First African Science Journalism Conference held in Kenya
The 190 delegates at the first African science journalism conference signed a binding commitment to improve science writing and communication on the continent. Representatives of the Kenyan government, international agencies, civil society, as well as communicators and researchers joined African journalists in realizing that building closer collaboration and partnerships with research institutes and academies of sciences will go a long way towards closing the existing gaps in science communication in Africa.
“The quality of presentations and the resultant discussions demonstrated how scientists and journalists were eager to engage and to fill the communication gaps
President of the association of science communicators and journalists MESHA (Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture), one of the key conference organizers.
Organizers were thrilled with the participation: most of the 190 participants were from Kenya, but 29 came from other African countries such as West Africa (3), Southern Africa (7), East Africa including Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia (10), and 27 were from other parts of the world, including Nepal, France, and The Netherlands.
Under the theme “Promoting science journalism for socio-economic development,” the conference was held August 20-23, in Nakuru, Kenya. Sessions touched on a wide variety of subjects, notably science journalism in the age of micro-blogging, agriculture and food security, health services and medical research, biotechnology and food security, HIV/Aids reporting, climate change, storytelling, research on malaria, reproductive health and water.
Henry Neondo, of the African Science News Service, commented that “Panel discussions pitting scientists and journalists, journalists and policy makers and editors versus journalists were enlightening. The programme was well tailored; one could choose which sessions to attend depending on the areas of interest. The only glaring weakness was perhaps the lack of participation by media owners, including science media publishers. Traditional publishers ― like the Nation Media Group, The Standard Group, the Royal Media and others in the East African region ― should be engaged to begin deliberate efforts in their media houses to promote science journalism as a developmental tool for their societies.”
As for Christine Ojiambo, Nairobi Radio Citizen producer and presenter, “The interaction with scientists was a welcome relief enabling us to directly question both their research and access to crucial information on research and its likely impact on farmers and food security.” She also commented that the conference was an “opportunity for journalists covering the same issues in Africa to network and exchange ideas. In my view, such conferences should be held often and in different parts of the world, to give journalists exposure to different issues facing the agricultural sector across the continent.”
Organizers were encouraged to see stronger linkages being established between knowledge sources and science journalists and to recognize the extent to which science reporting is happening in Africa.
MESHA (Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture) collaborated with Internews in Kenya to plan, fundraise and host this African first.
|AFSJ President Mr. Diran Onifade in a discussion with Prof. Margaret Kamar and Mr Otula Owuor, Science Africa Director during the opening ceremony of the Africa Science Journalist Conference (photo: MESHA)
MESHA bidding to host 2015 World Science Journalists Conference
One of the most constructive and encouraging outcomes of this conference is the fact that participants are strongly supportive of MESHA’s bid to host the ninth World Conference of Science Journalists (WSJC) in 2015. This would be the first time this international event would be held in sub-Saharan Africa. The biennial WSJC is the most significant international meeting of science journalists and communication professionals.
“The fact that we pulled off a great conference on a shoe-string budget has inspired us to go for the big challenge – hosting the World Conference of Science Journalists for the first time in sub-Saharan Africa,” explained MESHA’s Violet Otindo. “What also encouraged us was the fact that the government, through the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology who attended the conference, gave us their support recognizing that MESHA’s committed team of journalists can plan together and organize a successful conference of this size. This really boosted our morale!”
Delighted at the idea of a sub-Saharan country hosting the conference in 2015, many organizations in attendance promised to contribute to the planning and organizing of the international event. Some of the supportive groups are the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Internews Europe, the Panos Institute of Southern Africa and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA).
Follow-up conference next year
In the meantime, discussions have started with the Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa (FARA) to hold a science journalism conference next July, in Accra, Ghana, during the Africa Agriculture Science Week. The theme of next year’s conference would be Africa Feeding Africa. MESHA will be consulting widely with other science journalists associations in Africa and the African Federation of Science Journalists before going ahead with this plan.
Commenting is close
|AFSJ President Mr. Diran Onifade giving his opening remarks duringthe opening opening ceremony of the Africa Science Journalist Conference
||MESHA Secretary Mr. Aghan Daniel is joined by AFSJ President Mr. Diran Onifade and a Star Reporter Samuel Otieno during theopening ceremony of the Africa Science Journalist Conference
|Former BBC Reporter Mr. Joseph Warungu and panelist during the opening ceremony of the Africa Science Journalist Conference
||MESHA Chairperson Violet Otindo following proceedings during opening ceremony of the Africa Science Journalist Conference
|Participants having a good times during the
opening ceremony of the Africa Science