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Science journalism workshop

Recognizing the importance of accurate and engaging science reporting, CIMMYT co-organized a science journalism workshop in Kenya during 12-14 January in Nairobi, Kenya. Both science and mainstream journalists in print, TV, and radio from Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania attended the event, which was held with support from the African Agricultural Technology Foundation and ScienceAfrica, a Kenyan science communications firm.

The workshop focused on science, agricultural biotechnology, and climate change reporting, as well as the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project and the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) Initiative. It included lectures, interactive discussions, and visits to two local agricultural science facilities: Biosciences East and Central Africa Hub (BeCA), and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute’s Biotechnology Center.

To address the common misconception among journalists and the public that all biotechnology is genetic modification, CIMMYT molecular biologist Kassa Semagn presented on molecular breeding for drought tolerance in Africa, with a focus on the use of genetic markers. Anne Wangalachi explained the DTMA objectives, key achievements, and its relevance for East Africa. To ensure this information was transmitted to as many people as possible, especially rural farmers in Kenya and Tanzania, Wangalachi repeated the information in two radio interviews broadcast in Swahili. In addition to gaining scientific knowledge, journalists received tips on how to interest others in the media and the public in science stories, while scientists who attended the event learned how to package their research findings in an accessible and appealing manner.

“For practicing journalists, the workshop was useful not only for knowledge gathering, but also for upgrading our reporting skills for the constantly changing world of science and communications,” said attendee Zephania Ubwani, senior science writer at the Citizen Daily, a paper in Tanzania. “We hope this program will continue.”

As one practical outcome, following the workshop several regional media outlets published science-related stories based on information gathered from the course.