A journalist and CNN corporate sales executive quit her job to pursue a Masters thesis that would help Malawi farmers use video to teach neighboring villages about the ways they have learned to adapt to climate change and preserve their livelihoods in the wake of new flooding.
Rural communities in Africa are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The change in weather patterns has caused extreme drought and flooding, compromising crops and consequently food security, shelter and livelihoods. The majority of farmers do not have access to proper information about what’s happening to the climate and most importantly, if there are adaptive actions that could help them cope with the problems.
Thanks to education provided by the Malawian Red Cross, one village has taken real action and begun adapting their activities in simple ways, such as substituting maize crops with rice, and replacing their chickens that drown during flooding, with ducks that float.
With the help of Fernanda Baumhardt, who quit her high-paying job in broadcasting so she could “work for a cause, and not just a paycheck,” farmers in Mphunga were transformed into filmmakers and shown how to produce a video so their successful community-based adaptation practices could be shared with neighboring villages.
Following Baumhardt’s instructions, a group of farmers developed into filmmakers. She taught them how to operate a camera and how to write the script for a movie, which then turned into an educational tool. The village even created their own Climate Change music to play over the credits. The movie contained six examples of adaptation practices and was shown to four other villages, which were suffering from similar climate impacts. As a result, people from those villages were willing to change their behavior to implement the same successful measures needed to sustain their rural farming lifestyle.
Fernanda, now has her Masters in Environmental Resource Management, and for her work received an Award of Appreciation from Images and Voice of Hope at their World Summit in October. The group of global journalists, media professionals and artists honor media professionals who make contributions to “new stories of possibilities about the world”. Fernanda inspired all of us in attendance with her courage: Uprooting herself from Los Angeles and trudging along Africa’s rural landscape in a quest to help others use the powerful tool of communication enabled villagers to spread the good news that success is possible amidst torrential change.