How to communicate biodiversity? | Jonathan L. Mayuga


How do you communicate biodiversity for the target audience to grasp the importance of saving it?

At the forefront of the campaign to protect and conserve the country’s rich biodiversity, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) uses different strokes to communicate it.

Through the years, the DENR-BMB has evolved from issuing news releases and statements to using various forms of media to disseminate news and other information, to adopting the latest trend in information technology, including social media.

In the last two years of community quarantines due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the challenge of communicating biodiversity became even harder for the DENR-BMB, but no task is difficult through its Communication, Education and Public Awareness (CEPA) core group.

Pre-Covid IEC

Before the pandemic, the DENR-BMB  regularly conducted school and community visits around the country, especially during major biodiversity-related celebrations, such as World Wetlands Day, World Wildlife Day, International Day of Biological Diversity, Philippine Eagle Week, World Migratory Bird Day, World Oceans Day, Coral Triangle Day, Tamaraw Month and Climate Change Consciousness Week.

The DENR-BMB also responded to requests from schools, local government units (LGUs) nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and even the private sector to conduct talks about biodiversity.

The agency likewise facilitated interviews in both television and radio, and held roadshows, such as exhibits in malls, hotels and convention centers.

Platform evolution

Almost a year into the pandemic, the agency started to go digital due to the community quarantines, which led to travel restrictions, closure of schools, malls and convention centers.

Community residents were also prohibited from going to barangay halls or public areas, requiring the DENR-BMB CEPA Core Group to rethink their strategy and adapt to the situation.

“By going digital, we keep our old routines fit the new normal.   For the DENR-BMB, now more than ever, social media has become a vital CEPA platform,” DENR-BMB Director Datu Tungko M. Saikol told the BusinessMirror via e-mail on December 27.

Continuing its public awareness program online, the DENR-BMB has been conducting seminars through webinars and even using social media to enhance its existing programs.

“It [CEPA] provides the link between science, society and sound policy-making through a range of instruments from knowledge products to education, social marketing and dialogue,” Saikol said.

The DENR-BMB employs several CEPA strategies to achieve its targets of communicating biodiversity to target audiences, he said.

Dalaw-Turo

One CEPA strategy that contributes to achieving its target is Dalaw-Turo (DT).

It means Teaching Visits through lectures in schools and communities to teach about the importance and status of the country’s biodiversity.

It also promotes its conservation and deepens the understanding of pressing environmental issues.

It is an environmental outreach program initiated in the early 1990s with the aim of raising public awareness on biodiversity conservation and sustainable development through a nontraditional, nonformal participatory approach.

“Through the years, it has employed various forms of folk media such as street theatre, creative workshops and exhibits, including other activities like ecological tours and games, to make learning about biodiversity audience-friendly and effective,” he said.

‘Biodiversity Sentinel’

The official gazette of the DENR-BMB, the Biodiversity Sentinel is published semi-annually. It covers selected topics and information on the DENR-BMB’s conservation efforts, as well as the latest news, and research at the national, Asean and global levels.

It aims to ensure that DENR personnel, partners and other stakeholders are kept up to date with the work in biodiversity conservation, and provide accurate and insightful coverage of the latest news and research on Philippine biodiversity.

Lastly, this knowledge product is effective in communicating scientific knowledge in a language easily understandable by a wider audience while adhering to scientific accuracy.

Electronic copies of the Biodiversity Sentinel can be accessed online via the link: https://bmb.gov.ph/index.php/e-library/publications/newsletter.

eLibrary

Launched only last November 17, 2021, as part of the celebration of the International Year of Caves and Karst, the DENR-BMB’s digital library, or eLibrary, augments the existing information services from the traditional libraries reinforced by current information technology and knowledge management practices.

It offers a comprehensive collection of information on biodiversity for users that can be browsed in just several computer clicks through the Online Public Access Catalogue, which allows remote 24/7 access for multiple users.

The eLibrary is constituted under the supervision of the DENR-BMB’s Caves, Wetlands, and Other Ecosystems Division and in close coordination with the Biodiversity Policy and Knowledge Management Division.

Year of Protected Areas Campaign

The Year of the Protected Areas Campaign aims to increase awareness through an information campaign on the ecological and economic value of protected areas, and to instill appreciation among the new generation of Filipinos on the beauty and heritage of areas set aside for conservation.

As part of the campaign, the DENR-BMB together with the United Nations Development Programme-Biodiversity Finance Project is pushing 2022 to be declared as the Year of Protected Areas in the Philippines.

The campaign will feature six protected areas namely Bongsanglay Natural Park in Bicol, Apo Reef Natural Park in Occidental Mindoro, Samar Island Natural Park on Samar Island, Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park in Negros Oriental, Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental, and the Mt. Timpoong-Hibok-Hibok Natural Monument on Camiguin Island.

#StopIWT CEPA Campaign

A major driver of biodiversity loss, illegal wildlife trade is always a part of the DENR’s CEPA campaign.

The campaign aims to reduce the demand for wildlife, their byproducts and derivatives, while raising awareness about the environmental and legal consequences of the illegal wildlife trade.

The campaign highlights the legal penalties of violating Republic Act 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, also known as Wildlife Act.

It focuses on the campaign against hunting or poaching wild animals, particularly marine turtles, and parrots, especially the blue-naped parrot.

The campaign ran from February 2020 until July 2021 but the materials produced from this endeavor can still be seen circulating in various social media platforms.

Biodiversity Ambassador program

To build greater public awareness on biodiversity conservation, the DENR-BMB aims to partner with an influencer lending his or her celebrity status in support of the bureau’s vision, mission and goals.

The Biodiversity Ambassador will be on the frontline of communicating biodiversity to the general public, inspiring others, especially the youth, to become environmental stewards in their schools and communities.

The Biodiversity Ambassador, who will receive guidance and mentorship, will be invited to participate in various biodiversity conservation efforts and CEPA-related activities.

One such Biodiversity Ambassadors of the DENR-BMB is Antoinette Taus, who continues to advocate biodiversity conservation and appears in various CEPA-related activities of the DENR-BMB and its partners.

Image credits: DENR-BMB photo





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