In the bustling city of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, a passionate group of young leaders are driving change through their innovative NGO. Their approach is simple but 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 for its engaging approach to involving young people in driving local solutions in their communities.
Ian Tarimo is co-founder and executive director of Tai, an organisation that has been producing educational content on climate change for 10 years. Its content is viewed in more than 10 countries with the aim of reaching as many people as possible across Africa.
While many resort to conventional methods, the NGO has a unique perspective, which 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 awareness.
Melody Chironda from allAfrica spoke to Tarimo about the team and their drive to use art to drive change and empower young people to become environmental advocates.
Climate change – Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns, mainly caused by human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels.
Tarimo acknowledged that climate change is a global problem that affects everyone, regardless of their location or background. “Climate change is a problem that affects everyone, not just farmers or those who live in rural areas. It has far-reaching impacts that alter various aspects of our daily lives. For example, in Tanzania, water shortages due to climate change have affected schools, causing a disruption in attendance and the problem of hygiene, which could lead to disease. Agriculture has also been affected, resulting in food security problems leading to inflation. Water shortages have also affected electricity generation, leading to power outages. Climate change is not a problem that can only be solved by the Ministry of Environment. 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 animated comics, radio stories and other formats, to spread awareness about climate change. This approach ensures that everyone can be reached, including those who do not have access to the internet or television. 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 the school environment clean by properly disposing of plastic waste. It is important to start educating young people about climate change from an early age, as they will grow up as better citizens who are aware of their actions and how they affect the environment,” he added.
Tarimo explained that his approach to tackling climate change is to prioritise community-driven solutions. Rather than approaching the problem from a high-level scientific perspective, the organisation engages with people in communities to understand how climate change affects their daily lives. By relating the consequences of climate change to personal experiences, it aims to make the issue more relatable and understandable to all.
“Discussions with community members focus on identifying individual actions that can have a positive impact on the environment. For example, people can reduce water consumption or avoid using plastic, which can ultimately help reduce the negative effects of climate change. The aim is to simplify complex ideas and sensitive issues into an easy-to-understand format that can be easily applied to everyday life. The community-based approach has proven to be successful, as it allows people to relate to the issue and take responsibility for their actions. When people understand the impact of their actions, they are more likely to take action 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 focus on empowering people to make positive changes in their communities,” he said.
Tarimo highlighted some of the challenges they face in creating content and how they address them.
“When we create content together, we sometimes involve subject matter experts who can complicate the issue with their own ideologies. However, we always focus on ensuring that the content is understandable for the community, especially for the young audience we are targeting. Our aim is not only to create high quality content, but also to influence positive behaviour 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 down trees to conserve our forests, some people may argue that we cannot do this because people do not have access to alternative sources of energy. However, this argument does not negate the fact that we need to conserve our forests. Rather, it highlights the need to demand more alternative sources of energy, rather than continuing to cut down trees. We should learn from other countries that have faced negative consequences for cutting down their trees, and strive to make better choices for ourselves and future generations,” he added. “That’s why we try to avoid conversations that don’t make sense or don’t relate to our community. We focus on sustainability and making decisions that are right for our community and fit their reality.”
Tarimo talks about future plans and goals for educational content on climate change.
“We have received positive feedback on our first content everywhere we have presented it. We are delighted to have gained 13,000 viewers on our social networks in a short time, which is encouraging. However, some people do not take climate change seriously, seeing it as the responsibility of a few individuals or a specific government department. Consequently, it has been a challenge to attract followers to our content. But now that we have been successful, we hope to receive more resources to produce additional content due to high demand. We have seen people taking immediate action, such as cleaning up their environment, organising beach clean-ups and planting trees. Our goal is to create more content that will reach more people and communities across Africa.”
“We have a partnership with a Tanzanian TV station, and we are looking at broadcasting our content in Kenya and other countries through media partnerships. We are continually looking for resources to produce more community-led solutions that showcase African creativity in addressing the challenges of climate change. We aim to bring these solutions to mainstream media and create content in Swahili with English subtitles and potentially dubbed into languages such as Zulu, Shona, French or Arabic. We want to reach as many Africans as possible and encourage them to take action against climate change”.
Tarimo on his idea for an animated character to represent climate change. He said they used cloud characters in their animation Kijani.
“Kijani”, which means “green” in Swahili, and “Kijana”, which means “young person”.
Tarimo believes that young people can be the champions of making Africa green. He will be 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 give an idea of the onset of good seasons and the potential for climate change. For this reason, he suggested that the animated cloud character design would be ideal for representing climate change.
Tarimo explained why it is crucial to discuss climate change issues.
“I loved discussing the usual topics with the children, and I realised that using relatable examples such as poems, music and drawings helped to get the message across effectively. It was really about getting the message across in a way that was relatable”. Similarly, some people see climate change as something they just have to learn about in passing and move on, without realising how it affects them personally.”
“However, given that we are already experiencing the consequences of climate change, we have to communicate the message in a way that empowers people to act. We need to make it clear that tackling climate change is not just the responsibility of a specific group or club, but something that everyone can be involved in. By making the issue less complex and more relatable, people 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 individuals, it is important to recognise that we have a role to play in the fight against climate change, despite feeling powerless in the face of large-scale environmental problems. Small actions such as saving electricity and water, disposing of waste properly and advocating environmentally friendly practices can collectively have a positive impact. It is 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,” said Tarimo.