Save lives and nature in Africa by better communication

IUCN PACO teams up with CEC for a regional workshop. Innovations for sustainable land and water management in Africa remain unknown due to poor communication. That’s sad. These new techniques do not only save they nature, they also save lives. Time for IUCN PACO and partners to increase the communication skills of the people involved by organizing a week long workshop in Niamy, Niger.

Ali Hassan is a hard working farmer, a very serious and intelligent man, forty six years of age. He is from Wad Musa village in Sudan. His land suffers from erosion. Traditional farming practices are not suitable anymore. So the project which introduced improved seeds and new methods, came at the right time. Ali: “In the beginning it was very difficult to accept these new techniques. But now I changed my mind because my family and my land benefited so much.”

Due to the pressure of population growth combined with destructive land use, desertification in Africa leads to erosion, poverty, floods and even death. The Great Green Wall Initiative, supported by the World Bank, stimulates sustainable land and water use by the vulnerable communities and governments in the sub-Saharan countries spanning the continent: Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and Togo. 

Sustainable land and water management does not only reduce erosion and prevent draught and floods, it also improves livelihoods of the communities. How? Often, agricultural produce increases, is more stable and less vulnerable to pests. Also, new ways of organizing, new products and new methods prove to increase sustainable income for the communities involved. 

As a result of these innovations supported by the World Bank, OSS, CILSS and IUCN, numerous valuable projects with amazing results saw the light of day. Unfortunately, these results remain unknown. One of the reasons for this, is that the project leaders and NGOs involved, communicate in a technical and scientific way about their work. Communication is focused on facts and figures, using jargon. The message is not tailored to the stakeholders and audiences.

Therefore, Félicité Mangang and Bora Masumbuko of IUCN PACO teamed up with their partners to organize a Regional workshop for NGOs and journalists from the twelve countries, aimed at improving their skills to communicate to key audiences. How else can you convince decision makers and communities to scale up successes?

CEC was asked to design and deliver the week long training in Niamy, Niger. More than fifty participants from the twelve countries worked hard from 17 to 21 July to learn crucial elements of strategic communication. They practiced using psychological techniques to persuade audiences.

A major part of the workshop was devoted to the powerful tool of Storytelling. Project leaders paired up with a journalist from their country. Together they re-built their factual and scientific case description full of jargon to a compelling story which touches emotions and wins hearts, a crucial first step towards collaboration and adoption of new land and water use techniques.

Participants valued the training in their evaluation sheets and stressed the need to further develop their communication skills. IUCN PACO is working on a follow-up in 2018.

So this adventurous journey, vital not only for nature but especially for the livelihood of the communities from East to West Africa, will continue. We are happy to take you along!

About the Author

Peter Paul van Kempen is an independent psychologist and co-founder of Peter Paul has a passion for marketing and communication for sustainable development. Until ten years ago, he worked on environmental projects which always had good intentions but often failed to have the promised impact. He became discontented and decided to take up the challenge to find the formula of successful change for conservation. This was an adventurous journey. Luckily he got help from a great mentor, Frits Hesselink, Emeritus Chair of CEC, with whom he co-founded Frogleaps, an expertise platform on human behavior change for conservation. His specialties are understanding motives, decision processes and designing behavior change strategies. He is a member of the Steering Committee of the IUCN Commission for Education and Communication and vice-chair of Europe.

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