In the bustling city of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, a passionate group of young leaders is driving change through their innovative NGO. Their approach is simple yet effective. They use the power of storytelling through animations, comics, and radio stories to ignite change in their community.
In a world where climate change poses an imminent threat to the planet, Tai stands out with their engaging approach to involving young people in driving local solutions in their communities.
Ian Tarimo is a co-founder and executive director of Tai, an organisation that has been producing educational content on climate change for 10 years now. Their content has a viewership in more than 10 countries with a goal of reaching as many people as possible across Africa.
While many rely on conventional methods, the NGO has a unique perspective, one that sees art as a powerful tool for change. The organisation produces educational content in the form of animation, comics, and radio stories for social change. The team has embarked on a journey that challenges the status quo and wants to ignite a movement where art becomes a tool for raising awareness.
allAfrica‘s Melody Chironda spoke to Tarimo about the team and the quest to use art to drive change and empower young people to become environmental champions.
Tarimo recognised that climate change is a global issue that affects everyone, regardless of their location or background. “Climate change is a problem that affects everyone, not just farmers or those living in rural areas. It has far-reaching impacts that disrupt various aspects of our daily lives. For example, in Tanzania, the shortage of water due to climate change has affected schools, causing a disruption in attendance and the issue of hygiene, which could lead to diseases. Agriculture has also been affected, resulting in food security issues that have led to inflation. The shortage of water has also impacted the generation of electricity, leading to power cuts. Climate change is not a problem that only the Ministry of Environment can solve. It requires everyone’s effort to reduce its effects,” he said.
“That is why it is crucial to use an innovative approach, such as storytelling through animation comics, radio stories, and other formats, to spread awareness about climate change. This approach ensures that everyone, including those without access to the internet or television, can be reached. By co-creating stories with the community, we can see a difference in the way they perceive climate change and take action.”
“For example, schools have started planting trees, and students have committed to keeping their school environment clean by disposing of plastic waste properly. It is important to start educating young people about climate change from an early age, as they will grow up to be better citizens who are conscious of their actions and how they affect the environment, he added.”
Tarimo explained that their approach to tackling climate change is to prioritise community-led solutions. Rather than approaching the issue from a high-level scientific perspective, the organisation engages with individuals in communities to understand how climate change impacts their day-to-day lives. By relating the consequences of climate change to personal experiences, it aims to make the issue more relatable and understandable to everyone.
“The conversations with community members focus on identifying individual actions that can have a positive impact on the environment. For example, individuals can reduce water waste or avoid using plastic, which can ultimately help to reduce the negative effects of climate change. The goal is to simplify complex ideas and sensitive topics into an easy-to-understand format that can be easily applied to daily life. The community-led approach has proven to be successful, as it allows individuals to relate to the issue and take ownership of their actions. When individuals understand the impact of their actions, they are more likely to take steps to reduce their negative impact on the environment. By approaching the issue in this way, the organisation has been able to avoid political debates and instead focus on empowering individuals to make positive changes in their communities,” he said.
Tarimo highlighted some challenges they face when creating content and how they address them.
“As we co-create content, we sometimes involve experts in the field who may complicate the topic with their own ideologies. However, our focus is always to ensure that the content is relatable to the community, especially the young audience we are targeting. Our goal is not only to create high-quality content but also to influence positive behavior in our audience. Therefore, we aim to create content that is educational, engaging, and entertaining, and that motivates people to take action.”
“When discussing the need to stop cutting trees to conserve our forests, some people may argue that we cannot do so because people do not have access to alternative sources of power. However, this argument does not negate the fact that we need to conserve our forests. Rather, it highlights the need to demand for more alternative sources of power, rather than continuing to cut trees. We should learn from other countries that have faced negative consequences from cutting their trees, and strive to make better decisions for ourselves and future generations,” he added. “Therefore, we try to avoid conversations that do not make sense or are not relatable to our community. Our focus is on sustainability, and making decisions that are right for our community, and that align with their reality.”
Tarimo talks about future plans and goals for educational content on climate change.
“We have received positive feedback for our first content from all the places we have showcased it. We are thrilled that within a short period, we have gained 13,000 viewers on our social media, which is encouraging. However, climate change is not taken seriously by some people as they consider it to be the responsibility of a few individuals or a specific government department. Consequently, it has been challenging to attract fans to our content. But now that we have gained success, we hope to receive more resources to produce additional content due to the high demand. We have seen people taking immediate actions like cleaning their surroundings, organising beach cleanups, and planting trees. Our objective is to create more content that will reach even more people and communities across Africa.”
“We have a partnership with a television station in Tanzania, and we are exploring the possibility of disseminating our content to Kenya and other countries through media partnerships. We are continually searching for resources to produce more community-led solutions that showcase African creativity in addressing climate change challenges. Our goal is to bring these solutions to the mainstream media and to create content in Swahili with English subtitles and potentially dub them into languages like Zulu, Shona, French, or Arabic. We aim to reach as many Africans as possible and to encourage them to take action against climate change.”
Tarimo on his idea for an animated character that would represent climate change. He said they used characters of clouds in their Kijani animation.
“Kijani,” means “green” in Swahili, and “Kijana,” which means “young person.”
Tarimo believes that young people can be champions of making Africa green. He proposed creating an animated cloud character to represent climate change because clouds are a visible and recognisable symbol of weather patterns. Tarimo believes that clouds can provide insight into the beginning of good seasons and the potential for climate change. Therefore, he suggested that the character design for the animated cloud would be ideal to represent climate change.
Tarimo explained why topics related to climate change are crucial to discuss.
“I was pleased to discuss the usual topics with the kids, and I noticed that using relatable examples such as poems, music, and drawing helped convey the message effectively. It was really about just taking the message in a way that it’s relatable. Similarly, some people view climate change as something they only need to learn about in passing and move on, without realising how it affects them personally.”
“However, because we are already experiencing the consequences of climate change, we need to communicate the message in a way that empowers people to take action. We should make it clear that addressing climate change is not just the responsibility of a specific group or club, but rather, it is something that everyone can participate in. By making the topic less complex and more relatable, individuals can see how they can make a difference in their daily lives, regardless of their location or background,” he said.
Tarimo shares a message to the younger generation about climate change. “As an individual, it’s important to recognise that we have a role to play in addressing climate change, despite feeling powerless in the face of large-scale environmental issues. Small actions such as conserving electricity and water, properly disposing of waste, and advocating for environmentally-friendly practices can collectively make a positive impact. It’s important to share ideas and knowledge on how we can improve the environment, even if we are not experts, as everyone’s contribution can lead to a better future,” Tarimo said.