Climate change may have been the subject of many discourses but the winners of the Ramnath Goenka Awards have shown how it is a lived reality in rural India. They brought out the extent of impact through people’s stories.
Team PARI (People’s Archive Of Rural India) is the winner of the Environment, Science And Technology Reporting category in print while Team Scroll is the winner in broadcast media. Team PARI, led by veteran journalist P Sainath, comprises 14 reporters — Shalini Singh, Sanket Jain, Ritayan Mukherjee, Vishaka George, Kavitha Muralidharan, Medha Kale, Parth M N, Urvashi Sarkar, Namita Waikar, Chitrangada Choudhury, Aniket Aga, Jaideep Hardikar, M Palani Kumar and Subuhi Jiwani. Team Scroll included Nooshin Mowla, Sujit Lad, Omkar Phatak, Swati Ali, Dewang Trivedi, Shibika Suresh and Sannuta Raghu.
The journalists from PARI compiled a comprehensive report on climate change through more than 20 stories, covering the length and breadth of India. These stories mapped climate change through the lived experiences of farmers, labourers, fishermen, forest dwellers, seaweed harvesters, nomadic pastoralists and honey tappers, among others. They covered forests, seas, river basins, coral islands, deserts, arid and semi-arid zones, rural and urban areas. The reporters made the crisis relatable to the reader. “It was a challenge to reach out to people — be it the nomadic pastoralists 14,000 feet above the sea-level in Ladakh or diving with the women seaweed harvesters in Tamil Nadu. Another challenge the reporters faced was to interpret the abstract language of climate reports in words that could be understood by the general public,” said Singh.
Five of their stories are being used to teach climate change to school and college students in Jharkhand and Odisha. Adivasi children have also retold these stories in their language with their own perspective.
Scroll, through its show Eco India, told the story of women farmers of the Marathwada region of Maharashtra, who gradually took ownership of the land and overcame the ravages of drought. They had no land ownership rights, which limited their access to resources like finance, markets, water and government services. But they preserved seeds and learnt to grow a diverse range of nutrient-rich crops using organic farming. Trained by Swayam Shikshan Prayog (a not-for-profit organisation), these women farmers were able to make informed decisions about what crops to grow, what to consume and how much to sell.
The story chronicled how the women-led model of climate-resilient farming helped turn the tide on their marginalisation. Now, over 58,000 women farmers and households practise sustainable farming that has helped them ensure food security, health and basic income. In Maharashtra, 70 per cent of the female workers are involved in agriculture activities, despite which women are perceived as labourers and seldom as decision makers.
“Getting the women to open up about their lives in front of the camera was one of the biggest challenges we faced. It was difficult for them to talk about their problems and achievements without the fear of being judged by their community, especially the men,” said Sannuta Raghu from Team Scroll.