bioethics3

Africa Bioethics Network Launched

Scientists launch bioethics network

By Sharon Atieno I sharonphoebeatieno@gmail.com

A group of African experts has formed an association to promote dialogue and action in tackling bioethical issues.

Africa Bioethics Network intends to bring together experts from Africa and beyond in multiple disciplines, such as health, environment and climate change, sustainability, justice, and responsibility, natural sciences, policy and governance, and technology, social sciences, and humanities, among others.

Some of the objectives of the Network include advocating for the synthesis and harmonization of bioethical activities across Africa, reflecting on best ways to tackle bioethical issues in the continent and increasing partnerships to extend their reach to solve problems in one area that can be applied to similar regions elsewhere.

Additionally, they seek to ensure their governance and communications are sensitive to diversity while making good use of information technology and collaborative tools to communicate in real-time as they work together across the globe.

They also want to promote the development of skills and knowledge needed to take part effectively in global research programs, build and support international research networks and develop effective partnerships with civil society organizations and private sector entities.

Further, they want to bring together concerns about health, environment, sustainability, justice and responsibility.

The Africa Bioethics Network was formally launched in May at the Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative (KAVI) Institute of Clinical Research, University of Nairobi, Kenya.

Those who attended the launch include the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) representatives, Clin Win Research Services, Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative (KAVI), University of Nairobi, St Paul’s University, BCA-ETHICS II, Anahuac University, The International Association of Bioethics (IAB), Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and many others with a representation of over 30 countries.

Dr Gladys Kalema Zikusoka

Uganda’s first wildlife vet wants more women involved in wildlife conservation

Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, Uganda’s first wildlife vet is the founder of Conservation Through Public Health to protect the health of mountain gorillas while improving the lives and livelihoods of the communities who live with them.

Years before the One Health approach was thrust into the spotlight following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Kalema-Zikusoka was already putting it into practice in Bwindi local community by enabling people, gorillas and other wildlife to co-exist through improving their health and community livelihoods in and around protected areas.

Last year, the pioneering wildlife veterinarian was named Champion of the Earth for Science and Innovation – from the United Nations Environment Programme. She tells MESHA’s Clifford Akumu about her amazing adventures with mountain gorillas.

 

  1. Kindly tell us how you gained interest in wildlife conservation?

I have always loved animals since I was young. We had many pets at home and at the age of 12 I decided that I wanted to become a veterinary doctor. My passion for animals led to the creation of a wildlife club in my high school – Kibuli Secondary School. This made me want to become a veterinary doctor who also works with wildlife. I later went to study veterinary medicine at Royal Veterinary College in London to enhance my dreams and passion. My first job was setting up the veterinary department at Uganda Wildlife Authority as Uganda’s first wildlife vet. When I led a team that investigated a fatal scabies skin disease outbreak in then critically endangered mountain gorillas traced to the Bwindi local community, we founded Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) NGO a few years later to improve the health of people and wildlife together. 

  1. Habitat loss and poaching are the biggest threats to mountain gorillas’ population. As a wildlife conservation enthusiast, just how huge is the challenge and what is your organisation doing about it?

This is a very big challenge and threat to the endangered mountain gorillas due to poverty, hunger and the increase in human population growth. To deal with these challenges, CTPH carries out different programmes in the communities living adjacent to the gorilla habitat.

CTPH trains Village Health and Conservation Teams (VHCTs) – community volunteers – to educate the local communities on the importance of gorillas and the forest to the local and national economy so that they can all protect the species. The VHCTs are also trained to provide health services and conservation education to the local community members, including family planning methods to enable families to balance their budgets, reduce poverty in their homes and their dependence on the ark to meet basic needs for food and fuelwood. This in turn is reducing the unsustainable population growth rate in the surrounding communities.

CTPH also has an alternative livelihood programme that provides the local community members with food and other sources of income to meet their basic family needs. Through the ‘Ready to Grow’ programme, CTPH was able to boost food security for local communities living around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park by providing them with perennial crop seedlings. Each grow kit distributed via the programme includes 10 packages of low-maintenance seedlings that need little space to grow and are harvestable within one to four months. This has reduced their dependence on the gorilla habitat for meat from duikers and bush pigs and fuel wood and helped to curb poaching.

