WWF Scholarship sharpens my Green Pen



Posted on 30 March 2010  | 
WWF Prince Bernhard Scholar, Absalom Shigwedha, in nature uniform and boots during a field identification and ecological monitoring safari in Tanzania's Lake Manyara National Park
© WWF / Absalom ShigwedhaEnlarge
Although my love for environmental journalism started about fourteen years ago, until recently I had to rely on local environmentalists and conservationists to help me with the families and scientific names of many plant and animal species and their ecological roles.

Yes, I have extensively reported on issues such as biodiversity preservation, cleaner production, wetlands protection and sustainable development and won several environmental journalism awards, but it wasn’t through being familiar with definitions of terms such biodiversity, ecosystem, environment, keystone species, etc. But now I have a much deeper understanding and knowledge of wildlife issues.

I know now how rivers are formed, what acid rain is, an ecotone an edge, island ecology, coastal ecology, geographical realms, how to collect plant species and how to make a herbarium, while the Conservation Geography module has shown me how to do energy analysis. All this has sharpened my environmental journalism pen, as shown in the latest articles I have written, such as the one to raise awareness on the importance of preserving wetlands such as Lake Oponona in northern Namibia as it plays a critical role for the local people.

I could not have acquired this knowledge if WWF International had not granted me a WWF Prince Bernhard Scholarship for Nature Conservation to enable me to do a four-month Special Course in Wildlife Management at the College of African Wildlife Management in Mweka, Tanzania last year. This course really taught me a lot about wildlife that will help me report on environmental and conservation issues to the core, as I believe it is mother nature that sustains our livelihood and destroying it will be at our own peril.

My commitment to environmental journalism has so far earned me four environmental journalism awards and has also encouraged me to initiate an environmental journalism training workshop for journalists from other media houses in my country, because environmental journalism still has to take roots. Journalists lack the training needed to work in this field and many editors treat environmental stories as something very different from those on politics or the economy.

Following a workshop on the reporting of climate change in April last year, a network of environmental journalists in Namibia was formed and I was elected chairperson. Under my leadership, our network has managed to get environmental and conservation experts to give talks on how best we can report on the environment, agriculture and sustainable development. Our network has also established relationships with Nedbank's Go Green Fund as well as with the Lusaka-based Panos Institute of Southern Africa. The Strengthening of Protected Areas Network (SPAN) project of the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism has also expressed willingness to financially help us in the future. With 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity, I am developing a proposal for a green project of the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism to fund a training workshop on reporting on biodiversity.

If His Royal Highness Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands (Founder President of WWF) was still alive he would see how his dream “investing in people is one of the most promising ways in which can contribute to the future success of conservation” is coming true, through people like myself and other Prince Bernhard Scholars.

Absalom Shigwedha, Environmental Journalist at "The Namibian"

WWF Prince Bernhard Scholar, Absalom Shigwedha, in nature uniform and boots during a field identification and ecological monitoring safari in Tanzania's Lake Manyara National Park
© WWF / Absalom Shigwedha Enlarge

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