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Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area – DAPA


What do you get when you put 15 young Nicaraguan farmers, 3 of CIAT’s researchers, 3 cameras and 3 microphones in the fields of Northern Nicaraguan Somotillo? Right, a straight away great Participatory Video process. Overall, the project has been a big success. The participants felt that they had learned something really valuable, and most importantly felt a higher need to start conserving the ecosystems that surround them, start spreading the message and keep themselves updated about changes that could be seen. As stated by the interviewees in the video, protecting the environment and agriculture is in their hand, and they call out for other farmers in La Danta to implement sustainable practices such as reforestation, no slash and burn and the use of hedgerows.

Stated by the organization Insightshare, participatory video production is a: “Participatory Rural Appraisal research tool that bridges worlds; unlocks doors and involves the beneficiaries in each phase of the research project”. Participatory video projects have the power to make development projects more driven by the people involved, and more accountable to their stakeholders. The idea behind participatory videos is that making a video is easy and accessible, and it is a great way of bringing people together to explore issues, voice local concerns, and build skills to create social change.

Photocredit: Gian BetancourtAlready convinced about the potential success of the research tool of Participatory Video, CIATs Manon Koningstein, Shadi Azadegan and Visiting Researcher Gian Betancourt left for Somotillo (in the province of Chinandega, Northern Nicaragua, about 6km from the Honduran border) to work on a PV process for 8 days.

The first day of the workshop consisted of getting to know each other through drawings we made of our speech partner, making a group agreement, making a question tree, introducing the work plan for these 8 days and above all, a first introduction to what was going to be our best friend these upcoming days: the camera. Using the question ‘what is your name, and what animal would you like to be’, we started practicing how to switch on the camera, how to record, how to place a clip on microphone and how to get contact between cameraman and interviewee.

On the second day we started interviewing each other. The themes were ‘childhood memories’ and ‘the environment’. We put the camera on a tripod with cameramen, and interviewer and an interviewee. The responses we got were interesting and we learnt a lot on how to handle the camera and how to interview. Later that day we did a disappearing game, we worked on the different shot types and went out to film objects representing these shot types, we did a visioning exercise in which we imagined our worst and best case scenario for 2034. Our worst case scenarios existed mainly of mayor water shortages, many dead animals, unbearable heat and sun, no jobs and no food to feed the family. In the best case scenario there was enough work for everyone, the river was full of water, the animals had enough forages to eat, when the men would come home from work there was enough food for the daughters or wives to prepare the men a meal, and as one of the girls mentioned ‘there would be enough family support for all young people to go to university’. One of the men mentioned that ideally there would be 15 respected and honest journalists in the town, involving the entire community in documentary making. We ended the day with making a ‘video comic strip’, using the different shot types and all about making a story around a specific object (for example a chair or a table cloth).

The third day we started with an exercise called ‘twist in frame’, in which a certain amount of hands, feet and eyes needed to be in the screen. After that we had to talk about some theory on how to do interviews and above all, how to handle to legal aspect of informed consent and how to get it. With this in mind, the participants would go out on the streets to interview people on the topic of ‘climate change and the environment’. But not before having done a community mapping, and drawing the way our perfect community would look like. With the river close, many animals in the mountains, two churches, a hospital, a school and community leaders. To all of us it sounded like a perfect community to live in! The interviews on the street went great; our new born journalists actually got approached by curious neighbors and asked if they wanted to interview them. They definitely received a lot of respect that day, which helped a lot in the confidence of the group.

Photocredit: Gian BetancourtThe fourth day we worked on improvising. Three groups with three themes (a strange disease at the doctors; your husband comes home with an extraordinary pet; and you meet an alien), in which we had two actors, two voice overs and one camera man. Three minutes of continue filming, without pausing the camera, inventing a story and changing actors on the way. Amazing how great the quality of the stories was. Later on we worked on our first story boards, designing a three minute movie around the theme ‘beauty’. The most interesting movies came out of this theme. After lunch we put our final energy together and started working on the story board for the final documentary. Various groups worked on various themes like: ‘theme’, ‘audience’ and ‘message’. Soon it was decided that the final documentary would be about climate change, soil conservation and organic agriculture. The theme was decided to be ‘alternative solutions to improve the ecosystem’, with the main message ‘the things people in the farmer communities can do to improve and conserve the environment and the ecosystem’.

The days after we prepared all the logistics for the final filming, until on the 6th day we all met in the community of La Danta, about 15 km out of Somotillo. We went off to interview the selected ones, ask for their informed consent, film the environment, take shots of animals, the trees, the water, etc. We spend the entire day gathering all the filming material we needed. The interviews were with a teacher, an organic farmer, a farmer using soil conservation practices, a farmer using reforestation practices and a farmer that suffers from a severe disease as a consequence of the use of chemicals in the past.

The 7th day we met again in Somotillo to watch all the footage of the day before. We decided together on which shots to take and which ones to erase, which parts of the interviews contained useful information, and which ones where just talking. We created a paper edit, with a group focusing on the title of the video; a group on the credits; a group on the group picture and a group on the logistics of the final presentation. Later on we created everything in the final video, with music, text, credits and titles.

Photocredit: Gian BetancourtThe final and 8th day we met in La Danta to receive the final consent of the interviewees, to get the final preparations done for the presentation to the whole community and then, finally, at 2pm (or in Nicaraguan Time, around 3.30pm) about 40 members of the community gathered to watch the documentary titles ‘La Danta, Protegiendo la Naturaleza’ (La Danta, Protecting Nature). The community was amazed, charmed and impressed by the final movie this group had made. Agreed with the messaged they wanted to put forward and above all, were very proud of what their community was able to do. An interview of one of the group members with someone from the audience showed that this movie had really inspired young people in the community: seeing what they as the new generation can and should do to protect the environment. The power they have!

Click here to see the video made by the farmers

Click here to see the video explaining the methodology used, made by CIAT

Click here to see the corresponding Flick Album

The Participatory Video research team consisted of Shadi Azadegan, Manon Koningstein and Gian Betancourt.

Shadi Azadegan is a Communications specialist working with Forages. She is based at CIAT Nicaragua.

Manon Koningstein is a research associate Gender & Climate Change; and a specialist in Communications Science and Techniques for CCAFS and CIAT, based in Cali, Colombia.

Gian Betancourt is a freelance photographer and communications assistant, externally hired by CIAT for this project. 

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