By NewsWatch Staff Writer
Journalist, Nalova Akua, is one of two winners of this year’s Michael Elliott Award for Excellence in African Storytelling, organisers of the international award have announced.
Akua, who reports for who reports for a variety of print and digital outlets, won the award alongside Moroccan journalist, Khalid Bencherif.
“Through compelling reporting and writing, the journalists illuminated the toll of climate change on people and their livelihoods,” the International Centre for Journalists, (ICFJ), organisisers of the award, said.
Akua’s winning entry for BBC Future Planet, “The Invasive Weed that Traveled the World,” examines how a fishing community in Cameroon is racing to save Lake Ossa, one of the country’s largest, from an invasive plant that thrives in warm freshwater.
“You won’t even believe how I came up with this,” Akua told NewsWatch.
He explained he was simply browsing on Facebook one day when he came across a post by someone about women struggling to weed out the water plant from a lake.
“So, I became intrigued by the activity. At first, I didn’t believe it was in Cameroon. But my curiosity pushed me to reach out to the person who shared the post and came to understand it is actually a lake in Cameroon,” the journalist, who is a fan of nature -plants and animals alike, explained, saying “that’s where I started my research and investigations”.
The 25-year-old graduate from the Advanced School of Mass Communication, (ASMAC) said in the course of the research, he learnt Cameroon is just one of the many countries that the aquatic plant is found.
“Then I asked the question from an expert to know if there’s any solution to the phenomenon. That’s when I realised there are weed-eating beetles which live exclusively on the water weed. Then I knew I found a story,” Akua explained further about how he went about the story that has won the international award.
On his part, Khalid Bencherif did a report on how Morocco, including his hometown, are now uninhabitable due to climate change. In vivid details that weave his personal story together with factual reporting, Bencherif exposed the connection between rising temperatures in North Africa, subsequent desertification, and forced mass migration.
The prestigious award was established in 2016 by the International Centre for Journalists, (ICFJ), in partnership with the ONE Campaign and the Elliott family in honour of Michael Elliott, an outstanding editor and philanthropist whose life was a testament to the power of storytelling to bear witness to and improve the human condition.
The prize aims to advance the work of emerging journalists in Africa who strive to strengthen people’s voices and improve their well-being, ICFJ said, announcing that Akua and Bencherif will receive a cash prize and take part in a customised professional development programme at The Economist headquarters in London.