Climate change communication approaches, should be ongoing

guest column Peter Makwanya

Communication is perpetual just like what businesses do when they advertise their products every day in the Press, on television and social media, just like faith based-organisations pray every day, some three times to five times a day.

Communication of climate change, because of the risks, dangers and life-threats associated with it, should be ongoing. In this regard, communicating climate change awareness, adaptation and literacy should not be an event, an occasion, but should, above all and everything else, a process and not an end.

Communication experts and practitioners, have a wide range of communication approaches and strategies at their disposal which they can use to propagate the gospel of climate change or
rather, green gospel. The climate change audience is vast and heterogeneous, hence communicating to them requires diverse, divergent and sensitising forms which are sufficiently
penetrative, reaching far and wide as well as exciting the audience’s perceptions, perspectives and worldviews. This is important to enhance total participatory learning and

In this regard, climate change communicators need to have comprehensive and have sufficient knowledge of their audiences, their needs as opposed to their wants.

In this view, climate change communication practitioners should guard against engaging in communication approaches involving aspects which people may require, but practically not in
need of.

Therefore, communicating climate change adaptation strategies, should be what the people need, and not what they may necessarily want. ads Ads

To communicate effectively, climate change communication strategies used, should harness the power of a vast wide ranging networking and engaging tools like videos, films, radios (community and national), songs, poetry, music, cinema, drama or docudrama, photographs, games, storytelling (video and verbal narratives), social media, IKS, vernacular language,
newspapers, visuals, oramedia, posters, field trips, sign-language, lectures, pamphlets, group discussions, mobile phones, power-points and infomercials, among others. All these tools
are not only interactive and participatory, but they are also forms of edutainment endeavours.

Besides coming up with an assortment of these interventions, communication practitioners also need to conduct rigorous research, segment the beneficiaries of information, design context
specific messages aimed at different sets of people, culturally, linguistically, religiously and professionally. This means that climate change information would be communicated to
different audiences in the manner which is appropriate and known to them, in line with their heritages. It would also be necessary to understand whether the beneficiaries of climate
change communication would be in a position to accept the information being communicated to them. It is not everything that is communicated which is accepted by the audiences, unless it
is relevant to their situations or if it affects their livelihoods, values and beliefs. Many development practitioners have failed to sufficiently engage communities interactively and
in participatory ways, not because they could not communicate, but simply because they were communicating in isolation, isolating the intended beneficiaries from the intended

It is also significant that every country has a climate change communication budget to improve the lives of the beneficiaries as well as enhancing the understanding. Just to make
information clear, home-grown and user-friendly.

This budget should cover and solve the climate change adaptation communication challenges involved. Why communication, in this regard? Communication is pivotal and fundamental because it is cross-cutting, interdisciplinary and engaging. Communicators need to strive to capture the people’s attention and conscientising them with even few resources at their disposal, in
participatory ways. This doesn’t mean that, communication doesn’t have its own challenges as well; challenges simply known as barriers, militating against their ideas to listen
effectively, influenced by their cultural affiliations, frame of references, distortions and worldviews, resulting from climate change communication and semantic noise.

Communication practitioners should not communicate in isolation, but they need to effectively situate themselves into the development blue-prints of the government, development sector
and other stakeholders.

Climate change communication adaptation strategies should be designed to avoid or resolve conflicts, transform the lives of the people and enhance their resilience.

Responsible authorities need to acknowledge and recognise the indispensable role of climate change communication as paramount and life-saving.

This is because communication is not just an art, but it is exclusively a science and the integration of traditional, contemporary and scientific components may prove quite beneficial.

As indicated earlier on, communication engagements need to be ongoing, effective and penetrative in order to transform lives and empower people.

Even the development sector, especially, when they design their community interventions, they also need to seriously factor in the role of communication, as a sustainable tool of
levelling issues, in the provision of goods and services.

Communicating climate change information to audiences should help to connect them with nature, in ways they expect and need. Communicative participatory approaches used, need to be
vital, concrete, flexible, inclusive and holistic as well as recognising the needs of all the stakeholders and opinion leaders, in transparent and human centric ways.

In the event of communicating difficult climate change adaptation information and materials, it is significant to use the multiple channels and approaches favoured and trusted by the audiences involved, not just the same, recycled, tired and boring strategies, over and over again, till the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Communication strategies need to be sufficiently empowering by transforming beneficiaries from being passive participants to active listeners, because listening is a skill, as well as
initiating them into active drivers of change and communicators of risk. Communication strategies should be comprehensive enough to situate communities at the heart of sustainable
development, where they will be totally immersed.

Also, the use of technology is paramount in assisting to diffuse and simplify language barriers in order to reach out to the majority of people who have been side-lined by linguistic machinations of climate infidels, so that they won’t participate successfully in their adaptation practices, due to technical hurdles and information gaps presented by complex discourses and jargon of climate change.

Communication should make communities realise that vernacular publications, enhance their abilities to understand climate related challenges and jargon as well as stabilising their
emotions. These strategies are designed to transcend far and wide, inclusively engaging and without leaving anyone behind.

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