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EU launches Environment and Climate Change training for journalists

The European Union Delegation in Sierra Leone has on Monday February 22, 2021 launched a five-day training programme on environmental and climate change reporting for selected journalists.

The training at the New Brookfields Hotel Conference Hall in Freetown brought together fifteen (15) selected journalists from various media institutions across the country and will be dispensed by The Economic Forum Sierra Leone.

This specialized hands-on training is geared towards building the capacity of media practitioners in understanding the broader concepts of environment and climate change issues and will also help to raise awareness and stimulate journalists’ interest on the need for enhanced environmental protection and biodiversity conservation in Sierra Leone. Part of the training programme includes a two-day field visit at the Western Area Peninsular National Park among others, to give journalists first-hand experience on contemporary environmental issues and its impact on local communities in Sierra Leone. Among the topics journalists will receive professional training on include: principles of environmental communication, draft Climate Change Policy of Sierra Leone, the Conference of Parties (COP 26) and Paris Agreement, Sierra Leone National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) among others.

In 2020, Sierra Leone ranked below the regional average on the Environmental Performance Index (177/180). The country’s biodiversity, forests and fish stocks have seen significant deterioration over the past decade, and the impact on environmentally sensitive sectors such as agriculture and fisheries threatens the basis of 60% of the economy and the livelihood of 70% of people, thereby increasing conflict risks. Furthermore, it appears that the habitat destruction correlates with zoonotic diseases such as the 2014/15 Ebola Virus disease, which renders the fragmentation of Sierra Leone’s forests a global public health issue.

Sierra Leone has made significant progress in tackling biodiversity conservation and environmental protection but remains particularly vulnerable to the ever-increasing frequency and impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels, severe floods, erratic and torrential rainfall, biodiversity loss and associated environmental risks. Additionally, increased rural-urban migration, huge dependence on rainforest for agricultural purposes, inadequate disposal of waste among several other factors have exacerbated the problem and continues to negatively impact on the country’s sustainable development trajectory.

The EU’s development partnership with Sierra Leone increasingly focuses on programmes that contribute to sustainable economic diversification, among others through actions that support access to sustainable and clean energy, resilient food systems and the protection of ecosystems and biodiversity. To support these initiatives, the EU has earmarked a EUR 2.9 million project this year to kick-start the sustainable management of Outamba-Kilimi and Kuru Hills forest landscape.

As part of its EU climate diplomacy, the EU also wishes to step up its engagement with the Government of Sierra Leone, with influencers and with the media as important multipliers to raise awareness on the need to protect the environment. The EU endeavors to support the essential role that media channels play in providing the public with accurate and factual information on domestic environmental issues, including on government policy and response as regards climate change and environmental degradation.

President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla said: “As journalists we have the unique ability to help fast-track environment and climate change action through advocacy, education and raising awareness. But to be able to do all of that, we have to have the knowledge on this complex subject matter, involving complex facts, terminology and policy language. SLAJ therefore views this training as an effort towards helping journalists develop interest and acquire the knowledge to be able to report, comment, analyze, and influence policy decisions on the environment and climate change issues. And we thank the EU for that”.

Head of European Union Delegation in Sierra Leone, Ambassador Tom Vens stated: "Sierra Leone has been identified as the third most vulnerable country to face the severe consequences of climate change. They are a result of manmade and also natural causes. EU recognizes the critical role of the media in disseminating information for the wider public to take appropriate measures, particularly on climate change and environmental issues. The media dos not only have a responsibility to report disasters but also to improve transparency and accountability around environmental issues, and help ensure that policies are implemented to guaranty the protection of our people their livelihoods and the safety of our environment.”

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