BYLINE: Patrick Luganda
Coping with climate change is emerging as a major challenge for Africa.
Ordinary people have begun observing the dramatic shift in the continent's climate - but they do not know what to do about it.
The media can play a crucial role in disseminating useful climate information to effectively guide public debate and understanding about the weather, climate and climate change.
Extensive rain-fed agricultural systems in Africa mean seasonal forecasts and climate information are in constant demand.
Millions of farmers are grappling with the changing climate around them but are starved of real, timely information on what their options are.
Still, it is not uncommon to hear them talking about ongoing changes in rainfall patterns. Indeed, as climate change takes centre stage in Africa, everybody is talking about it - in markets, gardens, homes and communities.
Regular, accurate communication about climate change is the first step toward developing coping mechanisms in Africa.
Communication has already proved a powerful tool for disaster management. In the war against HIV/Aids, conferences, radio broadcasts, community mobilisation meetings and seminars have helped stem the disease's spread in Kenya and Uganda, and increasingly in the Southern Africa Development Community countries.
Governments need to replicate these communication strategies in the climate sector to develop successful coping strategies.
Informing the public about an upcoming drought, for instance, gives people time to plan how to cope.
Similarly, new information can help governments make better preparations for a potential disaster.
Over 70% of environmental disasters in Africa - such as flooding, drought, starvation and disease - are caused, or exacerbated, by changing climatic conditions.
If the general public is made more aware of this relationship, and kept informed of changing conditions, intervention strategies can be made in good time.
The media must develop the capacity to achieve this goal. …