CTPH also has a social enterprise – Gorilla Conservation Coffee, which works closely with 500 local coffee farmers adjacent to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Gorilla Conservation Coffee buys coffee from the local farmers at a premium price above the market rate and supports the farmers through training in sustainable coffee farming and processing. This helps to improve the coffee quality and increase production yield. Supporting local farmers helps to protect the endangered gorillas and their fragile habitat.

 

  1. You have received several awards for your conservation work with mountain gorillas. Which one of them has stood out for you and why?

All the awards I have received for the work through CTPH and Gorilla Conservation are a great deal. The first award we received was the San Diego Zoo Conservation in Action award in 2008, which was a great source of encouragement and since then we have been greatly honoured and humbled to win other awards. Each award has a different focus, but all of them recognise our holistic and innovative approach that is having a positive impact on conservation, health and sustainable development. The most recent awards I have received in the past three years for our One Health and Planetary health model have been the 2021 World Veterinary Day Award from Uganda Veterinary Association, 2021 UNEP Champion of the Earth Award for Science and Innovation and Edinburgh Medal for science and humanity and for CTPH it has been the Saint Andrews Prize for the Environment.

  1. Illegal wildlife trade and poaching activities is a major threat to the animals’ survival. What are the latest statistics looking like for the most trafficked and poached animals and where in Uganda are the wildlife poaching hotspots?

Some of the most poached and trafficked animals in Uganda include pangolins, elephants and rhinos. Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) together with its partners are working hard to combat poaching and wildlife trafficking of some of the animals mentioned. UWA rangers carry out routine patrols in the national parks to ensure the protection of the wildlife and their habitats.

There is very strict law enforcement at country borders where there is a high likelihood of smuggling of wildlife.

There is much more wildlife poaching in savannah protected areas than forest protected areas, which have more foot traffic from rangers and tourists providing more protection and law enforcement. 

  1. Tell us about your new book on gorilla conservation and what should we expect when you launch it later this year?

My book titled ‘Walking With Gorillas’ that will be launched in October this year is a part memoir part charter that takes you through my personal conservation journey and my work as a wildlife veterinarian conserving mountain gorillas and other wildlife – reviving a wildlife club at high school, setting up the veterinary unit in UWA, founding CTPH and Gorilla Conservation Coffee and advocating for responsible and sustainable tourism to the great apes. It also talks about nurturing female and African leadership in conservation in order to have lasting impact.

  1. When you finally wrap up your career, what would you like to see happen for the wildlife across the country?

I would like to see more women and young people involved in the conservation of wildlife, especially among the local communities who share their habitat with wildlife. When you educate and provide knowledge to young people about the necessity of conserving wildlife, they will be the future decision makers and are able to influence policies that protect our planet.

Aghan the story teller

Goat eating fete: MESHA Nairobi Chapter members converge to network, learn from each other

By Jecinta Mwangi I jessmwangi95@gmail.com and Ogonji Ian I theogonji@gmail.com

What started as a goat eating party turned into a great learning and networking session for the members of Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (MESHA), Nairobi Chapter.

 

The members converged at Paradise Lost, Kiambu County, on June 11, 2022, to let off steam after a busy half of the year. It was the first time the Nairobi Chapter was holding such a meeting, which was an opportunity to know each other and exchange ideas on how to grow MESHA to greater heights.  

 

The event brought together all categories of members, including veterans and founders of the organisation.

 

Before the veteran journalists settled down to share their golden past and wisdom in what was akin to a formal meeting, the younger members could not waste the chance to sample what Paradise Lost had to offer.

 

They literally got lost into a range of fun activities; from boat riding to a photo session in a natural environment that Nairobi residents rarely see, before everyone settled down for mouth-watering delicacies – roast goat, fried chicken and vegetables, washed down with a blend of soft drinks and high quality alcohol.

 

Then it was time for the veterans to spit some wisdom and share the journey they have walked with MESHA since its inception.

 

“Back then, our editors kept telling us that science doesn’t sell and they were not keen on creating science desks in newsrooms. So, when we formed MESHA, very few people took us seriously,” said Wambera Ojanji.

