Journalism project highlights solutions to land and environmental challenges
By Nieves Zuniga
One year ago, thanks to a Solutions Journalism Network LEDE Fellowship and in collaboration with the Land Portal, I started a project to find stories of responses to the damage caused to the land and environment. During this time, I affirmed that communities and people around the world are working to protect and heal the environment, even if those stories hardly make it to the mainstream media.
Climate change is a concerning reality and the media has done a great job in putting it on the agenda, generating global awareness and the need to take urgent action. This is an important contribution considering that news media are the most widely used source of information about climate change, according to the Oxford Climate Journalism Network. For that same reason, it is important to notice that most coverage focuses on the problems, telling us only part of the story. But, environmental damage can be prevented, and it is manageable.
Following the four pillars of solutions journalism – focus on the response, offer insights, look for evidence, and report on limitations – I worked with local journalists around the world to commission and collect six solution stories. Published first in local media, they tell the different ways in which individuals and communities from Africa, Asia, and Latin America are responding to climate change. They also show an aspect often forgotten by mainstream media when informing about climate change: how it affects local communities and, in particular, how it affects their land rights.
From the Philippines, Angeliza Arceño and Mavic Conde, in Rice Farmers Cushion Losses with Resilient Farmer-bred Variety, published by Bulatlat, show how the PBB 401 organic rice variety, developed by the farmer Pepito Babasa in the Camarines Sur, is resilient to floods and leaving farmers empty-handed. The story also shows that the development of these seeds requires organic and trial farming, which is not possible without access to land. Furthermore, “the more locally adapted seeds are, the more climate resilient they become. Monocrop farming, promoted by industrialized food systems, is a major contributor to biodiversity loss,” says Conde.
If in the Philippines organic seeds and agroecology can be a solution to dealing with climate change, in Nigeria hydroponics can be a solution to soil and forest degradation. In his story, Soilless Farming to the Rescue. How to Boost Agriculture Without Hurting Forests, published by the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, Abdullah Tijani tells how Adebowale Onafowora, a Nigerian agricultural entrepreneur, embraced hydroponics as an alternative to traditional farming. The story sparked the interest of several readers in Nigeria wanting to know more about it. “Problems affecting our environment and land are explicit enough for all to see, but can we say the same for the efforts providing solutions to these problems? They are underreported. To reclaim the health of the environment, the role of journalism in showcasing successful (and failed) efforts cannot be over-emphasized,” says Tijani.
Soil degradation is also addressed in Movable Kraals to Restore Degraded Land, Boost Crop Production, told by Enacy Mapakame from Zimbabwe, and published in The Herald. Mapakame tells how the farmers in Chinyika, Gutu District, also heavily affected by droughts, came up with a way to improve soil fertility by herding together their cattle. The collective action to address a problem that affects them all stands out in this story. Mapakame remembers her reporting as “interactive, engaging with communities to see the environmental problems they face while at the same time focusing on the positives. The best part of it is that the solutions come from the communities themselves, using the available resources, with the help of development partners in their areas.” Her experience reporting on this story reminds us of the empowering effect that to be seen can have. “The interest I developed about moving kraals inspired those involved in the practice to do more and also encourage their surrounding communities to adopt the practice,” says Mapakame.
The involvement of local communities is also a key aspect for effective reforestation. That was one of the many lessons I learned reporting my own story, From Japan to Brazil: Reforesting the Amazon with the Miyawaki Method, published by Mongabay. The experience of Miyawaki reforestation in Belém, Brazil, not only brings nature back to its original state but, by being a method suitable for rural and urban areas alike, it reminds us that the Amazon is not only about the trees but about the millions of people living in it too. The awareness and commitment of the local population to protect the environment is important.
Deforestation is globally a big concern and the responses to it go beyond planting trees. From Zimbabwe, Nhau Mangirazi tells the story of how beekeeping revives forest in the Hurungwe district, published by The Standard. Apiculture not only preserves the forest from tobacco farming – the main cause of deforestation in the area – and serves as a bio-fence acting as a buffer zone between humans and wild animals, it also brings an extra source of income to the locals, many of the beneficiaries women.
