Love, conflict, and suspense: WA BiCC kickstarts the design of a radio drama to promote coastal resilience to climate change

Love, conflict, and suspense: WA BiCC kickstarts the design of a radio drama to promote coastal resilience to climate change
October 29, 2018 3:03 pm News

An Entertainment-Education Radio Drama Design Workshop held in Port Loko, Sierra Leone on October 10-12, promised a new and exciting learning experience for coastal Sierra Leone! Participants at the workshop were impressed to learn more about the richness of the coastal ecosystems that exist in the country, including where many of the participants live. The 3-day workshop provided the opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences while grappling with the myriad of complexities and opportunities available, to communicate the biological, socio-cultural and economic richness along the coast.

The workshop was organized by USAID-funded West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA BiCC) and aimed to conceptualize a 24-episode entertainment-education radio drama series for the communities in the Sierra Leone Coastal Landscape Complex, one of WA BiCC’s ‘Learning Landscapes’. The drama itself is a learning opportunity aimed to increase the knowledge of target audiences on the connectivity between ecosystem health and livelihoods with the end goal of increasing economic and social resilience in the landscape. When broadcast, the drama has the potential to reach over three million people in target coastal areas and in the capital – Freetown.

A picture of all the participants at the radio drama workshop with the event banner in front of them.
Workshop participants: Our Drama, Our Coast, Our Future!


Participants at the workshop included traditional authorities, local decision-makers and resource users from the coastal landscape, who know best, the challenges and opportunity to the coastal natural resource base in coastal Sierra Leone. They were joined by representatives from government agencies such as the National Protected Area Authority, USAID/Sierra Leone, the United Nations Development Program and the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary. The media and other production houses including AYV radio, a leading media house in Sierra Leone, and Radio Bontico, participated. A highlight for many participants was the presence and active participation of DJ Base, a renowned and influential radio personality in Sierra Leone – from AYV Radio, as well as other popular actors in the country.

A picture of DJ Base talking.
DJ Base, AYV Radio – noted also for his good facilitating of radio drama call-in shows.


Experience has shown that radio drama serials that promise entertainment-education are an effective way to unpack complex technical issues to make learning fun and easy. This design workshop served as an opportunity for the participants to define and prioritize the most relevant technical issues and discuss how these can be integrated into a drama that people would want to listen to and follow; ensuring that relevant audiences learn new information and develop new attitudes regarding coastal management. The objective is to present new information and where needed, prompt shifts in behavior and social norms towards resource governance and use, geared toward the more sustainable management of coastal resources for the economy and environment; the end goal is to build resilience in coastal Sierra Leone.

Discussions at the workshop revolved around critical landscape issues including the uses and perceptions of the pros and cons of mangrove ecosystems, sand mining, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing including locally unsustainable practices such as small net size. These issues are rendered even more complex due to the corresponding socio-cultural, traditional, economic and governance/legal nuances. The drama is expected to provide useful information in an entertaining way to facilitate the adoption, adaptation or expansion of best practices to reduce the vulnerabilities of households and ecosystems to the exacerbating effects of climate change.

A collage with three pictures showing Thomas Lebbie doing a PowerPoint presentation, Meesha Brown facilitating with a flip chart, and Ethel Sillah and Amara Kallone reading off a card.
Thomas Lebbie, WA BiCC (left) presenting interventions in the landscape; Meesha Brown, PCI Media (center), facilitating an issues identification session. Ethel Sillah, Tacugama Chimp. Sanctuary and Amara Kallone, Bonthe community, southern Sierra Leone (right), group report-out on issues and proposed solutions


One revealing and exciting element was the emergence of an evolving conservation-oriented constituency in the landscape as a result of the partnerships and networks fostered by WA BiCC and other development partners. Some communities such as Sasiyeck in the Scarcies Region of northern Sierra Leone, have already drafted bylaws for better resource management although they have yet to present them for formal adoption because the approval process is not clear. This is the kind of clarity and information that a radio drama can provide.

Mayor Layemine Sandy talking.
Mayor Layemine Sandy.


After an exciting and insightful workshop, which was extremely participatory in nature, energy and enthusiasm levels are high! The radio drama concept has been laid out and promises a story of love, betrayal, conflict, suspense, mischief, and money all in the interest of positive change. This dramatic backdrop sets the stage for a riveting discussion around the illegal and unsustainable use of mangroves and fisheries resources. Participants identified and prioritized issues during healthy and lively discussions and debates and together, created radio drama characters and messaging in the local languages–these exercises proved so much fun for all! For the Mayor of Bonthe Municipal Council (southern Sierra Leone), Layemine Sandy, the workshop was a defining moment: “Until this workshop, I never knew that mangrove forests served as breeding grounds for fish and other aquatic micro-organisms. This is about food security and we need to protect this ecosystem at all cost,” he said. WA BiCC is excited to share critical information like this through radio drama with people across Sierra Leone coastal communities.

A collage of participants working on sticking post-its on the wall and discussing points.
Participatory processes: Issues profiling;       prioritizing issues through color coding;      character development and profiling.

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