For three African podcasters, focusing on climate change on the continent has become an urgent calling. Wildfires, cyclones, coastal erosion – these and other crises illustrate a rapidly heating world.
As an environmental chemist, David Achegbulu is drawn to podcasting that explains the science behind climate change.
For David Achegbulu, science – and his specific field of study, environmental chemistry – holds answers as to why things happen and why things fall apart. Physics can, for example, probe why buildings crumble. Biology can show why the versatility of a virus can fuel pandemics.
So, on recent travels around his native Nigeria, David found himself observing trees, how drought had withered them, and how urban encroachment had gobbled up their habitat. During the trip, he thought of Nigeria's two rivers, the Niger and Benue, and how when they once flooded, a friend found crocodiles in his house.
"The natural response, when the media reports on these events, is to ask why these things are happening," he says. However, he adds, while media can deliver news, "Science in these and many other cases should be the loudest voice."
Today, David weds his scientific training to media's potential for good as he produces podcasts exclusively focused on climate change in Nigeria and in Africa. Thanks to DW Akademie's Climate Podcast training program, he built on previous experience in documentary filmmaking that covered food security, vaccine distribution in northern Nigeria and humanitarian issues in the northeast of the country. He finetuned his scriptwriting skills and used podcast mics and a mixer. Since then, his podcasts have explored Nigeria's oil industry and national food security.
David's work, and that of fellow podcasters on the African continent, is timely and urgent. The United Nations this month reported that drought, worsened by climate change, affects a quarter of humanity. The consequences can be devastating for food prices, elections and migration, particularly in Africa.
For a recent podcast, Precidonio Uamasse interviewed environmental activist Juvência Bila. His reporting has focused on the increasing number - and ferocity - of cyclones in Mozambique.
Precidonio Uamasse, like David, reports on environmental topics, such as water conservation and recycling, and is pivoting toward podcasts. He is now at work on a podcast about cyclones in his native Mozambique, and how vulnerable urban housing is to the violent wind and rains.
In 2022, the East African country endured three cyclones, one seemingly worse than the previous. Cyclone Idai in March 2019 left more than 600 dead and more than 1,600 injured. In 2023, two cyclones ravaged the region.
Though previously reporting on economics and politics, Precidonio says he feels an even greater responsibility to report on climate change. His guests have included climate scientists and urban planners.
"How buildings are built is critical, especially when we see that cyclones here are increasing in number and ferocity," he said. "I also interview common citizens, and in particular young people, asking them what they think and what they know. Ultimately, the ballot box is my target. I don’t want to tell them what to do or think, but to see that they have power."
For Sam Baker, a Deutsche Welle journalist and senior producer who trained David and Precidonio, the program's results are impressive and encouraging.
"It's so inspiring to see participants from all over take what they learn in this intensive week of training and for it to manifest in such varied and creative podcast projects exploring climate issues," she said. "It's a real treat to be able to listen to their ideas come to life in audio."
Ken Wekesa Musundi, a former podcasting trainee, more recently helped develop more training tools geared toward podcasting exclusively on climate change.
In 2022, Sam worked with Ken Wekesa Musundi in Kenya to create a training matrix for climate change podcasting. Having studied mass communications at Kenya's Technical University in Mombasa, and later hosted a daily radio show, Ken found the podcasting training effective, in part because it takes into consideration that producing an effective podcast requires patience and is time-consuming. It can also be costly.
"It's not a sedentary job like you may think," he said. "You still often need to travel to locations." Although DW Akademie initially provided some of the recording equipment, he has gone on to buy newer technology himself.
Ken Wekesa Musundi's podcasts have discussed mangroves along Kenya's coasts, and how local women's groups have replanted them after timbering has made way for urban development.
In a recent podcast, Ken reported on mangroves losing their coastal habitat due to development. Yet he chose to also focus on women's groups dedicated to replanting the groves nearby, and others that build bee hives around the mangroves.
"I wanted to focus on the positive, the conservation," he said. "Podcasting has helped me think about things differently, and how I can present that to an audience."
DW Akademie's climate change podcast training program is supported by Germany's Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).