 

They also shared their personal experiences as journalists and writers, the highs and lows they have had during their careers, the challenges they faced and the good times, including the accolades they have received and the fulfilment that comes with doing their job and following their passion.

 

“Despite the harsh words from our editors, we did not get discouraged and the efforts eventually paid off. Soon enough, science stories started getting space on the front page of newspapers and we never looked back,” said Mike Mwaniki.  

The veterans encouraged the younger members, including students, to put in the work, be diligent and never be afraid to chase opportunities that come their way as they further their careers. They also spoke on identifying relevant stories and the whole process of coming up with a story from research to publication.

 

They pointed out how easy it is for the younger generation to research, authenticate and validate their stories as compared to the past when there was limited access to research and sources.

 

With the advancement in technology, getting information has been made easier. Research materials are just a click away unlike in the old days when one had to visit the library to get a reference.

 

They also emphasised on upholding the winning spirit within the organisation and supporting each other. MESHA journalists have won various accolades, with the most recent one being John Riaga who was appointed Science Journalism Forum coordinator for sub-Saharan Africa.

The younger members said they have so far benefited from MESHA and hope to learn a lot more from the entire membership.

 

“I have learnt from veteran journalists the best practices in the industry and from here I’ll be able incorporate this with the mentorship I have received to make my science stories better,” said Kairu Karega, a student journalist at the University of Nairobi.

 

MESHA Secretary, Aghan Daniel urged the veterans to continue mentoring the younger journalists.

 

“There are a lot of established journalists in MESHA. Some have been in the industry for over three decades and have accumulated knowledge on how to do different tasks. Take the chance to consult, network and ask questions. They are ready to guide,” he said.

 

Agatha Ngotho, a board member of MESHA, sought the opportunity to formalise the Nairobi Chapter and promised more such networking and fun sessions.

 

Judy Abong’o, Rangwe Sub-county Aids and STI Coordinator (SCASCO) is worried at the rising number of teenage girls getting pregnant whom she said leave the girls pre-disposed to HIV infection.

Unprotected sex among adolescents blamed for big HIV burden in western Kenya

By Carol Otieno Miyawa  I lolwecarol@gmail.com

The rampant cases of teen pregnancy in Rangwe, Homa Bay County means many young girls have sex without protection, raising their chances of acquiring HIV.

Rangwe Sub-county AIDS and STIs Coordinator Judith Abong’o said because of this unprotected sex, the sub-county records 2,000 new HIV infections yearly.

“The teenage girls and adolescents need to be taught by their elders about sex, unwanted pregnancy and HIV.

“There have been a lot of teenage pregnancies in the area. We even received some information about an 11year old that got pregnant,” said Ms Abong’o during a MESHA science café in Rangwe.

She said Rangwe has a total population of 125,000, and 18.2 per cent of them are living with HIV. 

Out of the 13,495 people living with the virus, 13,205 are under medication, she said, adding that in 2020, the new infections of all ages was 1,313.

Abong’o said argues that adolescents are part of what contributes to the rise in HIV infections and teen pregnancy is a major burden in controlling the spread of HIV.

Rose Achieng’, mother to a victim of teenage pregnancy, said she struggled to take care of the 15-year-old girl after she got pregnant.

“Since she gave birth it has not been easy. She had to drop out of school. I had to counsel her as a mother who has experienced the burden of parenting and illiteracy. She agreed to go back to school after giving birth,” said Achieng.

Even though the girl is back in school, Achieng still has the burden of raising the child.

“I have to look for school fees, food and cater for the baby’s needs. I am a widow, I have been trying so hard for my family but it is still difficult,” she narrated.

Despite that the struggle, she says she is doing everything she can to give the girl and her other four children a better future.

Abong’o said gender based violence has also contributed to the increase in HIV/AIDS cases.  

She said when violence breaks within the households some children usually to run away into the streets, where they are at risk of sexual abuse. If they are HIV positive, the condition deteriorates because they have no food to improve their immunity and no one to administer treatment to them.

“Gender-based violence also leads spouses to finding ways to alternative to satisfy themselves sexually outside the violent marriage,” said Abong’o.

Helen Aoko, a mother of eight and a victim of gender-based violence, narrates how it has taken a toll on her life.

