By Moses Odokonyero
The Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) is supporting journalists in northern Uganda with grants to report on climate change and natural resource use.
The grants are given to journalists with outstanding story ideas in a competitive process in which the story ideas are selected by a group of experienced editors and journalism mentors.
‘‘The effects of climate change are real in northern Uganda but the media hasn’t given this important subject sufficient attention,’’ said Charles Akena who coordinates the NUMEC project: ‘‘strengthening media coverage of climate justice and land rights in northern Uganda’’.
‘‘Besides climate change we are also witnessing serious emerging issues around land rights. What is the impact of this on women? Food security? These are important questions that we want the media to probe through rigorous reporting that informs and generates public debate,’’ Mr Akena said.
For two decades until 2006, northern Uganda was engulfed in a conflict that displaced close to two million people from their homes into Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.
The end of conflict between the Ugandan government and the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in 2006 led to movement of people back to their homes and villages after twenty years of displacement.
The consequence of movement from the internally displaced persons camps to the villages led to conflicts in communities; conflicts over natural resources like trees, wet lands, grazing land, farming land, and over land rights.
Jackie Adure, a journalist with Speak FM in Gulu received a grant from NUMEC to work on a story which explored the land ownership challenges that women in rural communities face.
‘‘The grant from NUMEC was useful,’’ said Adure. ‘‘Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to work on the story. Most of the stories we work on are those near Gulu municipality. The support from NUMEC enabled me to contact interviews in Purongo in Nwoya district,’’ said Adure.
Her story was broadcast on Speak FM on the evening of January 27.
James Owich, a journalist with Mega FM worked on a story which focused on the how to make Gulu a water resilient town in the face of water shortages that has in recent years hit Gulu town.
‘‘The mentorship from NUMEC in the story production process was very useful,’’ said Mr Owich in referring to the two mentors who worked with the first lot of eight journalists to guide in the production of their stories.
The journalists were selected from a group of 30 journalists who had earlier participated in a training on climate change and natural resource use organized by NUMEC and facilitated by an expert on the subject.
‘‘The training, the mentorship and the grant is enabling us to produce more stories on natural resources,’’ added Owich.
For Jackie Adure, the initial story she worked on has inspired her to do a follow up story. ‘‘The general perception is that women don’t have land rights in Acholi. But when I spoke with the Prime Minister at Ker Kwar Acholi (the Acholi cultural institution), he said women have as much land rights as men. This is a matter I want to follow up to inform the public.’’
A total of 30 journalists will receive grant to work on stories around climate justice, land rights and natural resources before the end of the one year project now in its eight month. So far 8 journalists have benefited from the grant while another 15 have applied for the grant.
Patience Aber, one of the two journalism mentors working with the journalists said during the mentorship process so far, the focus has been on guiding the journalists to produce in-depth stories that go beyond press conferences and statements.
Peter Labeja another mentor said the grant has led to a new crop of environmental reporters who have attained new skills and have deep interests in covering issues of environment, climate change and land rights in northern Uganda.
NUMEC is a Gulu- based media development organizations that seeks to use media and communications to address post conflict recovery and development issues in northern Uganda.