Winner of the Lorenzo Natali Prize 2019

Michel Touma from L'Orient - Le Jour giving me the Lorenzo Natali Prize as the best emerging journalist. © Twane Photographe

Michel Touma from L'Orient - Le Jour giving me the Lorenzo Natali Prize as the best emerging journalist. © Twane Photographe

Everything started from an opportunity. Last January, I spent three weeks in Benin. The opportunity to visit friends settled in Cotonou. Several months in advance, I prepared my stay as best as I could: by reading articles about the situation of this little unknown African country, by talking with a Beninese finishing an internship in Switzerland and by digging different themes to get out of usual beaten tracks.

Three intense weeks. Three weeks to immerse yourself in voodoo culture. Three weeks to discover the country from East to West, from South to North with a getaway in the Pendjari National Park. Three weeks to spend time with locals and expats. Three weeks to surf the breaking waves of the Gulf of Guinea. Three weeks to capture the day to day moments and share them through words and images.

Three published articles, and many more that could not be finalize because of a lack of time and means. I had to make choices and focus on one subject rather than several. From the beginning, my curiosity arose for the topic on the water hyacinth. This plant, present in about fifty countries on five continents, is mostly considered as a threat. However, Green Keeper Africa, the Songhai Center, the NGO JEVEV prefer to consider it for its virtues and turn this threat into a "green gold".

Change your perspective: here is my ambition when I started to write this report. My goal was to highlight local initiatives to build, together, a sustainable future. This approach talked to the members of the Lorenzo Natali Prize, who among 1.200 candidates rewarded me in the category of the Best Emerging Journalist.

Everything is moving faster. On June 19, I received in Brussels my prize during the European Development Days. A ceremony organized by the European Commission and inaugurated by a speech by Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize 2014. The European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, explained that this prize "The Lorenzo Natali Media Prize recognises the work of journalists who go beyond the relentless influx of information, taking the time to listen, explore and discover development stories around the world. They put faces and stories behind the facts and figures we read about everyday. Their work is a window into the lives and realities of others. It not only informs us, but moves us and compels us to act. With today's award, we pay tribute to all those journalists that denounce the inequalities and injustices of this world and fight to overcome them with the power of the pen."

Two other laureates. The Lorenzo Natali Grand Prix was awarded to Salvadoran journalist Glenda Girón Castro working at La Prensa Grafica for her report on the difficulties of finding a job when suffering from the AIDS virus. French journalist Zoé Tabary, working for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, won the European Prize for talking about Mauritanian women who take care of villages when men leave with their flock for several months.