“There has never been happiness in my marriage. My husband used to beat me in front of my children. Of all the children, only one has been able to attend college,” she says.

“Some days back, my husband molested a 12-year-old mentally disturbed child. He was arrested and released on bond but the case is still ongoing. All the household duties now fall on me as I have become the bread winner.”

Abong’o said to reduce the HIV burden, women should be empowered, they should get jobs and have income so that they stop being misused by their male counterparts, especially in regions where fishing is the main source of income.

Justus Ochola, the Homa Bay County Aids and STI Coordinator (CASCO): The HIV situation in Homa Bay County in western Kenya still worries health officials.

The triple threat: How teen pregnancy, gender-based violence raise HIV infections

By John Riaga I oukoriaga@gmail.com

Born HIV positive, defiled by a man she knew as her grandfather and faced with the risk of an unwanted pregnancy at the tender age of 10, Philomena Kamala (not her real name) has seen it all in life.

Orphaned by HIV and AIDS, Kamala and her three siblings are under the care of their frail grandmother in a remote village in Pala Wang’a area of Karachuonyo North Sub-county and she has to contend with the double tragedy of seeing her oppressor – her grandfather – every day.

The 70-year-old was arrested and arraigned but is out on bond as the case continues.

Kamala’s tragedy is the epitome of what is now known as the triple threat of HIV infection, Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and teenage pregnancy.

Though lucky not to have conceived after her ordeal, essentially escaping from being part of the statistics of teenage mothers, Kamala may have infected her grandfather with HIV.

“Because of the loose ends in our justice system, this perpetrator is out on bond with no record of being tested to know his status. We do not know where or who else he has had intercourse with. That is our dilemma,” said Justus Ochola, the Homa Bay County Aids and STI Coordinator (CASCO).

Homa Bay County ranks among the top on all the three parameters of the triple threat.

The county was among the first in Kenya to start offering treatment for HIV in 1999. Today, Karachuonyo North Sub-county has a total of 22,000 people living with HIV on treatment.

On teenage pregnancies, the county reports a 33 per cent prevalence rate.

Ochola said, “This means that out of 100 girls of age 10-19 years, 33 will have had their first pregnancy.”

This data ranks the county as the second highest in teenage pregnancy in the entire country, second to Narok County.

Ochola said Homa Bay also has a very high number of reported cases of SGBV. Between January and April this year, there have been 1,441 cases of SGBV reported.

“These three threats are correlated and as a county we are dealing with them wholesomely,” he said.

Debrah Locho (not her real name) is a 40-year-old widow from a nearby village. Eight years ago, her 13-year-old daughter, then in Standard Five at a local primary school, was raped and impregnated by a stranger. The man had arrived in the village a few days earlier in search of menial jobs.

 

He timed one morning when Locho had travelled and defiled her daughter, then he disappeared without a trace.

“With the suspect not known by anyone and therefore nobody to arrest, we had to cope with the pregnancy. My daughter agreed to carry it to term, following intensive counselling because she had contemplated abortion,” said Locho.

Lucky to test negative, Locho’s daughter today is happily married after accepting to go back to school and finished her education. Most of the victims of teenage pregnancies are not as lucky, they end up testing positive for HIV and some drop out of school.

According to Karachuonyo North Sub-county Aids Coordinator Joseph Ondu, the fact that the perpetrators are not easily identified complicates the struggle to contain the situation.

“Since most of the perpetrators happen to be close relatives of their victims, there is always a rush to set up Kangaroo courts to quickly dispense of such cases, with the suspects getting away with the crimes,” said Ondu.

In the neighbouring Rangwe Sub-county, locals have devised measures, including taking both teenage mothers and their agemates of the opposite gender back to school in a bid to tame the rising the cases of teenage pregnancy.

Local Aids Coordinator Judy Abong’o said with a rising number of teenage girls getting pregnant, they got pre-disposed to HIV infection.

“Here too, the triple threat is real with teenage pregnancies and SGBV playing a key role in the rise in cases of new infections. That is why we have doubled our efforts through various interventions,” said Abong’o.

Rose Achieng Orwa, 46, said she is happy that though she may never get to know who raped her 14-year-old daughter and made her pregnant, the girl accepted to go back to school to complete her secondary education.

