Catalysts of Change? How one NGO Shapes environmental journalism in Tanzania

Written by: 
Maxiline Kansabe

Step into the vibrant world of environmental journalism, where every word holds the promise of catalyzing change. In the heart of Tanzania, amidst its rich biodiversity and ecological wonders lies a local Non-Governmental Organisation that has shaped environmental journalism in the country.

The Journalism Environmental Association of Tanzania (JET), registered in February 1991, aims to raise public awareness of environmental conservation and related challenges through various media platforms, including radio and television programs, news, and feature articles. The association promotes environmental protection through its Kiswahili environmental newsletter, Kasuku, ensuring coverage of wildlife conservation, forestry, water, mining, and climate change. These stories are published monthly and distributed to various stakeholders, including local government leaders and district councils. The organization not only focuses on publishing stories but also on building and training journalists to effectively produce stories.

"We have offered training on Biodiversity Conservation, Human-Wildlife Conflicts reporting, and Combating wildlife crimes reporting," says John Chikomo, the director, emphasizing their commitment to capacity-building. He further says that the organization has continued to enhance the capacity of journalists and editors to adequately report on biodiversity conservation and climate change issues. In 2023 alone, they published over 281 stories produced by trained journalists, marking a significant achievement. Additionally, JET provides mentoring as a crucial source of ongoing post-training support to reporters, complementing the training initiatives.

JET identifies potential editors in each newsroom for masterclass training. Each participant is linked to a mentor who coaches them in writing and producing quality stories with data, providing advice within the newsroom context on marine, forest, and biodiversity conservation issues. Despite the passion for environmental reporting, journalists face numerous challenges in the field. Penina Malundo, a beneficiary of such training, highlights the delayed response for information requests from government officials, hindering progress in their work.

Despite the challenges, Malundo encourages fellow journalists to love reporting on the environment as a means of contributing to their country’s development and sustainability. “It all starts with loving what you do. Let us build our country through our profession." She said.

To address the lack of responses to information requests by sources, JET has conducted dialogues with experts, conservation stakeholders, and journalists to link them with sources. One significant challenge faced by JET is the limited participation of women, particularly women journalists, in project implementation. According to Chikomo, this underrepresentation results in a lack of diverse perspectives and potential oversight of gender-specific issues. However, JET plans to implement proactive measures to encourage more women to apply and participate in upcoming projects.

Chikomo says that as an organization, they will continue conducting pre- and post-training evaluations for participants and trainers to assess skills gaps. They also plan to hold editors' consultative meetings to review the journalists' work and correct any shortcomings.