Rainbow Tourism Group (RTG), in partnership with Environment Africa, a non-profit organisation, on Tuesday hosted the 24th edition of the Environmental Reporter Awards at Rainbow Towers Hotel and Centre Conference Centre.
The awards are a way of recognising journalists who have an interest in driving awareness on the importance of greening, the effects of human impact on the environment and educating the public on how they can play a part in protecting the planet.
“We hope that the awards motivate and encourage journalists to write about sustainability and climate change by so doing educate the public and hopefully change behaviour,” said RTG corporate affairs and quality manager Pride Khumbula.
This year’s World Environment theme is Only One Earth, with a focus on living sustainably in harmony with nature.
“The tourism business, particularly the hospitality industry, is heavily reliant on healthy ecosystems, because such ecosystems – and the wildlife, habitats, landscapes, and natural features that make up those ecosystems – are frequently what attract tourists to a location in the first place,” Khumbula said.
“It is against this background that we will continue to prioritise supporting the media to ensure we have a better-informed population, which will hopefully lead to changing our behavior and ultimately our impact on the environment.”
RTG’s strategic approach is centred on education and awareness, with the media being an integral part of this approach as the media’s role is to inform, educate and entertain, Khumbula said.
“The prime objectives of the awards are to recognise, motivate, honour and reward the media in an effort to encourage them to report on matters around climate change and sustainability of the environment,” Khumbula said.
She said this year’s theme highlights the need for collective, transformative action on a global scale to celebrate, protect and restore our planet, encouraging everyone, everywhere, to live sustainably and take action on the climate crisis.
Reporters battled for honours in nine categories namely; Best Climate Change Story, Best Waste Management and Recycling Story, Best Wildlife Conservation, Best Water and Sanitation Story, Best Sustainable Livelihoods Story, Best Gender and The Environment Story, Best Renewable Energy Story as well as Best Sustainable Forest Management Story.
Environment Africa has over 30 years of experience in responding to the needs of communities and the environment and the Environmental Reporter Awards are an integral part of the organisation’s thrust in ensuring excellence in environmental reporting for the ultimate attainment of its mandate.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, Environment Africa executive director Paradzayi Innocent Hodzonge thanked this year’s four partners who came on board to sponsor specific prize categories, OK Zimbabwe – Renewable Energy Category, Environmental Management Agency – Waste Management Category, Forestry Commission – Forestry Category and Institute for Sustainability Africa (INSAF) - Climate Change.
“Collectively we have a responsibility to ensure that this one earth sustains us today and in the future,” Hodzonge said.
“Individually we must ask ourselves what little actions we can take to contribute towards a today and future sustaining one earth.
“We should not end at asking ourselves, but we must act. All we have is only one Earth.”
Dutch ambassador to Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi Margret Verwijk said her country was committed to pushing the environmental sustainability agenda and has been involved in numerous activities.
“The interlinked tasks of reducing carbon emissions and saving our biodiversity so that future generations are not robbed of their inheritance is the battle of our time,” she said.
“A recent Afro-barometer survey revealed that only 45% of Zimbabweans have heard of climate change.
“This is especially worrying in a country like Zimbabwe, which is among the most vulnerable countries worldwide, whilst also being globally recognised as a critical stronghold for biodiversity.
“How can we change mindsets, modify behavior, mobilise support and seek solutions when a majority of people do not have even a basic understanding of the issues?”
Verwijk hailed the environmental awards organisers for playing their part in the critical area.
Khumbula said the Environmental Reporter Awards were part of RTG’s corporate social investment strategy which is guided by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
“We are embarking on a renewable energy programme where we will reduce the use of fossil fuels and replace with renewable energy such as solar power,” she said.
Under the philanthropy pillar, RTG this year donated beds, blankets, pillows and linen to various children’s homes and hospitals in communities where they have hotels.