“Not knowing the perpetrator is just one problem, the other is the burden of taking care of my grandchild while the mother is in school since I have five other children,” said Achieng.

Ochola, who led a team of health journalists from the Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (MESHA) on a science café field visit to the two sub-counties, said out of the eight sub-counties in Homa Bay, Karachuonyo ranked second to Ndhiwa in HIV prevalence.

The county has 126,000 people living with HIV.

Ochola said there was a rescue centre put up in Makongeni area but it still required support in terms of materials such as consumables.

“In order for the centre to serve its intended purpose fully, we still need volunteers and partners to help out with items like sanitary towels, food stuff and other items,” he said.

Amos Rutherford of Legacy Seeds in Ghana

It’s a shame Africa begs for food with 60% of world’s arable land, says expert

African countries must increase investment in crop production in a bid to improve the continent’s agribusiness share in the global market.

Amos Rutherford, Team Lead, Research and Innovation at Legacy Seeds Ghana, said it was high time farmers in Africa knew their value in the global market and increased production from the current two billion tonnes to the possible 60 billion tonnes annually.

Rutherford said this is only attainable if farmers adopt modern and sustainable farming methods alongside enhancing value addition to their farm produce. He said this will give them a better bargaining power in the ever growing and competitive agribusiness market.

“Currently, since 2021, the global agribusiness market size is valued at $6.21 billion and is projected to grow to $154.6 billion by 2027, despite the economic challenges,” he said in his presentation at the Fifth African Conference of Science Journalists.

Rutherford said it is shameful that Africa as a continent has 60 per cent of the world’s arable land, yet it is food insecure.

The seed expert gave a snapshot of the challenges farmers in Africa face in the course of food production, including lack of quality seeds, crop nutrition inputs, drought, a land tenure system that does not allow commercial farming, pests and diseases, unstructured market systems and weak financial architecture.

According to UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) 2009 report, agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa has been underperforming since independence and the continent must now rise up and produce sustainable food and surplus for agribusiness.

Another report by the World Bank says African farmers and the leaders of their organisations are key players in mitigating these challenges affecting crop production.

“The narrative of getting relief food must end in Africa if we want to earn our dignity and respect as a continent globally,” Rutherford said.

He said sustainable crop production will ensure the continent has enough food to feed the ever growing population, create job opportunities for the teeming youth, enhance industrial revolution, and avert conflict and tribal wars.

MESHA Secretary, Aghan Daniel regretted that Africa’s full potential in agriculture remains untapped, hence the need to put in more efforts.

“It is time to stop complaining about issues and start taking action to improve on our shortcomings for a food secure continent,” said Aghan.

Dr Ed Mabaya during the launch of the tool to aid access to seed information at the AFSTA Congress 2022.

New tool to facilitate easy access to seeds now available

By Christine Ochogo| christawine@gmail.com

Farmers in Africa now have an easy-to-use, digitised seed information tool that facilitates access to data that supports seed system development. Development Gateway – an IREX Venture (DG), The African Seed Access Index (TASAI), and Cornell University started developing the dashboard in 2019 to support policy reform by government, investment priorities by development partners, and strategy by private companies working in Africa’s formal seed sector. The new interactive digital tool dubbed Visualising Information on Seeds Using Technology in Africa (TASAI-VISTA) Dashboard will visualise and use data to support a fully functional formal seed system. Speaking during the launch of the tool at the 22nd African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA) congress in Djerba, Tunisia, a fortnight ago, Mainza Mugoya, TASAI Regional Coordinator, said the tool will enhance access to improved seeds by smallholder farmers in Africa.

The CEO of Development Gateway (DG), Mr Joshua Powell, added that the new interactive digital tool includes data from 17 African countries and displays 22 different indicators such as number of active breeders by crop, availability of basic seed, number of active seed companies/producers, number of varieties sold, and number of seed inspectors. He said that the quality and availability of seeds is a crucial component of supporting smallholder farmers to increase food security in these African countries, including Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Senegal, Rwanda, Nigeria, Mozambique, Mali, Malawi, Madagascar, Ghana, Ethiopia, DR Congo and Burkina Faso. “By providing clear data and insights on country seed systems, the TASAI-VISTA dashboard helps partners identify where and how to create policies and investments that support farmers and their crops,” said Mr Powell. Dr Ed Mabaya, Research Professor in Global Development at Cornell University and Chief Scientific Adviser to TASAI, mentioned rising populations, climate change and other environmental aspects as key factors threatening food and nutritional security in many subSaharan African countries.

