Building resilience to climate change through theatre

20. December 2021

In Ndavaya ward, Kwale County, decades of environmental destruction and increasing incidences of drought are threatening many people’s lives; the lands are dry, there is no harvest and animals are dying every day. SAFE Pwani, the coastal team of the NGO S.A.F.E. Kenya is inspiring environmental restoration and building resilience to climate change in Ndavaya through theatre. The most recent tour which took place in November, saw their new play ‘Miongo’ performed to over 1400 community members.  

The play ‘Miongo’ which means decades in Kiswahili, tells the story of Ndavaya’s climate journey over the last 40 years – starting in 1981 when climate was good and agriculture was thriving. However, years of deforestation progressively eroded the land, and then the rains started to fail and temperatures soared – compounding the situation. As traditional livelihood opportunities diminished, people turned to burning charcoal and cutting trees to sell timber to cater for their financial needs. This only made the climate conditions worse. As the characters in the play approach 2021, they experience considerable hardship and are struggling to survive. As the play finishes in 2031, Ndavaya appears to be unlivable, and the characters have been displaced – being forced to move to the urban centre in Mombasa.   

At this point, the ‘joker’ – a facilitator who interacts with the audience –  gives the audience the chance to change the ending of the play by identifying the bad decisions made by the characters and offering solutions that could change the situation in the play – and in the community. Community solutions include investment in girl’s education, protection of trees, and diversification of income sources.  

After the community’s suggestions are adopted, 2031 looks a lot different. The environment is restored, and the residents of Ndavaya are thriving after adopting sustainable income generating activities.    

November’s theatre intervention was entry point of S.A.F.E.’s environment project. The solutions created are the beginning of the community environmental action plans that SAFE Pwani will support the project’s Environmental Champions to create and implement over the next two years. 

If you are interested to have a closer look on this project, we highly recommend to watch this video broadcasted by deutsche Welle, giving closer insights on the theatre play and its impacts for the community.

 The project „the art of building resilience” is funded and supported by IKI Small Grants.  IKI Small Grants is carried out by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) supports this initiative based on a decision adopted by the German Bundestag.’