Shrinking Lakes by InfoNile

The Shrinking Lakes cross-border investigation was reported by 12 journalists from the InfoNile network in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda over a year and a half. It contains original data analysis and field reporting on threats to biodiversity in lakes across East Africa. In general, it finds that many East African lakes are slowly receding, reducing in depth and drying up. So bad is the situation that you can walk or drive through some of these lakes during the dry season. This is coupled with an ongoing decline in biodiversity and the fisheries industry that is impacting the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on water and fish across the region.

The Shrinking Lakes multimedia story brings together 9 stories that were supported by InfoNile and published in top media houses across the 4 countries in 2021 and 2022. The stories looked at the impact of oil drilling on Lake Albert in northern Uganda; Lake Wamala and how traditional spiritual practices are influencing conservation in central Uganda; the endangered Jipe Tilapia fish in a small lake that straddles Kenya and Tanzania; the threats facing Lake Nakuru and its famous flamingo population in Kenya; Lake Manyara, a lake that is drying up in Tanzania; how refugees are conserving Lake Nakivale in western Uganda; and the scientific factors that hinder the development of fisheries in Rwanda, despite its abundance of lakes.

Five data wranglers from InfoNile and our partner organisation, Code for Africa, produced original data visualisations for the stories. 17 maps and interactive data visualisations were included in the final cross-border project, many of which look at fish populations over time and the status of threats to the lakes, including growing human populations and climate change. The data was sourced from fisheries departments, government reports and ministries, as well as downloaded and analysed from the Uganda Freshwater Biodiversity Portal, which aggregated hundreds of datasets on fish occurrences. The story also includes a series of original artwork depicting traditional scenes of fishing in East Africa, as well as original graphics depicting scientific processes that affect freshwater biodiversity. Satellite images are used to show the changing size of Lake Wamala, and 6 original short video documentaries are embedded. Drone images provide a unique perspective to the environmental threats to these lakes.

All of the journalists who contributed to the story were given a spot in InfoNile/Code for Africa’s annual data journalism training and mentorship program, where they went through a series of trainings and small-group mentorship sessions to learn the basics of data journalism and visualisation. The journalists also received individual mentorship, editing and data visualization support by InfoNile and Code for Africa as they reported their stories.

The project was produced in partnership with Code for Africa with funding from JRS Biodiversity Foundation.

  • Credits
    Principal Editors: Annika McGinnis and Fredrick Mugira Reporting by: Janet Njunge and Nuru Saadun in Kenya, Fred Mwasa and Sylidio Sebuharara in Rwanda, Sylivester Domasa in Tanzania and Andrew Aijuka, Cliff Abenaitwe, Kajumba Godfrey, Megan Lee, Annika McGinnis, Fredrick Mugira and Ronald Musoke in Uganda. Data Analysis and Visualizations by: Emma Kisa, Tricia Govindasamy, Sakina Salem at Code for Africa and Annika McGinnis, Ruth Mwizeere and Jennifer Kwon at InfoNile. Videos by: Andrew Aijuka , Cliff Abenaitwe, Megan Lee and Janet Njunge. Video Production by: Megan Lee and Andrew Aijuka. Illustrations by: Jonathan Kabugo. Story Design: Sakina Salem, Christine Kandeo and Annika McGinnis. IT Support: Mukalele Rogers Communications and Project Management: Delicate Sive, Curity Ogada, Alis Okonji, Ruth Mwizeere and Tricia Govindasamy. This project was supported by JRS Biodiversity Foundation and produced in partnership with Code for Africa.
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