Palm tree story wins in SciDev.Net journalism awards

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07 June 2022, Africa: A story about a farmer in Algeria who invented a device which can water his palm trees automatically has won the ‘News Article of the Year’ in the annual SciDev.Net journalism awards.

Riaz Mazouzi’s prize-winning story ‘He could not find workers, so he invented a regulator that watered his palms,’ featured last July on SciDev.Net’s Middle East and North Africa pages.

It beat shortlisted stories which focused on trade barriers blocking global COVID-19 vaccine goals and a Taliban ban on jabs which may trigger a COVID-19 spike. His story also bettered articles on climate finance ‘from north to south’ and Syrians who warm themselves with fireplaces made from missile shells.

The global journalism awards are in recognition of the impactful contributions that SciDev.Net writers have made around the world. Often their stories are written in challenging circumstances. This includes in areas affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as political instability.

The winners were chosen by SciDev.Net’s Editorial Advisory Group, based on a shortlist drawn up by SciDev.Net editors.

Also Read: Sustainable Management of Empty Pesticide Containers (EPC)

Ben Deighton, Managing Editor at SciDev.Net, said the high standard of entries is testament to the professionalism of the journalism on SciDev.Net’s roster.

“To be able to research and write engaging copy that questions some of the most significant issues of our time is testament to the dedication and hard work of our journalists,” he said. “This is particularly so when conducted in places where their own safety is put at risk by potentially deadly viruses and political instability that can include war.”

In the ‘Feature Article of the Year’ category, a piece entitled ‘COVID-19, lies and statistics: corruption and the pandemic’ took the honours after impressing judges with its in-depth analysis of the issue involving ‘secretive’ governments around the world.

The article, written by Fiona Broom, Aleida Rueda, Joel Adriano and Syriacus Buguzi, highlights how data on COVID-19 deaths and cases goes unreported in many countries and that corruption and secrecy is putting lives at risk.

The journalists saw off competition from features that included pieces about a predicted mass exodus of health staff following COVID-19 and polluters in Africa escaping justice.

Other shortlisted entries included features about research ‘colonialism’ still ‘plaguing’ Africa and taxi drivers putting themselves and passengers at risk by fuelling their cars on cheaper domestic gas instead of petrol.

In other award categories, Helen Mendes scooped the ‘Interview of the Year’ with a report about how to stop ‘helicopter research colonisation.’ In this article, Ms Mendes interviewed Adriana Romero-Olivares, a biologist at New Mexico State University and co-author of a paper about ‘helicopter research’ – the practice where local scientists go unacknowledged.

Her interview triumphed over others that looked at how the Israel-Gaza conflict has halted vaccine rollout and a social scientist at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19. She also beat interviews that addressed scientific research after 15 years of siege in Gaza and the second filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Finally, in the ‘Multimedia of the Year’ category, Aleida Rueda won with her report – which includes a video published on the SciDev.Net YouTube channel – about how maternal deaths from haemorrhage are preventable.

The video explores the way in which doctors, patients and specialists in the prevention of maternal death develop research and initiatives so that maternal deaths due to placenta accreta can be totally avoidable.

Shortlisted pieces in the category included a look at how plastic debris in soil aids the growth of dangerous fungi and two global reports which show the challenge of water and sanitation in fighting COVID-19.

The other two shortlisted items were an article about young people in Egypt getting involved in cleaning the River Nile of solid waste which threatens its fish and a piece concerning sustainable ‘Kun Houses’ in Jordan which can be built in eight weeks.

Mr Deighton added, “Congratulations once again to the winners and shortlisted entries for their excellent journalism. It is their work which helps SciDev.Net continue to offer world-leading authoritative news, views and analysis about science and technology for global development.”

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