As Nigeria's economy and population grow, questions about its infrastructure have come to the fore. Journalist Janet Ogundepo says these should go hand-in-hand with environmental concerns.
Janet Ogundepo is a young journalist from Lagos, Nigeria, who is passionate about climate change. With a keen sense of social justice, she is particularly concerned about the effects of environmental degradation on vulnerable populations such as women, children and the elderly.
When she began her journalism studies, Ogundepo hoped to become a radio host or newscaster but she soon realized she wanted to listen to people and investigate the stories directly affecting their lives. She recently completed a five-month Climate Change Journalism Fellowship from DW Akademie's partner Media Foundation for West Africa. She spoke to DW Akademie about reporting on climate change in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country and biggest exporter of crude oil.
DW Akademie: As a journalist, which stories about environmental issues in Nigeria stand out?
Janet Ogundepo: Lagos is crazy in the sense that there's a lot of hustle and bustle and everyone is doing their own thing. My first coverage of the environment was about the trading activities in one of the dumpsites in Lagos State. People run businesses and sell food there but you also find children and older people. They shouldn't be there because of the impact it is having on their health, yet many don’t have a choice – they have to work in the landfill to make a living, even if it’s dangerous.
Overexposure to landfills like this in Lagos State can have a negative impact on lung health, according to Ogundepo
I also recently published a story about the use of petrol and diesel generators in Nigeria. Almost every Nigerian has a petrol generator because there is always a power supply problem. There are lots of blackouts and 62 per cent of Nigerians don’t have access to the electrical grid. Only very few have switched to solar power because it’s still quite expensive, so petrol and diesel generators are the number one solution when power is cut. And those fumes can be deadly.
How is climate change affecting the country as a whole?
Through the [Climate Change Journalism Fellowship] training, I saw the bigger impact environmental problems are having. Oil exploration in the country’s South region is also contributing to the changes we see in the climate. We have increasing temperatures, intense and untimely rainfall, flooding, droughts and, in some areas, acid rain. If efforts are not being made to go green, the effects will be much greater.
In what other ways does climate change impact people's lives in Nigeria?
Everyone is affected by events such as flooding, and in 2020 and 2022 many people had to leave their homes. Food production centers like rice farmlands were heavily damaged. Climate change is affecting women, children, persons with disabilities and the elderly even more. The women had to stay with the children and if the schools were flooded, the children could not return. Some women farmers could not return to work because of flooding in the fields and so they couldn’t earn an income.
How does telling the stories of individuals help narratives around environmental journalism?
It brings the point closer to home. Right now, people do not connect the problems they’re facing with climate change. For example, the increased temperature, untimely and intense rain and insect outbreak are related to climate change. Yet for the average person, climate change still sounds like rocket science or something from a science fiction movie. They cannot relate it to how it influences their daily activities and lives. I am now trying to work on a story that teaches people to understand the importance of trees – how they help trap carbon and release oxygen. I want to show that there is more to trees than just logging. I am also thinking about starting a column using simple language to explain climate change to everyone. As journalists we should use day-to-day vocabulary to speak about climate change.
Janet Ogundepo is a fellow of Media Foundation West Africa's Climate Change Journalism Fellowship, in partnership with DW Akademie. The five-month program mentored ten journalists from ten West African countries on how to report on climate change-related issues. The project was funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).