerness and enthusiasm sensed in the journalist to make a change. According to Shey Benjamin, main facilitator at the workshop, it was a success and some of the questions asked during the workshop indicate that the journalists are willing and ready to take up the challenge of conservation sensitization in pidgin. George Ngwane on his part reaffirmed the projects commitment to supporting the production of all specialised programs on conservation.