Inside Climate News staff writer Georgina Gustin has won the North American Agricultural Journalists’ 2023 series award for her reporting from Kenya in the fall of 2022 that hauntingly described how years of drought and “multiple breadbasket failures” had left 50 million people on the brink of famine around the world.
Gustin, who covers the intersection of climate and agriculture, began her series, “Food Shocks: Climate Change and the Coming Famines,” on the parched pasturelands of northern Kenya, where shepherds rely on international aid for what they often hope will be a single meal a day and their livestock “crumple from exhaustion and die.”
“For decades, researchers have warned of the impacts, mostly negative, that climate change will have on the world’s staple crops,” Gustin wrote. “But the recent spike in hunger and famine are revealing the instability of a global food system that is ill prepared for shocks, whether from war, pandemics, severe storms or drought.”
In stories produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Gustin described wild animals in Amboseli National Park—elephants, wildebeests, gazelles, zebras—dying from exhaustion and lack of pasture. “These creatures,” she wrote of the wildebeests, “so famous for trying to survive, are giving up.”
And at the Kakuma refugee camp, one of the largest in the world, Gustin reported on doctors inside a “Stabilization Ward” filled with malnourished children fighting for life.
“As you can see,” one of the physicians told her, “it’s a very busy place.”
In awarding the series prize to Gustin, the NAAJ judge wrote in her citation:
“This trio of powerful stories illustrates the direct impact of atmospheric warming on food systems and tells the heart-wrenching stories of the first victims of global change. The reporter researched these stories from three continents and talked to more than 250 experts, researchers and humanitarian workers. The resulting stories dramatically document the effect of climate change and the resulting famine in the Horn of Africa, where millions of people have been pushed into starvation by a persistent, multi-year drought.”
Last year, Gustin won the NAAJ’s award for writer of the year for a story she wrote from Brazil, The Amazon is the Planet’s Counterweight to Global Warming.
In 2019, Gustin and her ICN colleagues Neela Banerjee and John Cushman, Jr., won Columbia University’s John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism and the NAAJ’s series and writers of the year awards for Harvesting Peril: Extreme Weather and Climate Change on the American Farm.
Gustin has reported at the nexus of farming, food systems and the environment for much of her journalism career. She has worked as a reporter for The Day in New London, Connecticut, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and CQ Roll Call, and her stories have appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post and National Geographic’s The Plate, among other publications. She is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Colorado at Boulder. She lives in Washington with her husband, the podcaster and author, Tim Townsend.