Food insecurity and climate change swings young creatives into action

Knowledge Into Use award winner, Nobel Arts Entertainment works with young people in Cameroon on how to use arts to come up with solutions to issues like climate change, food insecurity, and conflict.

Written by: Menkemndi Randy
GRP Areas of work: Knowledge Theme: Agriculture, nutrition and food security Climate change Jobs and livelihoods

Bamenda is located in the Northwest region of Cameroon which shares boundaries with West Africa, and connects West Africa to central Africa. This gives the people the unique opportunity to speak both English and French helping them to fit in any part of the world. The region is one of the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon and is a big contributor to Cameroon’s bilingualism. Unfortunately, since 2016, the region has been plagued by what is today known as the Anglophone War of Independence (a separatist movement aimed at giving sovereignty to the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon). Added to this socio political problem has been the issues of climate change and food insecurity. The intersection of these three issues is ravaging the lives and livelihoods of the people in these regions and has pushed some out of the country as refugees in neighbouring Nigeria and some internally displaced within Cameroon.

When the crisis started in 2016, many farmers were killed in their farms by stray bullets and others from targeted killings for those who violated what is today known as “Contri Sunday”. “Contri Sunday” was instituted by the separatist interim government as a form of civil disobedience every Monday. This has caused many farmers to stop farming and flee for their lives. In addition, the devastating effects of floods plagued many communities as the community efforts at digging a canal had been abandoned because of the insecurity and frequent cross fires between the separatist and state militia. This resulted in loss of property, livestock, and farmlands and devastating effects on drinking water. The crisis and climate change has continued to affect infrastructure like roads, houses, and schools and has caused drastic food shortages and hunger to be on the rise as most families can’t afford to buy the little food available in the markets and the struggling farmers sometimes prefer to keep their produce to get rotten rather than selling it at a loss.

In these communities, the impact of climate change and food insecurity is evident and the struggle to have two meals a day is a struggle the community members have to face. In a bid to fight for survival, theft has increased and there has been a lot of pressure on the land in semi-safe areas of the region. This pressure is leading many to unsustainable practices including clearing trees for farmlands, illegal timber extraction, and theft of produce of farmers. These practices are increasing and are exacerbating the climate crisis. It is therefore urgent and important that present and future generations learn how to meet their needs while living in harmony with nature.

Using arts to unlock solutions

Noble Arts Entertainment is a creative organisation based in Cameroon that provides young people with skills and resources to engage communities by immortalising their experiences through performing and visual arts.Young actors who are members of Noble Arts Entertainment are learning how unsustainable community practices and climate change are affecting their future. These young people come from the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon currently affected by the ongoing crisis and have chosen to take a stand against this interrelated issue.

Over the years, Nobel Arts Entertainment has produced both theatre performances and movies about climate change with young people and have actively been training them on how they can use theatre and film to combat these issues. The participants work in groups to brainstorm on the causes and solutions of climate change and food insecurity in their communities. Then they come up with creative and relatable mediums like poetry, theatre, dance, film and music to spread out their message. Through the Performing for Change project, we have trained 30 young people on how to use arts to combat climate change and food insecurity in their communities.

By giving them the opportunity for expression, their stories narrowed down to the main causes of climate change and food insecurity in their communities. The listed poor waste management, infrastructural damage, and poor farm yields as some of the causes. They also identified the ongoing conflict as a key player, especially with the issue of food insecurity which is leading to very unsustainable agricultural practices and a lot of pressure on the semi- safe lands for agriculture.

From trainings to a theatre production

Our project started with a series of training on how young people can use arts-based techniques to address climate change with a focus on poetry, theatre, and music. They developed ideas and created the “Burnt” play. 

The play tells the story of a family in Ntasen, a small village outside of Bamenda. Ntasen is one of the affected communities in the ongoing conflict as it is said to have harboured some of the camps of the separatist fighters and has been one of the battle grounds between the separatist fighters and state militia. 

The play tells the story of a young woman Mambo who despite insecurity and changes in weather conditions leading to poor harvest, remains resilient and encourages her friend Ngong to join in practicing sustainable and nature friendly agricultural. This allows them increase food supply and availability. Mambo also takes actions to ensure that she practises proper waste management and the use of organic fertilisers to grow her crops to ensure that she is not contributing to damaging the health of the environment and of those she is trying to feed.

The play was performed in front of  250 persons at the Performing4change event in the Northwest Region, highlighting how they can contribute to addressing the problem.

Knowledge into Use award

With the Knowledge into Use award, we trained 30 young people on how they can create and use arts- based solutions to address the sustainable development goals especially climate change and the issue of food insecurity in a crisis-affected area. The grant helped us organise a theatre performance. The thought-provoking play demonstrated climate action and inspired their communities to adopt climate-smart practices. Our goal is to spread the word, especially via social media so that we can reach more people with the performance and our message.