In Senegal, the FoodAfrica team has made use of the interactive theatre forum method. It was applied by the FoodAfrica team to address some of the critical water management issues facing irrigated agriculture in the coastal Niayes region of Senegal.
The theatre forum method can be used to disseminate the key messages coming from one’s research results while creating opportunities for smallholder farmers to react to research-based findings. It also offers new information and insight into the problems they face. The theatre forum also allows them to participate directly in the staged scenarios, so that they can offer alternative solutions and approaches that might better address the problems being discussed.
The new approach successfully engaged the farmers in resolving conflicts over water resources
In a hot day in early October, the FoodAfrica research team, the Kaddu Yaraax theater troop and a videographer travelled to the town of Mboro located in the Niayes region, to conduct the theatre forum. This is a region where a large share of Senegal’s irrigated horticulture is produced, and which is facing the risk of rising salinity in both the soil and the groundwater resources it depends upon.
At Mboro, theater troops first presented a play where excessive use of irrigation led to substantially reduced groundwater availability and dry wells. Different aspects related to the use of water resources were elaborated, such as efficiency and wastage in irrigation practices, the inequalities that exist between farmers and the technologies they have access to, and the challenges that are inherent in collective decision-making. Sustainability aspects covered economic, social and environmental dimensions. The aim of the various scenarios presented in the play was to stimulate discussion around the main issues, and to illustrate how the problem could be resolved in a consultative and participatory manner.
After the play, the audience was asked to give their feedback and suggestions on how the conflicts over water could be resolved in a way that can improve the overall groundwater situation in the region. Audience members put forward a number of propositions on how to use water resources sustainably, and were invited to offer their advice and insight to the actors playing out the scene. During the discussion, a number of measures to improve the sustainability of water resources use were suggested. The suggestions were documented by video and will be transcribed and analyzed during the coming weeks.
Co-creation of knowledge and structured dialogue at its best
Experiences from the first theatre forum were positive. The approach seemed to motivate the farmers and other stakeholders present into participating in the co-creation of knowledge with the research team. It also seems to be a promising avenue for both doing outreach and holding structured dialogue with key informants and stakeholders.
– We hope that this approach can be used in future dissemination activities, and are now creating a video that discusses our findings and insights from the theater forum experience, based on our analysis and interviews with research team members and other key stakeholders concerned with the issue of sustainable groundwater management in this region, Research Professor Jarkko Niemi from Natural Resources Institute of Finland (Luke) says.
The video will appear at the FoodAfrica website (luke.fi/foodafrica) in the beginning of 2018 and will be included in the next FoodAfrica newsletter.