Nigerian journalist wins UNEP Young Environmental Journalist Award

A radio journalist from Nigeria has won the United Nations Environment Programme’s Young Environmental Journalist Award (YEJA), beating over 120 entries from reporters across Africa.

Ugochi Anyaka (28), hosts an environmental radio show “Green Angle” on ASO Radio, works as a producer, reporter and continuity announcer with the station, also writes an environmental blog, Eco Nigeria, at and  lists her main interests as sustainable development and climate change.

Ms. Anyaka received her award at a special ceremony held during the 12th Special Session of the UNEP Governing Council / Global Ministerial Environment Forum in Nairobi, Kenya.

As part of her prize, Ms. Anyaka will take part in a professional exchange visit to the United States, following a specially-designed “green itinerary”. Last year’s YEJA winner, Patricia Okoed-Bukumunhe of Uganda, took part in a week-long placement with Voice of America in Washington DC, spent time with National Geographic magazine, the US Environmental Protection Agency and attended an environmental journalism conference in Florida.

The winning report, entitled Saving the Trees for Paper Briquettes, was broadcast on ASO Radio in Nigeria, where Ms. Anyaka works as a journalist and presenter.

The radio feature profiled a project in a low-income suburb of Abuja that manufactures briquettes from waste paper, in order to provide an alternative fuel to traditional firewood.

The project aims to reduce the health risks associated with indoor use of wood fuel, reduce deforestation and provide a source of income for the briquette makers.

Ms. Anyaka’s report also discusses the role of the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

“This story was done to show the opportunities in a changing climate – and not just the woes,” said Ugochi Anyaka.

“It also seeks to show the conflicting view points about the Clean Development Mechanism. But ultimately, it tells the story of what some Nigerians are doing to protect their vulnerable environment and save their very existence. Winning the UNEP Young Environmental Journalist Award is the greatest moment of joy in my career. It is such an honour to be recognised in this manner,” she added.

The YEJA jury described Ms. Anyaka’s winning entry as a “well-researched report that clearly explained the essence of reducing green house gas emissions and the need for creating environmental development in Africa”.

The winner was presented with her specially-commissioned trophy by Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, Joseph Murphy, US Permanent Representative to UNEP and UN-HABITAT and Patricia Okoed-Bukumunhe, the winner of last year’s Young Environmental Journalist Award

Commenting on the award, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner, said, “With less than four months to go until world governments meet at the UN Sustainable Development Conference (Rio+20) in Brazil, raising public awareness of today’s environmental challenges is perhaps more critical than ever”.

“The large number of entries received from journalists from Cairo to Cape Town and Dar es Salaam to Dakar for this year’s award, showed that young journalists are becoming an increasingly vital voice for telling the story of Africa’s changing environment – and showing the many solutions that are available on the continent. On behalf of UNEP, I congratulate Ugochi Anyaka on her achievement and wish her continued success in her work,” he said.

Launched in 2010, the UNEP Young Environmental Journalist Award aims to showcase excellence in the field of environmental reporting and nurture new talent that will help to shape opinion on the environment in Africa, and beyond, in years to come and is made possible through funding support from the US Department of State.

This year, a total of 127 entries were received (in English and French) from television, radio, online and print journalists in 28 countries. The diverse topics covered included the economic and environmental impacts of invasive species in Lake Victoria, efforts to reduce plastic bag use in Togo and the breeding of climate change-resilient chickens in Namibia.

The winner was chosen by the YEJA jury, which brought together four experts from the worlds of journalism, development and science. They were Amie Joof, Executive Director of the Senegal-based Inter-African Network for Women, Media, Gender and Development (FAMEDEV), Diran Onifade, journalist and manager with the Nigerian Television Authority and President of the African Federation of Science Journalists, Stanis Nkdundiye, Steering Committee member of the Federation of African Journalists and Sunday Leonard, Special (Scientific) Assistant to the Chief Scientist of UNEP.

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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