He emphasised the need to improve seed quality, this being one factor that can help in addressing these challenges and that decision makers need information on where and how seed quality and availability are lagging. This dashboard, he said, is one step towards making that information more easily accessible, user-friendly and actionable. “The TASAI team has been collecting country-level seed sector data since 2015, and we are excited to share this wealth of information in this new digital format.”

Seed sector stakeholders already rely on TASAI country reports as a source of valuable information, but the new dashboard will expand their access and allow for comparisons across time and space that were difficult to do previously,” Dr Mabaya said. He explained that the TASAIVISTA Dashboard was developed after an initial assessment of stakeholders in the seed sector. Following the assessment, Development Gateway and TASAI held a co-design workshop to get feedback and to validate initial findings before incorporating user responses into the final design. “Along with the public dashboard, DG and TASAI have developed survey tools for internal use by TASAI researchers, which have allowed the team to digitise their data collection and validation process. Data collected through the new tool is published on the dashboard after final validation,” said Dr Mabaya. For much of sub-Saharan Africa, rising populations combined with climate change and other environmental factors are threatening food and nutritional security.

Experts say timely availability of improved seeds at affordable prices is critical to improving food security, resilience, and livelihoods for smallholder farmers in Africa. Improved seeds, they observe, can deliver state-of-the-art technology to farmers, including higher yields, disease and pest resistance, climate change adaptation, and improved nutrition. According to Duncan Onduu, the Executive Secretary at Seed Trade Association of Kenya, over the last two decades, formal seed systems in Africa have been gradually liberalised, resulting in increased participation of private seed enterprises. His counterpart in Ghana, Augusta Clottey, welcomed the dashboard, saying that a competitive seed sector will ensure famers access quality seeds of improved, appropriate varieties at affordable prices to help attain food security in Africa.

The launch of the tool comes amidst findings of a recent report that stated that Africa still trades in both old and new varieties.

Elephants

Partnership to conserve elephants across Kenya/Uganda border launched

By Special Correspondent | info@ugandacf.org

A new and exciting partnership has formed to conserve elephants across the Kenya / Uganda border, including through the incredible Kidepo Valley National Park in Uganda. In February, 2022 the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and Uganda Conservation Foundation in Uganda, and the Northern Rangelands Trust and Save the Elephants (STE) from Kenya teamed up to satellite collar elephants across the region. We will learn where they move, why and when, and how best to conserve them across the ecosystem. Human elephant conflict is a serious problem for local farmers, and for the long term conservation of elephants and other wildlife. Every effort is being made to invest in a better future for the regions people and its wildlife. The collaring exercise saw Kenyan and Ugandan professionals working together, sharing experience and expertise – for a common purpose – something very special to witness.

All of the collared elephants are being monitored in real time through software called EarthRanger, aiding the management, operations and research of wildlife and conservation throughout the landscape. The STE team has also committed to helping to develop UWAs own elephant monitoring and analytics team – which will support UWAs ability to manage human elephant conflict and elephant conservation in the region.

MOJO1

MESHA trains members on mobile journalism as a holistic form of story telling

A media association, they say, is as good as its members.

For an association to prosper and keep on soaring, it must listen to the changing needs of her
members. And so, when members of our association, the Media for Environment, Science,
Health and Agriculture (MESHA), requested, through our very active members only WhatsApp
group for a training on mobile journalism (MOJO) last December, the leadership led by our
Secretary, Aghan Daniel, listened.

“We have to keep on with the demands of a dynamic and ever evolving media landscape, print,
online and radio lest our association becomes a dinosaur,” said Aghan during the opening of the
training held from March 31- April 1, 2022.

The training targeted journalists with a revolutionary approach to telling science stories in
keeping with a fast paced world.

