Building vibrant and tolerant democracies
They say that COP17 is the biggest global stage for climate change - so what better way to give local communities across Africa a voice then through theatre. By performing pieces at numerous venues throughout the conference, the actors can help to tell stories that are often left untold - the stories of the poorest and most marginalised people, who are likely to be the most affected by climate change.
The theatre pieces were the brainchild of Resource Africa, which together with OSISA, has established a platform that enables and empowers rural communities in Africa to analyse and disseminate local and indigenous knowledge-based adaptations through the innovative use of theatre. The performers were selected from Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Each of them has contributed to the theatre piece by sharing their own experiences of how their communities are affected by climate change. By bringing their stories together, the theatre piece cleverly intertwines different stories from across the African continent into one coherent and powerful tale.
But the theatre pieces will not just be performed at COP17. The intention is to perform them in rural communities as well - taking the message to the people who need it most.
The core problem that the performance seeks to address is that there is relatively little information available in rural African communities about the causes and long term consequences of climate change, despite the fact that communities are already experiencing - and in many cases adapting to - climate change. Conversely, governments are not making use of the experience and knowledge of these communities to develop and implement adaptation strategies.
The goal is to contribute to long term resilience to the impacts of climate change amongst rural communities in Africa, through a coordinated process of learning, communication and adaptation. In so doing, the governance systems and structures of rural development will be strengthened and developed.
Of even more importance is the fact that government officials, researchers and scientists need to be reminded of the daily struggles of rural communities, and to see that there is great value in understanding how rural communities cope. Because climate change science tells us that the future will present even more hardships for rural communities, it is imperative that government's responses and support mechanisms are informed with a much better understanding of traditional knowledge and practice.
The group reflected issues that local governments around the world need to take cognisance off moving forward - such as access to basic resources, the voices of women, access to infrastructure and sustainable resource uses. And these were all highlighted in an innovative and entertaining way.
As communities learn and grow through such projects they will open the door to new approaches. The more theatre is used to elevate and promote village wisdom, the more it will encourage alternatives and stronger governance.