The sixth story, currently in the making by Jhostyn Enrique Díaz Tenorio and forthcoming shortly in El Colectivo 506, will cover the experience of the interurban biological corridors established in San José, Costa Rica. These corridors recovered public spaces largely affected by pollution and garbage and were the result of the cooperation between local authorities and civil society.
Mangirazi highlighted the importance of newsrooms prioritising and promoting people-centred stories. “Readers and listeners need a variety of stories about social issues that impact them daily and how best these challenges can be addressed.”
“My editors want me to do more community-based stories giving solutions to some challenges,” he adds. This testimony points to the power of journalism to look at problems in a constructive way. When it comes to environmental reporting, the implications go beyond protecting nature because solutions to repair the environment often restore access and land rights to the most vulnerable communities.
Angeliza Arceño is an educator, cultural worker and solutions reporter fellow from the Philippines.
Mavic Conde is a 2022 LEDE Fellow at Solutions Journalism Network, with a project about seed saving, a sustainable food production practice that also serves as a climate action. She’s an environmental journalist from the Philippines.
Abdullah Tijani is a journalist in Nigeria and a Contributor at Young Voices. He was a fellow at African Liberty and the Voices for Change Reporting Fellowship respectively.
Enacy Mapakame is an award-winning business journalist with experience covering financial news and economics. Her articles have appeared in Zimbabwe's top-tier publications such as The Sunday Mail, The Herald and Business Weekly, where she has gained a reputation for her insightful analysis and clear writing style. She has a keen interest in climate and environment reporting.
Nieves Zúñiga is 2022 LEDE Fellow at Solutions Journalism Network. She is a freelance journalist and a research consultant, including at the Land Portal Foundation. She studied journalism at the University of Navarra and political science at the University of Essex, and since then she has lived in Ivory Coast, Madrid, the UK and Berlin. She writes on environmental issues, land governance and anticorruption, among other topics.
Nhau Mangirazi is an award-winning investigative journalist on mining, environment, HIV and AIDS, health, arts, sports and culture. He is motivated to highlight social justice and human rights for marginalized communities, as well as in developing women and girls' aspirations for equal opportunities.
Jhostyn Enrique Díaz Tenorio is a journalism student at the University of Costa Rica.
It’s Saturday morning. Children, teens, homemakers, senior citizens and other residents have gathered, all ready to work for a common goal: to reclaim this green space for their community. The diverse group hatches their plans under an awning that protects them from the sun, the kind that warms your shoulders and the spirit. Their mission is clear. This land—which at first glance seems completely abandoned—deserves a second chance, and they are here to provide it. They put on gloves because of the risks involved, and get cracking.
The PBB 401 rice variety stands out because it has repeatedly shown its resilience to floods, including those induced by extreme weather events.
- Reforestation using the Miyawaki method seeks to restore nature to its original state with results that can be seen in around six years.
- Miyawaki works around three concepts: trees should be native, several species should be randomly planted, and the materials for the seedlings and the soil should be organic.
- The method is suitable for urban areas, which gives it a significant capacity to connect human beings with nature, with benefits for the health and well-being of the population.
- Different from other reforestation methods that may seek a financial return, like agroforestry, the motivation of the Miyawaki method is purely ecological.
In his story, Soilless Farming to the Rescue. How to Boost Agriculture Without Hurting Forests, published by the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, Abdullah Tijani tells how Adebowale Onafowora, a Nigerian agricultural entrepreneur, embraced hydroponics as an alternative to traditional farming.
The article tells how the farmers in Chinyika, Gutu District, heavily affected by droughts, came up with a way to improve soil fertility by herding together their cattle. The collective action to address a problem that affects them all stands out in this story.
From Zimbabwe, Nhau Mangirazi tells the story of how beekeeping revives forest in the Hurungwe district, published by The Standard. Apiculture not only preserves the forest from tobacco farming – the main cause of deforestation in the area – and serves as a bio-fence acting as a buffer zone between humans and wild animals, it also brings an extra source of income to the locals, many of the beneficiaries women.
The aim of this project is to facilitate training, dialogue, story production and dissemination on solutions repairing environmental damage and improving land governance. As part of this project, the Land Portal and LEDE Fellow Nieves Zúñiga will sponsor six solution stories to be produced and published in 2022.