Members, 15 of them, were introduced to the MOJO concept and its elements. Trainees heard
that MOJO is an all around multimedia solo reporting act in which the smartphone serves as a
complete production unit for collecting, editing and disseminating news.


Emmanuel Yegon, a multi-media journalist unpacked MOJO as the most critical tool for
journalists as it helps transcend many challenges facing journalists.

Yegon trained through a highly interactive classroom setting that included lectures, question and
answer sessions as well as practical assignments. He first unpacked MOJO as a form of digital
storytelling where a smartphone is used to collect or create data in audio, images and videos.
The smartphone is further used to edit collected or created content and to disseminate content. As
a full production unit, there is no limit on how far one can go to collect news, features and
relevant information.

He trained journalists on what he termed as a “new workflow for media storytelling where
reporters are trained and equipped for being fully autonomous.”

The first day of training was anchored on two key factors. First, that MOJO enables reporters to
undertake multiple production and content distribution activities using one single device.
Second, the audience have access to the same means of producing content allowing for them to
similarly consume content through mobile devices. As such, MOJO is a cross-platform and
digital innovation approach within the reach of reporters in far flung areas.

Participants discussed storyboarding, or story planning using mobile devices. They were also
taken through elements of a practical MOJO toolkit which includes a quality smartphone, a
microphone, a simple LED light, a power bank and tripod.

The trainees were also taken through the dos and don’ts of MOJO including not zooming while
recording images or collecting videos. Reporters were further taken through tips in image
orientation and direction. They were advised not to mix both landscape and portrait images while
creating content.

The viability of taking photos, videos, audio and graphics, editing and uploading to their
respective newsroom servers were also discussed. The trainer encouraged reporters to own or
have access to a smartphone and to develop skills on MOJO as this is the new frontier of content
creation, production and dissemination.

MOJO, in essence, participants heard, is a solo media production unit. Practical sessions
included how a lone journalist can use a single mobile devise to tell their story, from breaking
news, news features to more timeless human interest stories.

Reporters saw firsthand how they can achieve the greatest value from their smart phones as a
production studio in their pockets. This form of reporting is a cost effective platform, portable
and convenient.

For investigative reporters, it is a safe platform to discreetly collect information without
detection. By the same token, MOJO can help a journalist to stay safe when recording sensitive
information.

MOJO is also flexible and a journalist can produce content at a faster pace. Reporters were also
taken through video recording apps or camera apps that can help them capture quality images.
By further connecting their smartphone to an external microphone, they can record quality
sound. This, Yegon says, is akin to putting an entire production unit in the pocket. More
importantly, an entire newsroom can put these simple device production units in the hands of
more journalists.

“Those lessons were the most interesting thing I had been through in the recent past,” said Rachel
Kibui from Nakuru. Her counterpart from Kitui, in Eastern Kenya, Nzengu Musembi added that
“the sessions were pretty educative. From this training, I can see myself being a competent
mobile journalist.”

By Joyce Chimbi

Biodiversity: Experts urge the public to embrace and protect insects/over 500 edible insects’ species in Africa

Biodiversity champions in Kenya and Africa have called on Kenyans to embrace and protect insects saying that they are very key in maintaining the ecosystem.

The head of Technology Transfer Unit at the International Centre of Insect, physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) Dr.Niassy Saliu said many insects which are playing key roles like pollination, decomposition of nutrient in the soil and also used as food might soon be extinct because they are not protected.

Dr.Niassy said many people have ignored the roles played by insects in the society adding that besides helping in issues of pollination, nutrient decomposition, some insects are used as food for humans. He said insects are very rich in nutrients like protein, zinc among others.

The head of Technology Transfer Unit at the International Centre of Insect, Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) said countries like Europe have embraced insects by even creating laws to protect insects, adding that the majority of the people are eating insects.

Dr.Niassy said such laws protecting insects which have been developed in some countries are also very necessary in Kenya adding that the people in Kenya should value the insects.

In Africa, there are over 500 edible insects while globally over 1900 insects’ species are eaten.

Among the edible insects in Africa include legend termite, spiders, beetles, mantids, flies,plant bugs,wasps;moth/butterflies ,dragonflies  and grasshoppers

By George Juma.

Migori County.

1st MARCH 2022.