Enabling environmental education through music and the arts

Projects to mitigate climate change in Africa usually focus on rural areas, seeking to change farming practices, prepare for drought and stop deforestation. But urban residents contribute to climate change and also suffer from its consequences.

The Kamanga Dance Ensemble (KADE) is a non-profit making community-based dance troupe in Zambia, set up in 1991 in one of Lusaka’s poorest townships. The dancers are youngsters from Kamanga aged between 17 and 27. KADE performs in the community, at state events, private functions and several international arts festivals.

Like many young people in the developing world, KADE first learned about climate change in the run-up to the Copenhagen climate change conference in 2009. Zambia’s environment minister played a prominent role arguing for the developing country perspective at Copenhagen. Reacting to news stories and public debate, KADE began research on people’s knowledge of climate change in Kamanga. They found that most people in Zambia do not realise that climate change is caused by human activities, some of which take place in Kamanga – for example, use of charcoal for fuel, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation. KADE is exceptional in addressing climate change in an urban community, bringing attention to the use of charcoal for fuel and the need for electricity for the urban and rural poor.

As in our motto, ‘The young trees are the future forest’, the young people of KADE believe that children can learn their traditions and adapt them to modern challenges such as climate change, using traditional music, dance-drama and storytelling. KADE provides young people with a fulfilling and enjoyable activity, learning artistic skills and cultural knowledge. But it is not just KADE members who benefit, as we provide the community with entertainment and education through dance and drama performances. The group identifies social and environmental problems in their surroundings and then collectively formulates proposals as to how they can be solved. From this process we create our sketches and bring them to the community at large.

We want to reach out globally, telling people in the wealthy nations how climate change affects people in the developing world, but first we want to become more effective in delivering the climate change message locally, here at home in Zambia. For this project to work, we need a space to rehearse, to store equipment such as ceremonial masks and drums, to run workshops and provide a focal point for culture in the community, where large numbers of people can gather to watch performances and discuss the issues they raise.

We have already completed the basic structure for our cultural centre. The grant from APE-UK for the roof will bring us another important step towards completion, enabling us to perform educational drama and fund-raising activities throughout the year, even during the rainy season.

The Kamanga Dance Ensemble sincerely thanks APE for this funding, which will help us to realise our dream — to become a dynamic force for climate change education in Zambia!

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