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Community Centered Advocacy Using Participatory Visual Methods: A Case of Farmers in Mukono, Uganda

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Introduction

Dr Grady Walker, Walker Institute Interdisciplinary Research Fellow ran training workshops for farmers in Mukono, Uganda.  The workshops provided training for the participants in visual storytelling using video.  Participants subsequently produced their own films and used them as communication tools to further social justice, capacity building, and better governance for their communities.

Introduction to participatory visual methods

Broadly, participatory visual methods involve the use and interpretation of photography, film, video, painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, artwork, graffiti, advertising, and cartoons in research, advocacy, and knowledge exchange. Visual methods are widely used in community development, international development, public health, and education. They are often used to overcome the illiteracy barrier. Visual storytelling allows people to tell stories about themselves, their families, and their communities, using their own local language, dialects, and humour. 

Participatory visual methods as advocacy

Visual stories provide authenticity to communication messages. They are relatively simple to produce and can be disseminated rapidly and at a low cost.  Communities can articulate their points of view better than outsiders.  A challenge is that facilitators must give up power and surrender some control of the message.  This can be a limitation or barrier preventing the use of these methods in some contexts.

Training workshops

The training workshops run by Dr Walker conveyed an understanding of the potential for the use of participatory visual methods as community centred advocacy.  They also provided a foundation for understanding participatory visual methods, designing and facilitating participatory visual methods activities, and considering power and ethical issues.  Participants were given the opportunity to explore how they might use participatory visual methods and storytelling as tools for advocacy within projects and programmes.  Practical hands-on experience facilitating visual storytelling using video was given alongside technical training in video pre-production and production.

Film 1. Climate Challenges & Solutions at Farm Level

In Mukono over twenty people attended a screening and interaction, including the district Principal Administrative Secretary, the Director of Natural Resources and Environment, and district Secretary for Production.

A direct communication link between the farmer champions and the district leadership was established, with commitments from the latter to direct some discretionary budgeting toward improving advisory services.

Farmers and fishers are the protagonists of their own stories.  They articulate what they see as just outcomes for themselves and their fellow farmers and fishers, and weave that into their storytelling. 

The farmer champions held a successful meeting with officials of the National Planning Authority (NPA) on their own initiative.

Film 2. Nakoosi What’s Next?

Lessons from research and practice

If rural adaptation is to be effective, then it cannot take the form of prescriptive actions determined by outsiders and subsequently imposed upon rural communities.  It is important to avoid “negative participation” but instead include a social justice framework into projects at the outset.

A key principle is that if storytelling is to be used as advocacy or to influence policy, then the storytellers must have ownership of the stories.

HyCRISTAL  project in East Africa - climate prediction problem and HyCRISTAL approach

The HyCRISTAL (Integrating Hydro-Climate Science into Policy Decisions for Climate-Resilient Infrastructure and Livelihoods in East Africa) project considered the availability of water development in the East African region.  Water resources are already under stress from land degradation, pollution, and overfishing. Climate change adds to these problems, greatly increasing the vulnerability of the poorest people in the region.  Through pilot studies HyCRISTAL sought to demonstrate the use of climate information in decision making, with the aim of improving policies in the region. 

We generally rely on climate models to predict climate change, but different models predict different outcomes.  We therefore accept that we cannot generally give probabilistic climate change projections, particularly at a local level.  Instead, in this project we focussed on possible futures that we called “Climate Risk Narratives”.  These are publicly available with many other resources at: https://futureclimateafrica.org/resource/

We worked in two different settings: rural communities that rely on agriculture and fishing; and urban populations where water supply and sanitation are under pressure.

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