Environmentalists to work closely on biodiversity conservation
Petre Williams-Raynor, Contributing Editor
CIVIL SOCIETY organisations (CSOs) have come away from the recent Panos Caribbean communication-training workshop in Kingston with a view to working more closely on biodiversity conservation in Jamaica.
"I was pleasantly surprised. Often, these sorts of events don't really produce anything concrete, useful or sustained. I found the interactions with fellow workshop participants dynamic, and the outcomes that I am involved with extremely important, necessary and urgent," said independent film-maker Dr Esther Figueroa.
Those outcomes include work on an environmental media campaign and Panos serving as a clearing house for information and communication on biodiversity.
Figueroa was speaking with The Gleaner following the February 28 and March 1 workshop, held at the Hotel Four Seasons, which brought CSOs together with media practitioners to share experiences and learn from each other about conservation and communication best practices.
"The workshop was extremely useful in bringing enlightenment about the media and our cause as environmentalists, as well as to appropriate strategies for getting our message out to the wider public," said Hugh Dixon, executive director of the Southern Trelawny Environmental Agency (STEA).
"It also served to build some relationships across and within the sector as a result of that, and it served as a practical way of engaging in some activities that I would say are important if you are going to be effective in getting your message out," he added.
Funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, the workshop was implemented under the Panos project titled 'Strengthening the Engagement of Caribbean Civil Society in Biodiversity Conservation Through Local and Regional Networking and Effective Sharing of Learning and Best Practices'.
The two-year effort is being implemented by the regional communication organisation, which has offices in Jamaica and Haiti.
Ingrid Parchment, executive director of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management (C-CAM) Foundation, also had high praise for the workshop, which also saw consultants presenting on the strategic use of video and social media to further the cause of conservation locally.
According to the C-CAM boss, the two days of activities were "a good learning experience" and provided the opportunity for "good networking".
She listed among her takeaways from the workshop:
Opportunities for partnerships to implement the planned media campaign about the environment; and
The need for CSOs to be more media savvy and to make themselves available to provide and verify information.
"It is also important to build relationships with media personnel such as local correspondents, [staff] journalists or editors, and provide high-quality video or photos and articles that require very little editing in order to be more likely to be taken up (published)," Parchment noted.
Concerning what she intends to do differently in the coming months, she said: "Look at specialised placement such as environmental pages, especially when the information is important but not [hard] news, [as well as] add to topical issues to enhance the message [and] send 'letters to the editor' when possible."
Further, Parchment said she would "relook" at C-CAM's Facebook page and, where possible, get a social-media savvy person to help with their Twitter and YouTube accounts.
Figueroa - who is known for films such as Massa God Fish Can Done, and Cockpit Country is Our Home - said she now has "the opportunity to work with some new people as well as with people I have worked with in the past".
Dixon noted that he would strive to keep the lines of communication between STEA and other players in conservation open, and be available to collaborate.
"We need to at least communicate to ensure that [the word gets out] when we are doing things that need support from the wider environmental community, so that nobody is left in the dark and so that we can coordinate our efforts in a more meaningful way," he said.
The Jamaica workshop is one of three being implemented under the project. The first was held in Haiti last month and the other, this week in the Dominican Republic.