Capacity building of Bhutanese media professionals for climate change reporting

April 26th, 2023

Climate change is a serious challenge to livelihoods and sustainable development in Bhutan. In spite of the grave threat of climate change to Bhutan’s ecology and livelihoods, it is among the least reported issues in the media today because climate change is a technical subject and our journalists have not received enough training.

BMF conducted a quick survey with the journalists to assess their knowledge of climate change journalism few months ago. The data revealed that none of the respondents specialises in climate change reporting. The data also indicate that only 40% of the respondents have attended climate change journalism training before but only 55% of them have ever reported on climate change. This shows that most of our journalists have been reporting on climate change without any training on it. On average, the respondents have rated 6 out of 10 on their knowledge of climate change journalism. No respondent claims very good or extremely good/specialized knowledge of climate change reporting. This indicates the importance of conducting climate change journalism training for the journalists.

BMF, with support from UNDP’s GEF-Small Grants Programme, conducted climate change reporting training for 25 journalists and later awarded climate change reporting grant to eight journalists. They will do the following stories over the next three months:

  1. In her story ‘Declining cordyceps yield’, Choki Wangmo will follow cordyceps collectors in June to reveal the amount of physical and mental hardships they go through to pick the increasingly rare fungus. The first story will contain the whys and wherefores of the declining yield and what it means to the livelihood of the highlanders dependent on cordyceps at the cost of their traditional means of livelihood like yak rearing. In the second story, she will explore how high income from cordyceps has given the highlanders the wherewithal to buy properties in the lower valleys and led to their migration. Does it mean the depopulation of highland communities with security implications on the northern frontiers? What are the lessons from other Himalayan countries


  1. In her story ‘Climate-smart agriculture in Tsangpo, Tashigang’, Deki Choden will explore how the farmers are engaged in climate-smart agricultural practices. The first story will explore what is happening in Tsangpo and what it means to the farmers. Among others, the story will contain details on electric fencing, new crops they are trying out, and other measures the community is taking to adapt to changing climate. The second story will explore the concept of climate-smart agriculture and answer the following questions: what does it mean to Bhutan? What are the RGOB and development partners doing about it? What are the policies in place? What are climate-smart agriculture projects and activities afoot around the country? What are regional and international best practices?


  1. In her story ‘Changing crop pattern in Toktok Gom village’, Nidup Lhamo will travel to Toktok Gom village in Chukha to explore how the warming climate has enabled the farmers to grow maize and other crops for the first time. The two-part story will answer the following questions: what does it mean to Toktok Gom and neighbouring farming villages? Good? Bad? What are short-term and long-term implications? She will expand the story beyond this particular village. What is happening in other parts of the country? What are regional and international trends and patterns, particularly in the Himalayan region?


  1. In her story ‘Climate change and businesses’, Pema Choki will explore how business entities and industries are affected by changing climate. What is the cumulative impact of climate change on businesses on the national economy? What does being carbon-negative mean to the economy? Is the economic sacrifice to remain carbon-negative or neutral worth it? Could sustainable timber extraction boost the economy? The second part of the story will focus on the following questions: how are businesses coping with climate change? Is there a policy or strategy in the first place? What are climate-friendly businesses? What are regional and international best practices? What are businesses doing to mitigate and adapt to climate change, for example, in the form of CSR? For this story, the reporter will travel to some business sites to see what they are doing or not doing to fight climate change.


  1. In his story ‘Water woes in Pemagatshel’, Sonam Penjor will begin in the Khar village where acres (exactly how many acres?) of paddy fields have been converted to kitchen gardens or maize fields for lack of water. What has happened to irrigation canals and reservoir tanks? What has gone wrong with them? What could be corrected and fixed? Could the water infrastructure have been built differently, in a climate-smart way? The story will go beyond the Khar village and explore why the Dungsam region is particularly water-stressed. How are the farmers in different villages adapting to water shortages? What is the government – both local and central – doing about it? He will put the story in the context of Bhutan’s water flagship programme and in the context of the country-level water policy and programmes. He will also bring in regional and international best practices.


  1. In his story ‘Army worms and fruit flies in Rangthangling’, Ugyen Dorji will travel to Rangthangling Gewog in Tsirang where the farmers blame increasing temperatures (what is the data?) for losing crops to army worms and fruit flies. The story will begin in Rangthangling, but it is a much bigger issue – the emergence of new pests in different parts of the country. The story will answer the following questions: is climate change to be blamed squarely for such new pests? Which other farming communities are experiencing the problem? How are they coping with or adapting to the problem? Is spraying cow dung scientific or helping? What does it mean to Bhutan’s food production and food security? What do scientists say about it? What is the government doing about it, if at all it is doing anything? How do other countries deal with this problem?


  1. In his documentary ‘Sustainable land management in Mongar’, Sonam Tshering will travel to Mongar where a massive sustainable land management project is underway. The story will begin in Mongar, but it will cover the rest of the eastern region and answer the following questions: what are the primary causes of land degradation and loss of soil fertility and crop productivity? How is it linked to climate change? What is SLM? How does it help retain or regain soil fertility? What is the government’s SLM policy and plans? How are development partners involved in terms of financial and technical support? What are best practices in the region and beyond?


  1. In her documentary ‘Trailing nomad Kencho across the mountains’, Tshering Denkar will follow the young Kencho, one of the last nomads of the Haa region, as he moves with his yaks from one camp to another in search of fresh water and grass for his herd. For the high school graduate Kencho, climate change is a real threat. For him and his herd, migration has become more frequent in recent times. Reduced and untimely rainfall and increased temperatures have impacted the quantity and quality of grass on the pastures. Kencho’s nomad friends have started feeding Karma Feeds to their herds for lack of enough grass. Kencho is a microcosm of Bhutan’s nomadic communities living with the impact of climate change and adapting to it. The documentary will present Kencho with intimate details that relate to climate change.