More than 45 bloggers recently gathered in Naivasha for an exciting training workshop on blogging around issues of the environment with special emphasis on climate change. The workshop, which ran between 25th and 28th April 2019, was the second of its kind, the first having been convened in Kisumu last year. It was hosted by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry as an initiative of its Green Growth and Employment Project and the Directorate of Environmental Education and Awareness in partnership with the Climate Change Directorate.
Most of the participating bloggers were members of the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE), whose popularity has risen rapidly over the past three years. BAKE is a community association of Kenya bloggers and content creators which promotes online content creation and free expression in Kenya. It was formed in 2011 after a series of discussions concerning access to information and consumption of online content in the country.
It has become an important communication force in the online space. One of its key impacts has been the improvement of the quality of content produced by Kenyan bloggers and entrenching blogging as a venture that can provide alternative employment to those able and willing to build a healthy online following. BAKE members blog on a wide range of topics. However, the cross-cutting nature of environmental issues and their low levels of coverage by the media makes bloggers an additional voice in rendering content on the environment and climate change in its many contexts.
“We often fail to effectively pass messages about the environment since we, as communicators, inadvertently use language that is unfamiliar to most people,” noted Dr Ayub Macharia, the Deputy Director in Charge of Environmental Education and Awareness at the Ministry.
Expert Officials at the Ministry who included Dr. Charles Mutai, the Director of the Green Economy Programme, Dr Pacifica Ogola, Director, Climate Change Programmes Coordination, Stephen Kingúyu, a Climate Change expert at the Climate Change Directorate (CDD), Augustine Kenduiwo the Coordinator of the Green Growth Employment Project, Anastacia Muiti and Dr Harun Warui, the Director of the Low Emission Climate Resilient Development Project (LECRDP) hosted by the CCD addressed the workshop.
The experts set the tone for proceedings, delving into policy, technical and development implications of climate change. They emphasised the need for systematic and accurate communication about climate change, particularly around Kenya’s response, which has been globally acclaimed.
The leaders of BAKE, particularly the Chairman, Kennedy Kachwanya and the General Manager, Jane Muthoni, welcomed the partnership with the Ministry, indicating that it was about time that matters environment became more common in the national conversation. They reported that many bloggers had taken an interest in blogging about the environment, particularly following the 2018 Kisumu bloggers sensitisation workshop.
They acknowledged that the environment has an impact on virtually all issues that bloggers comment about. However, they noted that many bloggers have not been able to engage with those issues mainly because a lot of information about the environment and climate change is conveyed using technical language.
On her part, the Head of Knowledge Management at the LECRDP, Sheila Mbiru, told participants that agencies such as BAKE were key partners in spreading the environment and climate change message. She shared information about the work being done at the Ministry and the CCD, particularly engaging school children on environmental issues. One such approach was the Kenya Climate Change Art and Essay Competition held in 2018. From the entries to that competition, it was evident that children can connect challenges facing many facets of their lives to the environment.
“Through the cartoons and other artwork as well as the essays which were submitted, it was evident that children are becoming increasingly aware of the linkage between harmful practices such as deforestation with hardships that many of them face such as water scarcity, poor diet and school absenteeism. They can tell that these problems are exacerbated by weather extremes related to climate change, particularly floods and droughts.”
She shared information about a web-based portal recently set up at the Ministry as a way of centralising and facilitate widespread access to climate change information. The portal, located at http://www.kcckp.go.ke/, is a one-stop repository of climate change information in Kenya.