Equipping media with scientific knowledge around various climate change issues facilitates more science-based reporting which may translate to better public understanding and informed decisions in adapting to and mitigating climate change.
Together with some CGIAR Centers, the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI) and Lao Journalists’ Association, the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) Southeast Asia program conducted an inter-Center media seminar-workshop on 29-30 April 2015 in Vientiane, Lao PDR. This event also included the launching of the Climate Smart Village (CSV) at Ekxang village in Phonhong District, Vientiane Province.
The seminar-workshop involved 59 participants; 25 journalists, 11 CGIAR Center representatives, 20 government and civil society partners and 3 CCAFS Southeast Asia (CCAFS SEA) staff. The journalists came from print, broadcast and web-based media outlets in Lao PDR.
The two-day event aimed at enabling participants to: (1) articulate major issues and concerns on climate change, agriculture and food security in Lao PDR; (2) exhibit improved capacities in science-based reporting and communicating issues on climate change, agriculture and food security to mobilize decision-makers, key stakeholders and farming communities: (3) regularly publish, broadcast and upload stories on climate change, agriculture and food security in the Lao media; and (4) initiate a vibrant public – private climate change communication and social mobilization network.
Conducted mainly in Lao, the first day of the event served as a platform where CGIAR Centers and their partners engaged the media by sharing their research work on climate change, agriculture and food security in Lao PDR. Another session also discussed concepts and experiences of partners and selected participants in communicating innovations on climate change and agriculture.
After these sessions, group discussions were done which primarily served as a venue for dialogue and interaction among journalists, participants and resource persons. In these group discussions, journalists were asked possible story ideas from the presentations.
In the opening session, Vanthong Phengvichith, Deputy Director General of NAFRI, announced that Lao PDR is pursuing a program titled “Improving the Resilience of the Agriculture Sector to Climate Change Impacts” (IRAS) with four components: (1) knowledge management; (2) capacity building; (3) community-based agricultural adaptation practice; and (4) adaptation learning and monitoring.
On the other hand, Leo Sebastian, CCAFS Regional Program Leader for Southeast Asia, pointed out that CCAFS’s strategic communication objective is “getting climate change into agriculture policies and agriculture into climate change policies.” For this to happen, CCAFS needs strong engagement and communication support especially from the media.
On the morning of the second day, a field tour was held at Ekxang village, which coincided with its launching as a Climate Smart Village (CSV). Participants toured a ground water facility for agriculture, organic vegetable plantation project, and dragon fruit and citrus plantations. This was followed by the CSV launching ceremony with district and provincial agriculture officials, farmers and the community.
In the launching, Paul Pavelic of the Integrated Water Management Institute (IWMI) enumerated some research activities that will be implemented in Ekxang village such as reducing impacts of pest and diseases, lowering the use of hazardous chemicals, improving soil fertility, offering and testing of new crop varieties, reducing risk of crop and financial losses, and improved access to information including short term and seasonal climate forecasts to reduce production losses.
After the field tour, a session on the principles and techniques of environmental reporting was conducted including the conclusion of the story development group discussion where participants, firmed up with what they saw in the tour, continued sharing their possible stories. These were expected to be finalized and released when participants went back to their work base.
In the last session, CGIAR representatives, NGO partners and selected journalists shared their impressions and insights on the event, including a way forward in reporting climate change in Lao PDR. Somsanouk Mixay, President of the Lao Journalists Association, thanked CCAFS-SEA and its partners in conducting the activity and said that Ekxang is set to become a CSV and that the project should expand this beyond more than just two villages in Lao PDR.
Likewise, the journalists cited that the CSV is a good platform for reducing poverty in the country and advanced the observation that climate change adaptation supports agriculture by increasing productivity of farmers. They vowed to write about the project and the workshop and inform the people through radio. On the whole, the activity was highly appreciated by participants.
The event was part of the initial implementation of CCAFS’s collective engagement and communication strategy and plan in the region which was mapped out with CGIAR Centers and selected partners in May last year. The CCAFS SEA’s engagement and communication strategy and plan serves as a collective platform to build synergistic relationships among CGIAR Centers, next users and key stakeholders, including the media. Likewise, it serves as a unified operational framework to ensure that Centers’ climate change R4D and communication initiatives are optimally synchronized for greater collective impact in the region.