Creative arts inspire take-up of aquaculture innovation in Zambia, World Bank guidelines help

Establishing open and informed stakeholder engagement with potential project beneficiaries is best practice - it makes projects environmentally and socially sustainable.

However, devising engagement spaces and platforms that are inclusive and encourage consistent stakeholder participation—particularly at the grassroots level—is challenging.

In Zambia, AICCRA partnered with Kasama Arts to reach 40,000 people through community drama, art, TV and radio, encouraging the take up of climate-smart innovations in aquaculture. 

The Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) project includes environmental and social safeguards as a key element of its operations.

For example, in Kenya, the World Bank's Environmental and Social Framework is making technology transfers under the AICCRA project more inclusive.

Annie Mwansa on the AICCRA-Kasama Arts collaboration

More recently, the AICCRA team led an innovative grassroots stakeholder engagement project in Zambia, which leveraged the creative power of arts and drama to articulate and amplify the voice of key stakeholders in the aquaculture sector.

The AICCRA team in Zambia facilitated the dissemination and adoption of climate-smart aquaculture practices among over 70,000 smallholder farmers in Luapula and Northern provinces.

Devising cost-effective channels to effectively reach out and sustain conversations with such a large farmer group was challenging.  

So, the AICCRA Zambia Stakeholder Engagement Plan—based on the World Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework (ESF)—provided valuable guidance for engaging smallholder farmers at the community level.

One of the ‘standards’ of the framework, the Stakeholder Engagement and Information Disclosure, suggests that when operating in contexts of low literacy levels, innovative formats such as photo illustrations, film, and drama presentations in local languages should be employed to effectively convey relevant and complex information.

An opportunity emerged when AICCRA discovered a potential partnership through a competitive accelerator grant scheme

The partner was Kasama Arts, a renowned group of talented young Zambian men and women with diverse artistic skills and creativity in drama, music, visual arts, and storytelling.

The AICCRA team recognized storytelling as a compelling medium for conveying complex messages and inspiring action.

By crafting narratives that highlight the real-life impact of climate change, and the tangible benefits of climate-smart aquaculture, stakeholders could develop a deeper understanding of how to embrace sustainable practices in—for instance—aquaculture. 

The topography of Luapula and Northern Provinces of Zambia offers huge potential for aquaculture in comparison to food crop farming.

However, very few people actively farm fish. This is largely due to their limited knowledge of how to adapt to the changing climate, the inability to produce fingerlings during the winter season (when demand of it is usually strong) and limited knowledge of (i) the construction of fishponds to withstand perennial flooding, and (ii) Ensure proper aeration or optimized evaporation during the dry season.

Zambia's government has prioritized aquaculture production for those provinces, investing heavily and rallying the assistance of other partners towards building resilience and productivity of the sub-sector.  

Kasama Arts performances and exhibitions often revolve around cultural heritage, social, and environmental sustainability.

So, with guidance from World Fish, a leading CGIAR center in aquaculture, Kasama Arts translated climate-smart aquaculture innovations into compelling narratives, harmonious music, captivating drama, and vibrant dances.

The major themes used in the dramas were:

  • Integrated aquaculture and agriculture
  • Early warning systems
  • Gender responsive climate smart information
  • Gender equity and equality in aquaculture.

Based on these themes, three creative forms of theatrical expressions were utilized to maximize outreach and promote awareness: Theatre for the people; Theater with the people, and; Theatre by the people.

A variety of communication channels, including radio and television were used to ensure that content reaches and resonates with audiences in the Luapula and Northern provinces..

For instance, three radio stations (Radio Mano, Radio Kasama and Lutanda Radio) were employed as storytelling platforms to share compelling narratives on climate-smart aquaculture.

The program was strategically scheduled in the evenings, allowing smallholder farmers to tune in while relaxing after dinner.

Phone-in segments were integrated to facilitate clarifications, gather feedback, and encourage listeners to action what they had learned.

Additionally, Lone television station was used to transmit parallel information to TV audiences.

The group used local languages across all communication channels to enhance the appeal and cultural significance of the content.

Drama and dance sketches were also used to amplify outreach at the community level to a wider audience.

Kasama Arts organized public exhibition of their dramatic performances and dances during community market days, as well as district and provincial agricultural shows. The strategic choice of venues helped engage a larger audience of smallholder farmers at a convenient time.

Women showed particular interest in the captivating stories shared.

For instance, during the radio shows, women constituted the majority of those that phoned in to ask questions or provided feedback on the content of the shows.

Additionally, woman cooperative groups in Kasama District actively supported community receptions organized by Kasama Arts.

“I had a very little understanding about the benefits of integrated fish farming but through the sensitization of Kasama Arts I now appreciate the advantages of planting banana around fishponds, rearing livestock and farming soyabeans. I appreciate the work done by AICCRA and the way Kasma Arts teaches about climate change. It makes it easy to understand.”

Annie Mwansa, a female farmer in Kasama.

These platforms provided safe spaces for open dialogue, exploration of diverse perspectives and the facilitation of co-created solutions that address the unique concerns and interests of various stakeholder groups - especially women.

Through these interactive dialogues, stakeholders had a sense of ownership over the solutions that were developed, encouraging them to embrace climate-smart aquaculture innovations.

Ultimately, these public outreach events reached an estimated 40,000 smallholder farmers, generating significant awareness and appreciation.

This coupled with other AICCRA project activities enabled about eleven cooperative farmer groups (each with a membership of just over 200 smallholder farmers) to start aquaculture activities.

“We are pleased with the partnership with AICCRA, it has been our ambition to promote sustainable farming practices with our style, but technical content and resources have been our constraints. Our partnership with AICCRA has lifted this veil for us. We are now empowered to foster collaborations with other partners to continue with the use of arts and drama in facilitating the uptake of climate-smart aquaculture practices among smallholder farmers. We are happy to be helping our people and believe that this goes a long way to improve resilience and livelihood at the household levels”.

Peter Chinunda, Executive Director, Kasama Arts Group.  

One lesson learned from the use of art and drama for community engagement is its cost effectiveness in comparison to traditional methods.

Unlike other approaches (that often require substantial resources) modest expenditure was needed to mobilize smallholder farmers to attend multiple drama exhibition events.

The inherent power of art itself attracted attention and sparked their interest, resulting in repeated attendance of beneficiaries . 

The captivating nature of the arts motivated participants to willingly stay engaged for the entire duration of the drama shows and subsequent discussions - usually three-hours.

This demonstrates the unique ability of arts and drama to inspire and sustain engagement with smallholder farmers at the community levels without relying heavily on financial incentives.

It has shown that CGIAR and partners can include arts and drama in the array of techniques that can be explored for extension deliveries at the community level.


Adams Kwaw is Senior Environmental and Social Safeguards Specialist for AICCRA

Dr. Munyaradzi Muntenje is an Environmental and Social Safeguards Specialist with the AICCRA team in Zambia

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