Curating content and dead-ends

These past few weeks have been challenging on many levels. The ongoing protests on campus have disrupted the careful schedule Claudia and I planned to meet up and work, and has barred access to the awesome Mendi computer lab with cool technology and programs.

It has also been D-Day for me (Soninke) with regards to content. All the research I had been doing now had to be moulded into carefully categorised stories, enriched with media such as stop-motion videos and audio tracks.

It was not that easy.

Claudia and I had worked hard on the rich media. It had distracted from the story writing. When I did turn back to it I struggled to generate content, which was strange for me as I loved writing. I kept turning back and rethinking “What am I trying to convey with this chapter?” The content production for the six existing chapters had been painstaking and slow, but I could not work out why.

Then I realised it: we are trying to do too much with the site with little clarity of what to focus on. The six areas we agreed on was the following:

  1. ‘The weather in South Africa: The Basic’. This piece will introduce the viewer to the the mechanism behind South Africa’s climate through a short stop-motion video, explaining our country’s context within the global scale, and ultimately lay the foundation for the rest of the article. It would also explain the different climate zones in South Africa which is important with regards to agriculture as it determines where what crops/livestock is produced.
  2. ‘El Nino Explained’. This section was to communicate the forcing behind the El Nino, how it works, and how it affects South Africa in particular. Diagrams have been employed to help simplify the content and communicate the complicated concept of the global phenomenon.
  3. ‘The Drought in South Africa’. I feel that this story is trying to do too much. Somehow, it had to talk about 2015 being the hottest year, the increasing dry conditions in South Africa, why last year was hot, why this El Nino was worse, how it all affects farmers and link to agriculture. Phew. See?
  4. ‘Conversation with a commercial farmer’. Here we spoke to Andy Schulenburg, a farmer in the North West who has suffered with the latest drought. He talks us through the consequences of the drought, such as loss of livestock, revenue and job losses for farmers and farmworkers. It tells a very human story. Yet, the economy is an important factor to include as agriculture does contribute to a large extent of the GDP.
  5. ‘Stories of Subsistence Farmers’. Here we used Claudia’s video and a case study of subsistence farmers in Muden. These farmers have been hit by the drought as they have lack of assets and live in climate vulnerable areas. Kwazulu-Natal was one of the hardest hit, and just las year +- 40 000 cattle were lost in this province alone due to lack of food and water.
  6. ‘Climate Change Adaptation’. Here we venture into farming prospects for the future, given climate change and increasing dry conditions across the country. We investigate conservation farming and other methods available to help farmers adapt to the future.

The last three sections seem to be fine. There is enough information for them to stand alone as chapters. However, the first three try and do too much and too little at the same time. Perhaps it’s time to review the chapters and see what we really need.

I propose the following:

  1. ‘South African Weather and the El Nino’. Herein would be the introduction to South African climate with a lead in to El Nino. If it is all in one chapter it will be easier for viewers to understand. It will also be a nice rich chapter, with the stop-motion video and the graphics illustrating the El Nino.
  2. ‘The Drought in South Africa’. This portion can now play its part and link the drought to the agricultural industry without being forced. It can talk about why this drought was so bad (El Nino plus other natural variability) and we can still use Peter Johnston’s audio.
  3. ‘Financial implications of the drought’. This is an important section. Agriculture altogether contributes 14% to our GDP, so the financial implications of the drought must be discussed. I propose a section on how it affects the South African economy (e.g. increased imports, decrease exports, drop in fruit quality), a section on how it affects farmers (increased debt, sell livestock, less seed) and on how it affects consumers through increased food prices.

This financial bit seems crucial as it will provide sufficient content on the site to cater for a variety of audiences as it balances between the environment/climate, the costs of the drought, and the social factor. It even touches on conservation farming for the future.

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