Drought and climate change communication - hot topics on climate change radio show

29 Aug 2018 - 10:30

Ndamonako Anna Iita reports on the latest episodes of ASSAR and Kati-FM's climate change radio show in Namibia.

The third instalment of ASSAR and Kati-FM's special climate change radio show, which aired Monday, August 13, addressed the dynamics and impacts of drought in northern Namibia. It looked at how communities in this area sustain their livelihoods in times of drought as well as Namibia’s legislation related to drought management.

Like other semi-arid regions around the world, Namibia is particularly vulnerable to climate change. The country faces the challenge of recurrent droughts, which are predicted to become more frequent in future. Semi-arid regions are climatically stressed with high temperatures, low rainfall and long dry seasons. Their ecosystems are highly dynamic, with bursts of productivity in the wet season in good years, and very low productivity in dry years, often leading to temporary or longer-term land degradation.

The in-studio guest for the show was Mr. Japhet Iitenge, Namibia's Director of Disaster Risk Management in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM). He shared insights on when drought is categorized as a disaster in Namibia, the policies that address drought in the country, and the measures taken to assist farmers in times of drought. He also elaborated on whether the distribution of drought relief is preventing farmers from adapting to drought. Mr. Iitenge said that from a policy perspective drought relief is distributed as a measure to save lives in times of drought and is similar to other national campaigns such as road safety campaigns. The intention with drought relief is not to prevent adaptation but to assist the most vulnerable. The drought policies mandate falls under the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF). In times of drought, OPM is the second respondent after MAWF, and its role is to solicit support from other institutions such as the Health Ministry, Red Cross, and police. These procedures are not standard but change according to the severity of the drought. 

Public concerns

People who called in to the show were concerned that droughts are already becoming more frequent and intense, and conditions of increased temperature and reduced rainfall are expected to continue in north-central Namibia with agricultural productivity expected to decrease. Smallholder farmers have already noticed reductions in rainfall and increasingly severe droughts that have led to major crop and livestock losses. However, they are not necessarily changing their agricultural practices.

One caller asked what government aims to do about rainwater that is not currently being captured but could be captured for use in future, specifically during drought years. It was explained to the caller that this could have positive and negative impacts and that government has to view both of these before making a decision. A caller also wanted to know how to differentiate between when there is a drought and it is just naturally hot. Over the last 30 to 40 years, Namibia has experienced reoccurring droughts, heavy rainfall events, episodes of higher temperature and unpredictable and variable rainfall. 

Callers also had questions related to agriculture -- such as what types of drought-resistant seeds and animals they should buy.  Another question was why can’t government implement projects that could generate food for both humans and animals, which could be run by prison inmates.Some of these questions will be addressed in an upcoming radio show that will focus on drought management, livestock and agricultural practices.

In closing, Mr. Iitenge remarked that information platforms such as the climate radio show are a good step towards adaptation.Traditional norms are important and should not be disregarded but communities should rather “adapt with tradition.”

Communication is key

The fourth installment of the radio show, which aired Monday, August 20, took a look at the importance of communicating climate change information.

Ester Nangolo, a research assistant from the University of Namibia who is part of the ASSAR project, was the guest speaker. She gave insights into how communicating for climate change fits with Namibia’s National Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan. Veteran Kati-FM presenter Mapeni, who is affectionately known as “Protocol,” was in the Oshakati studio.

The show looked at how, in the past, efforts to communicate climate change were typically focused on disseminating information rather than improving people’s understanding of adaptation challenges, raising awareness of adaptation pathways and encouraging dialogue. Recently, however, there has been a shift towards greater use of dialogue with stakeholders and a stronger focus on knowledge co-generation.

Research into use in Namibia

A challenge has been for researchers to translate climate change information into a language that laypeople can understand so that climate change is not seen as an inaccessible and complex topic. Thus far, minimal attention has been given to understanding the ways that key actors from government, practice, community and the media in semi-arid regions perceive climate change. This is a key focus of the ASSAR project, which uses different avenues to communicate climate change information to inform adaptation strategies through its research for impact and research into use approaches.

In Namibia, ASSAR was able to establish strategic partnerships which have allowed for engagement with key stakeholders at local, regional and national levels. Being a member of the country’s National Climate Change Committee (NCCC) has strategically placed the project to share its research findings for planning purposes such as in national communications to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Furthermore, ASSAR has produced evidence-based research, compiled in policy briefs and short reports, which can be used to inform decision making. ASSAR’s research sharing initiatives are also aligned to the objectives of the National Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (NCCSAP) which aims to reduce climate change impacts on Namibia’s sectors and vulnerable communities. Nangolo explained how ASSAR's work is strengthening and contributing to a change in practice and behaviour when it comes to climate change adaptation. To do this, the project has held stakeholder engagement workshops that use Transformative Scenario Planning (TSP), co-hosted a climate change conference in Omusati, engaged with the Onesi Constituency Development Committee, and done training for journalists on covering climate change.

A caller from Uuthilindindi village in the Omusati region suggested that the omakangos (open areas with natural salts) could be turned into dams as projects to save water during floods and then serve as water sources during drought. Most callers had concerns about water scarcity and ways of preserving water since they are worried about rainwater draining away without being used. Some raised concerns about government having promised them earth dams, which have not materialised. Nangolo encouraged listeners to lessen their dependence on government and to start taking initiative like other communities. She gave examples of Ontamazi and Onesi, where communities have built earth dams.

ASSAR and Kat-FM's climate change radio show airs every Monday between 7 and 8 p.m. and runs until September 24, 2018. It is broadcast in Oshiwambo, one of Namibia's local languages.


Ndamonako Anna Iita is a media graduate from the University of Namibia who is currently working at the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation as a freelance indigenous language news presenter, producing news stories and presenting them every Monday at 5 p.m. She is employed by the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia on a two- month internship and is doing translations for the ASSAR project and co-hosting the ASSAR climate change radio series.

Photo: Mr. Japhet Iitenge, Namibia's Director of Disaster Risk Management in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), in studio with Ndamonako Anna Iita. Credit: Bernadette Shalumbu-Shivute.