Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), a Hivos Southern Africa Hub partner under the Green and Inclusive Energy (GIE) programme, conducted a training to raise awareness of green and inclusive energy issues among selected journalists in Zimbabwe.
The training comes against a background of little to no coverage of green and inclusive energy related issues in Zimbabwean media. According to a baseline study commissioned by Hivos Southern Africa Hub, media focus on renewable energy has been narrow, predominantly focussing on event reporting instead of in-depth energy issues critical for promoting awareness and policy advocacy.
In addition, media in Zimbabwe tends to concentrate on political issues at the expense of topics relevant to human lives and livelihoods – such as renewable energy. While the current state of media coverage on renewable energy is deplorable, it presents a huge opportunity for media to open up new avenues in renewable energy activities and re-package information for wider dissemination.
Because green energy issues tend to be discussed in largely technical and scientific terms, many journalists opt to stay away from the subject. However, if the media so desires, it can enable citizens to know, appreciate and demand increased uptake of renewable energy sources and infrastructure, thereby fulfilling its fourth estate role.
“The aim of the meeting was to acquaint the media with the renewable energy sector and capacitate them with skills and tools to authoritatively report on the sector as well as highlight its potential for socio-economic development and improving rural livelihoods in the country,” said Nyasha Nyakunu, MISA’s Projects Coordinator.
“Hopefully, that will lead to behaviour change around issues such as the wanton cutting down of trees for firewood and contribute to policy shifts that will lead to attracting investments into the renewable energy sector.”
During the meeting, some of the journalists pointed out that the challenge lay with editors who determine what is published or not. A key recommendation for MISA and Hivos Southern Africa was to lobby editors on the importance of renewable energy to the country’s development.
The training also emphasised the importance of including gender in reporting on green energy issues, noting that women and girls tend to be sidelined despite the fact that they are the worst affected by gender poverty. The meeting also highlighted the need to translate renewable energy terminology into local languages that can be easily understood by communities.
“This training will help me to bring issues around green energy to the fore. It has helped to appreciate the importance of renewable energy to development,” said Muchaneta Chamuka, a reporter with Kwayedza.
For Hivos Southern Africa, informed reporting is key to the uptake of green and inclusive energy in Zimbabwe. Through the GIE programme, Hivos Southern Africa and its partners are advocating for a robust and sustainable framework to develop a viable and inclusive renewable energy industry in Zimbabwe.
The project’s strong focus on lobby seeks to influence ‘citizen agency’ and public debate to help push the transition from centralised energy production based on fossil fuels towards more decentralised and inclusive energy systems in which citizens take central stage.