Citizen Engagement with Local Knowledge

Citizen Engagement with Local Knowledge

Although the mass media have played a significant role in shaping public opinion and perceptions about climate change in Africa, the phenomenon is still misunderstood. An information gap on climate change still exists. Citizen engagement with climate change discourse is minimal and awareness about the causes and risks of climate change is limited.

Numerous studies have questioned the efficacy of the mass media in communicating climate change. Some scholars argue that the mass media misrepresent, misinform and distort climate change issues, thus making it difficult for the public to understand climate change. The effectiveness of big media such as television, radio and newspapers in communicating climate change issues has been questioned. Existing attitudes and practices on climate change such as the obsession with big media tends to alienate Indigenous Knowledge systems on climate change. Eurocentric assumptions on climate change that militate against public participation in the climate change discourse must be re-examined.

It is necessary to integrate the mass media with the indigenous media in generating knowledge on climate change. For instance, Oramedia and mass media can be incorporated in campaigns against veldt fires and biomass burning. Communication of climate change issues in Africa could be better served by integrating African traditional communication modes with the mass media to create deeper knowledge on climate change. As a component of the African Indigenous Knowledge System, Oramedia has distinct characteristics that resonate with the lived experiences of the African people and therefore, more effective in communicating complex issues such as climate change.

Tendai Joseph Chari

Tendai Chari is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Venda, South Africa. He holds a PhD from Wits University, South Africa. Previously, he lectured at the University of Zimbabwe, where he was Head of the Media Programme, Zimbabwe Open University National University of Science and Technology, (Zimbabwe) and Fort Hare University (South Africa). He is widely published in the field of Media Studies and specializes in political communication, Environmental Communication and Media Ethics.

A voice from the Triangulation through Science Communication project.