Journalists Sharpen Investigative Skills in Zambia’s Charcoal Trade

By Jonas Miselo

Wildlife Crime Prevention (WCP) Zambia joined forces with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Alternatives to Charcoal Project (A2C) to equip fifteen journalists with the power of investigative journalism.

This six-day intensive workshop aimed to shed light on Zambia’s charcoal trade and its far-reaching environmental impact.

The training, led by seasoned investigative journalist Charles Mafa of the Makanday Centre for Investigative Journalism, kicked off at the Mika Convention Centre in Lusaka. Over the first three days, participants honed their skills in crafting in-depth, informative, and investigative reports. The final leg of the workshop shifted to Mumbwa, placing journalists face-to-face with the realities of the charcoal trade.

Mwatita Lubinda, a participant from Lusaka-based Cloud 9 FM, described the training as a game-changer. “The Investigative Journalism training opened my mind to ways to do an investigative story, considering that I have never done one. Where to start from and how to go about it.,” she admitted, “but this workshop provided a roadmap, guiding us from the very beginning of an investigation.”

Ms. Lubinda was particularly struck by the firsthand accounts of reformed charcoal burners. “They shared how charcoal burning destroys our environment and harms our health,” she said. “Seeing the deforestation in Mumbwa firsthand was shocking, and it made me realize how important it is to raise awareness.”

I am therefore going to dedicate myself to writing more about environmental issues including deforestation. Engage more experts and do some radio programs on the vice on negative impacts of deforestation It would also have been nice to see how other provinces are faring in terms of deforestation,” she said.

For Musyani Siame, an independent journalist from Chavuma district, the workshop was a revelation. “This was my first dive into investigative journalism,” he said, “and I learned that my reporting lacked the ethical foundation crucial for impactful investigations. The training equipped me with the tools to minimize risks and ensure the accuracy of my reporting.”

Mr. Siame also highlighted the importance of verifying information to combat misinformation and the valuable skill of utilizing government resources for investigative purposes. “I expect the quality of my investigative stories to improve,” he said, “and I’m eager to collaborate with fellow journalists to share information for the greater good and the well-being of our communities.”

The final phase of the workshop saw the journalists visit the Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) initiative in Mumbwa. Here, they gained insights into COMACO’s collaborative efforts with local communities to establish alternative livelihoods and reduce dependence on charcoal production.

The visit to a community forest management group (CFMG) in Kamilambo further solidified the promise these alternative solutions hold. Witnessing the positive impact of the A2C project’s initiatives in this region fuelled the journalists’ determination to shed light on sustainable solutions and empower communities.

This investigative journalism workshop hosted by WCP and A2C empowered fifteen journalists to become powerful watchdogs, holding the environmental impact of the charcoal trade accountable and advocating for a greener future for Zambia.


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