Media as catalyst: promoting rural electrification and renewable energy development
By Basil Malaki and Caroline Wahome
The media plays an effective role in promoting national development and shaping public opinion. The government and the private sector use the media to diffuse information to influence and persuade public opinion. One of the challenges that Hivos East Africa (through our Green and Inclusive Energy program) has sought to address is that of leveraging media to communicate energy issues to citizens. Throughout the course of implementing this program, it has been clear that though the interest from media is there, capacity to report on renewable energy issues is low due to a lack of knowledge of energy issues affecting citizens.
Energy Safari for journalists
In an effort to better communicate the benefits and opportunities of renewable energy in Tanzania, Hivos East Africa in partnership with Nukta Africa and the Energy Change Lab hosted an Energy Safari for journalists with an aim of increasing reportage on renewable energy.
Sixteen journalists from various regions of Tanzania attended the Energy Safari held in Arusha, selected from over 180 applications from journalists who expressed interest in taking part in the learning journey. In addition to the journalists, the Safari was also undertaken and supported by two energy experts, Ms. Grace Mathew of the Tanzanian Rural Energy Agency and Mr. Prosper Magali, Co-Founder, Ensol Tanzania. The two stakeholders were able to complement and enhance the journalists’ exploration into energy issues in Tanzania.
The ‘Energy Safari’ is a five-day learning journey following a problem-solving process developed by the Energy Change Lab. It guides participants into different phases, from problem identification, to exploration, ideation of solutions, and finally prototyping of these solutions, to test what really works. In Swahili, ‘safari’ means ‘journey’. The Energy Safari journey looks at the concrete cases and challenges that affect the daily lives of citizens and entrepreneurs. To understand the role of the media as a catalyst in promoting rural electrification and renewable energy development, we presented four cases as challenges for the journalist to explore and present their findings as actionable solutions that can trigger up take of their recommendations by decision makers, targeted citizens and other energy stakeholders.
The cases explored focused on the following challenge statements: To what extent do government policies and regulations affect the growth of renewable energy sector in Tanzania; what role can media play in increasing uptake of renewable energy; entrepreneurship opportunities in the off-grid energy space; and how are women benefiting from rural electrification beyond lighting.
Journalists taking part in the Safari worked in multidisciplinary teams to understand and analyze these cases with the guidance of energy experts on the first day. The teams then visited rural communities and policymakers to get first-hand information on their challenges on the second day. The ideas were prototyped on the third day, first through 3D modeling of the environment the journalists explored and then in form of write-ups, audio and or video stories. On the fourth day, they presented their solutions to relevant energy stakeholders and citizens to gain feedback. This was incorporated into final prototypes which were presented to a jury of energy and media experts on the final day of the Energy Safari.
Collaboration, education and regulation
Solutions presented in various media forms and mediums highlighted the need for close collaboration between the public and private sector stakeholders in order for sustainable and impactful change to be realized. Also proposed was the need to educate communities on the benefits and opportunities of renewable energy. Additionally, the energy regulator was also urged to fix specific and strategic regulations and policies favoring the renewable energy sector.
"There is need for a platform for journalists and renewable energy stakeholders to periodically convene and dialogue, this will enhance the relationship between the stakeholders and journalists", said Prosper Magali, co-founder of Ensol Tanzania.
Media outlets in Tanzania were also encouraged to collaborate with relevant stakeholders who promote rural electrification and renewable energy development to unlock untapped opportunities that come with rural electrification such as income generating activities often presented as ‘productive uses of energy’ by running educational productive use of energy programs.
To enrich the role of women in using rural electricity to drive development, the journalists proposed the need to specifically educate rural women on how the rural energy can be used to generate income and improve their living standards.
The fruitful end of the Energy Safari for journalists paves way for a six-month fellowship program with the journalists who took part in the program, with an aim of accelerating reportage on renewable energy.
This article was originally posted by on Hivos East Africa website.