Technology dissemination through school drama
By Bezaiet Dessalegn, Mira Haddad, and Stefan Strohmeier
Jordan ̶ “In the olden days, and I mean in the times of our grandfathers, the whole community used to move together. This was the Bedouin tradition. Families used to cross borders and go into other countries in search of greener pastures.”
The script begins when the Badia ̶ Jordan’s semi-arid rangeland region ̶ flourished. Back then, the rangelands met the demands of both people and animals that depended on it. The story, as told by the grandfather, initially portray the Badia in its most productive stage, before explaining the causes for it gradual deterioration.
The script explores, through questions and answers, the challenges the rangeland communities face. Students play the role of actors, representing different members of the community, like mother, grandmother, and children. The discussion then moves on to the question: What can we do to reverse it and restore the Badia? And this is where the drama, based on the script, shares information on the various technology packages aiming at restoration of Badia.
The Badia Restoration Project, funded by the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD), found an innovative way to transfer information on technology packages tested and proven in the Badia: school drama.
The process of technology adoption begins first with the transfer of information. The transfer often takes a different form, depending on the type of discoveries, improved practices, or innovations to be transferred. The targeted recipients or beneficiaries of the technology, and prevailing cultural boundaries also matter.
In the case of agriculture-based technologies, information was traditionally transferred through government’s extension agents, as they served as the first point of contact with the farmers. This has evolved into a more pluralistic extension system, which recognizes the variations in the challenges, opportunities, and general contexts within which different farming systems operate. A pluralistic extension system also avoids exclusivity, and fosters the involvement and engagement of different actors and institutions in the provision of extension services.
The Badia of Jordan is best characterized as rangeland, representing a vast area of the country and also parts of neighboring Syria. About 75% of Jordan’s rainfall falls within the Badia, though it is quite scarce (average annual rainfall is less than 200 millimeters) and also highly erratic.
It is also home to 61% of the country’s livestock. However, the land is severely degraded due to continuous grazing, cutting, plowing, and extreme water shortages, exacerbated by losses due to evaporation, runoff, and increased demand on water due to population growth.
ICARDA has done extensive research on integrated rangeland management in the Muhareb Watershed, which serves as a benchmark site for the Badia. Over the years, numerous efforts have been made to transfer proven technologies to the community and relevant national institutions. For instance, the Vallerani water harvesting technique was adopted by the Jordanian Ministry of Agriculture and Environment as a national strategy to restore the Badia.
Unfortunately, despite numerous efforts to engage local communities through field days and field demonstrations, little was achieved. Hence the pursuit of alternative strategies to transfer information on the technologies to the community.
Benefits of school dramas
The use of short dramas to raise awareness on important topics is not a new concept, if uncommon in conservative communities. Understanding the local community is key to exploring innovative ways to reach out to effectively transfer information.
Over the years, ICARDA has built good working relationship with the local community, including the Al-Majeddyeh Elementary School, which serves the communities in the research area. The community is a close-knit family, devoted to supporting their children. Regular contact with the students and the school administration helped raise the students’ eagerness to learn about their environment and how to protect it. This was used as an entry point to educate the young generation and work with them as extension agents to transfer information to their parents.
Exploring methods and channels for technology information sharing can benefit from activities that are not usually connected to the understanding of scientific work. The experience with the school drama in Jordan certainly encourages one to “think outside the box” and explore alternative ways of working with information dissemination. The lessons also bring back new insights to inform future programming and outreach.
- Children learn through repetition. Rehearsing for the drama certainly gave the children ample opportunity to go over the material and learn about the main challenges and proven solutions to stop or at best reverse further degradation of the Badia.
- The drama created opportunities for the teachers to learn about recommended technological packages, and thus equipping them to transfer the knowledge to students and colleagues alike.
- The drama created a unique opportunity to gather the community and communicate the gravity of the problem and the solutions at hand, should they choose to restore their home.
- By combining a school event with technology dissemination efforts, ICARDA was able to create opportunities for a broader representation and engagement of the community. More specifically, the drama allowed women to learn about the possibilities for rangeland restoration as they were not able to attend field demonstrations due to cultural barriers.
- The drama presented the solutions in a holistic approach with opportunities for all members of the community to contribute to restoration, including water harvesting and the concepts of upstream and downstream water management strategies; selecting appropriate seeds, planting, and caring for shrubs; de-stocking and the need to maintain only healthy and productive livestock; and grazing management, among others.
The authors are working with ICARDA in Jordan:
Bezaiet Dessalegn, Livelihoods and Gender Specialist
Mira Haddad, Research Assistant, Spatial Analyses and Database Management
Stefan Strohmeier, Associate Scientist, Soil and Water Conservation