The media must take ownership of raising awareness of climate change's impact on labor. This was the message at a conference organized by the Pulitzer Center on February 8, 2023, in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The conference was attended by more than 200 people, including representatives of the media and labor, communications students, teachers, university professors, as well as activists of human rights and environmental civil society.
In her keynote speech, Flora Pereira, the Pulitzer Center's director of international education and outreach, presented the results of research conducted in 2022 on how the media covers the link between climate change and work.
"The dynamic between climate change and work is barely explored, if at all told. Work is seen as a secondary issue and the media fails to analyze the impact of climate on equity issues through the lens of work."
Those who have contributed the least to climate change are suffering the most from its effects. The disadvantaged, women, and Indigenous communities are those who have the least resources to escape and survive climate disasters. At this end of the climate change spectrum are also workers—formal and informal—stuck in systems where the workforce is affected by climate. This is a story largely ignored by the media.
Speaking on the media awareness panel, Kakel Mbumb, an agro-entrepreneur and adviser on setting up agricultural cooperatives, presented the situation in Greater Katanga, a mining and agricultural region in southeastern DRC. Where the same areas exploited 10 years ago were favorable to agriculture, thanks to regular rainfall from September and October, they have dropped by 50 percent in terms of productivity in the last three years.
"We now depend on countries like Tanzania and South Africa to export rice because we only produce 5 to 6 tons of rice compared with 10 tons per year 10 years ago. This situation particularly affects us farmers because we are no longer able to meet the food needs of the population. In addition, the rural exodus pushes people not to persevere in agriculture because of the low profit and return on investment, a trend much more observed among young people. From an economic point of view, the country loses about 3 billion U.S. dollars to eat, and climate change contributes to exacerbate this situation," Mbumb explained.
Alfred Ntumba, journalist, media entrepreneur, and founder of Environews RDC, said that in the Congo, the issue of climate change is of little interest to media professionals.
Regarding the impact of climate change on work, he gave the example of topics that can be of interest to the media, such as the extreme heat in Kinshasa at night, which reduces efficiency at work due to accumulated fatigue. Similarly, the floods exacerbated by climate change and erosion that affect tourism and workers in our country. For him, it is more than necessary to talk about it in the media and to sensitize journalists on this issue. For this, the Pulitzer Center initiative is essential.
On the reason for the lack of media interest in the issue of climate change, Ntumba explained: "Proximity is a problem because most journalists think that climate change only affects other countries. It's just that when there is a natural disaster and people die that the issue soars in media interest. Even when the media reports on floods, they do not directly link it to climate change. Moreover, the issue of climate change remains technical to make it easy for journalists to master. Despite this, as journalists, we must make the effort to talk about it."
Mbumb shared an example of media ownership of climate change issues in Zambia, where the media is working with the Meteorological Institute to disseminate rainfall warnings to Zambian farmers.
There is a challenge in terms of informing the community about climate change issues and the environmental behavior to adopt in the DRC. Today, farmers do not know that the disruption of the rainy season is due to global climate change and find it difficult to implement adaptation solutions. Thus, community radio stations can play a key role in promoting debates, news reports, or specific programs on the issue of climate change.
Young people are encouraged to take an interest in, and even specialize in, the environmental sector to help communities understand and adapt to climate change and thereby preserve the work of farmers and cope with economic shocks.
The objective of this conference was to initiate public debate on the effects of climate change on labor and workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition to the panel on awareness-raising, titled "Engaging Media Professionals and Initiating Public Debate on the Climate-Labor Nexus," a panel on education was held as well as a special session for journalists to promote opportunities for climate and labor reporting funded by the Pulitzer Center.