Giving Nature a Voice is a series of compelling half-hour documentaries focusing on East Africa's most serious environmental crises. What sets the project apart from the typical nature documentaries saturating the developed world's TV screens, is that the films are made in Africa, by Africans, for an African audience. Despite the very real environmental degradation that has taken place here, a new consciousness is taking hold among East Africa's educated, engaged and socially active youth. The Aga Khan University's Environmental Reporting Program supports this growing movement by mentoring and funding a select group of local filmmakers whose work is then broadcast on regional and international television outlets.
Every season gives us a new opportunity to amplify the voices of those trying to preserve our threatened biosphere and the local communities that depend on its health. Having successfully produced a series of quality documentaries by close of 2017, we issued a call for a local filmmaker to tell more of their own conservation stories. To make it happen, we again reached out to our initial donors for additional funding. So far, 39 teams of filmmakers drawn from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda Burundi and now the Democratic Republic of Congo have risen to the challenge and captured the beauty and tragedy devastating the East African environment. As our program grew, so did the hope that this perilous trajectory could be reversed. In October 2018, we launched our fourth season after selecting eleven proposals that focused on a wide range of timely environmental issues: one man's quest to save elephants by walking 4000 km through countries wishing to sell their ivory, a community turned from hunters to protectors of a rare semi-aquatic antelope ( the Sitatunga), how to protect poisonous snakes and the people who are often their unintended victims, how to reduce food waste and the dangerous methane emissions caused by rotting food, saving wild dogs, corals, Uganda's crested cranes, turtles, pangolins, crocodiles and anti-poaching and conservation efforts.
Before 2016, very few environmental documentaries were produced by local filmmakers or screened on local television channels. After the national broadcast of Giving Nature a Voice, the East African public has become more much aware of the need to protect endangered wildlife species and the natural habitats they depend on.
Every new season of GNV starts with a public film screening and a panel discussion featuring the filmmakers, scientists and community members who participated in the opening films. Over a hundred members of the public attend this stimulating event to hear from and question policymakers relevant to the story. Young people in particular learn how they can harness East Africa's natural resources without causing ecological destruction.
Between 2016 and 2019, Giving Nature a Voice has produced 52 documentaries seen every week by over a million people, both locally and regionally. A wide variety of GNV episodes have been invited to participate in several dozen international film festivals. Promos on the Giving Nature a Voice website, Twitter and Facebook sites have generated tens of thousands of views and likes.
After the launch of the GNV series, regional conservation partners have connected with each other to build a stronger movement against poaching and habitat destruction
Although GNV documentaries have attracted millions of viewers on NTV and DemandAfrica, we need to increase their impact on the local community level. This can be achieved by raising funds to support advocacy programs that will focus on the ecological problems identified in the films
There is also an opportunity to link affected communities with professionals in the field. They can help lead intervention and connect locals with regional and national policymakers. The intervention facilitator could also lead a social media campaign to discuss any urgent environmental crises and help seek solutions by opening a discussion with all the relevant parties.
We intend to rally all 48 GNV teams to follow up the production of their films with a personal campaign to help solve the environmental crisis they focused on. Their work begins by educating their audience, but it should lead to wider social change on the institutional, political and community level.
By producing a compelling environmental story, they've already raised awareness. The next step is to help all those involved in their particular issue change the reality on the ground. Positive outcomes could include the proper disposal of waste, the reduction air and water pollution, providing an alternative way to preserve and market excess agricultural production, mitigate erosion by the proper use of drylands, and helping to conserve Africa's threatened wildlife.
Other environmental NGOs may enjoy a higher international profile than Giving Nature a Voice, but none have the potential to impact the conservation discussion in East Africa. Our program is not an abstract idea or a speculative grant request. It is a popular television series and a branded and highly visible franchise. GNV has already produced award-winning content while prodding policymakers, businessmen and citizens to act and undo the environmental damage that has been committed. The region's young environmental activists vow to continue their fight until they succeed in restoring their beautiful African home to its former glory. There is no time to lose. Help them give nature a powerful voice. Help them build the popular momentum for change in East Africa before it is too late.