In an effort to avoid the typical top-down flow of knowledge and information from research activities, the “Enhancing Resilience to Climate and Ecosystem Changes in Semi-Arid Africa (CECAR-Africa)” project at UNU-IAS has been using environmental theatre to disseminate and validate some of its major scientific research findings and intervention strategies on climate and ecosystem changes in semi-arid Ghana.
Through theatre, CECAR-Africa aims to offer a platform for discussing, reflecting on, and communicating future climatic uncertainties, outcomes, existing and potential adaptation and intervention strategies, and current drivers within and across households and communities in the area. The ultimate goal of this endeavour is to encourage and empower local communities to translate research findings and existing and proposed intervention strategies into local contexts, in order to reach a wider audience and also promote self-action beyond immediate project interventions.
The community theatre exercise, led by Dr. Yaw Agyeman Boafo (The University of Tokyo) under the supervision of Dr. Osamu Saito (UNU-IAS) and Prof. Gordana Kranjac-Berisavljevic (University for Development Studies), selected five out of its ten project sites for a small-scale pilot project to explore whether or not this approach can be scaled-up to other sites. Scientific findings were translated into drama pieces to reflect the most plausible past, present and future scenarios. Through a series of rehearsals, carried out under the guidance of a theatre expert, actors from local communities were able to improvise, create and rehearse scenes based on agreed messages from the project’s findings and intervention strategies. Using fictional characters, the drama pieces from each of the five sites communicated actual stories of exposure and sensitivity to, as well as adaptive capacity for climate and ecosystem change stresses — such as droughts, floods, bushfires, and the degradation and decline of provisioning ecosystem services.
From 29–30 April and 3–5 May 2016, the pilot communities held their final performances in the presence of project researchers and community members. Each theatre piece depicted aspects of the communities’ livelihood systems based on past, present and future scenarios. In order to stimulate discussions on issues from a community perspective, the project gathered feedback from performers and audience members through post-performance interactions and follow-up interviews. The audience interviewed were generally receptive to the performances. Most interviewees, especially women, stated that the drama pieces helped them find a voice to contribute to communal discussions. Some also indicated that they had fun, but that they had also learned about environmental problems occurring as a result of their actions and inactions, promising to change their behaviour towards natural ecosystems.
Going forward, CECAR-Africa hopes to expand the theatre exercise to the rest of its study communities after a careful evaluation of the processes and procedures in its current sites.
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The UNU-IAS CECAR-Africa project involves UNU-INRA and other leading adaptation and resilience research institutes in Ghana and Japan. It aims to combine climate change and ecosystem change research, and to build an integrated resilience enhancement strategy as a “Ghana model”.