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The Theatre's Role In Water Pollution Mitigation: The Gains And Challenges Of An Experiment In Rural Nigeria

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Ofonime Inyang (Pretoria)


Keyword(s): Sub-theme 7: Global challenges for water governance,
Abstract

Introduction Water is a natural resource of immense value to living and environmental sustainability. The need for better management of water resources has been emphasized by researchers because of the challenging interplay of population explosion and climate change especially in developing countries. In fact, a growing number of countries are now experiencing water stresses because of higher demand for usable water and the failure to protect available resources from pollution (Biswas, 2001). Water resources management problem is acknowledged as a universal challenge that expresses itself in different ways in different locations or territories. In Nigeria, many rural communities are naturally blessed with water resources such as streams, falls, lakes, wet/swamp lands and rivers but the management of these natural endowments leaves a lot to be desired (Akpabio, 2011). Not only are some streams turned into waste disposal locations, some extreme acts like direct defecation into water sources, use of harmful chemicals for fishing and dumping of ritual totems into water after sacrifice go on daily unchecked causing pollution, disease and epidemics in the process (Akpan, 2010). These activities go unnoticed because of their occurrence in interior rural locations and remote farming and fishing settlements which are difficult to access, as well as completely obscured by many years of official neglect and utter abandonment. Exposing and educating the rural people about the negative impact of their activities on water resources and the need for discontinuation of unwholesome practices is important and relevant to sustainable living in the twenty first century Method/Approach Mitigating this problem through creating behaviour change awareness programmes about them required the use of a creative media and strategic communication often overlooked in mitigation efforts in the past. Augusto Boal's interventionist theatre technique and participatory communication methodology called Forum Theatre was identified and combined with Chambers's mediated development principle as capable of filling this gap in development advocacy and intervention. Forum theatre is a creative method of mobilizing indigenous people to explore their challenges, discover potential solutions through acting out the situations and developing capacity for further initiatives suits this recommendation. It is a system that links and employs participatory action research (PAR) paradigm as a vehicle of conscientisation, sensitisation and social engineering in rural communities. Result/Discussion This paper examines the gains and challenges of employing theatre for development (TfD) communication anchored on local ecological knowledge to educate, sensitize and conscientize people in Esuk Ewang, a rural riverine community in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria about the dangers of mismanagement of water and water resources. It is therefore an analytical appraisal of water pollution mitigation awareness creation through field intervention carried out between May 2011 and August 2013 to test the nuanced pedagogic direction and efficacy of three specially conceptualised intervention plays, created between the research team and members of Esuk Ewang community, a riverine community in Mbo Local Governemnet Area, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria and tested in different community performances within the aforementioned period. The paper also aims to report on the intervention strategy, the implementation mechanisms, community perception and the challenges and outcomes of this people-led participatory theatre for development initiative. The overall objective of the paper is to generate further discourse on the opportunities, possibilities and challenges of adopting a multidisciplinary approach in tackling development challenges especially in the field of environmental sustainability and water resources management. Integrating the fields of the humanities especially the creative fields like performing as, as already seriously orchestrated in emerging discourses in the field of development studies, can possibly open new windows of opportunities for better understanding of local dynamics and perhaps also foster result-oriented engagements. Conclusion The pivotal imperative of theatre-based development communication in spreading information on sustainable practices including environmental conservation and water pollution mitigation is already established (Mda, 1993; Nda, 2010; Inyang, 2013). Stemming from widespread acceptance of theatre as a people-led practice that relies on participatory techniques, uses indigenous languages and local cultural idioms in its communication orientation, the increase need for its application in specific developmental cases such as water pollution mitigation in rural, non-literate agricultural communities in sub-Saharan Africa needs to be continually tested to ascertain efficacy as well as create room for new insight into arts as a development facility. This is the burden of this paper. References Akpabio, E.M. 2011. Water and people: perception and management practices in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. Society and Natural Resource Journal (1): 1-13. Akpan, M. 2010. Awakening the giant. London: Ephraimite Consult Publishing. Biswas, A.K. 2004. Integrated water resources management: a reassessment. Water International, 29(2): 248-256. Inyang, O. 2011. Theatre for environmental sustainability: the prospects and challenges of development communication using theatre. Parnassus: Journal of Cultural Studies, 22(5): 1-14. Mda, Z. 1993. When people play people: development communication through theatre. London: Sage Publications. Nda, U. 2010. Theatre and environmental conservation. Germany/Berlin: Lap Lambert Academic Publishing.

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