Dryland Forestry

Launch of the “Making Every Voice Count for Adaptive Management” (MEV-CAM) Participatory Video trainings


The theory of change that includes better integration between the local community and decision makers has proven to bring about better tangible results. Shifting towards participatory systems that engage different stakeholders, including the local communities in the decision-making process, was found to be better than solving acute problems on the ground immediately without any stakeholder intervention. The participatory video approach is one methodology that can facilitate this shift towards participatory systems by amplifying the voices of diverse stakeholders, and in particular local people, and creating spaces for dialogue that enable participation in decision making. When used for monitoring, participatory video is a dynamic and powerful tool that gives communities ownership over the process of knowledge management and defining change. It touches upon and defines the means of documenting the possible changes within the local community, government and stakeholders, social and traditional norms and most importantly the change occurring with dryland management and degradation that occurs during the project's lifetime.

On Tuesday, February 15, 2022, the Making Every Voice Count for Adaptive Management (MEV-CAM) initiative kicked off its participatory video (PV) training. The MEV-CAM initiative is led by the Dryland Forestry team at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and funded by the South-South Triangle Cooperation program. MEV-CAM aims to promote an inclusive and systemic learning-by-doing approach for monitoring and disseminating knowledge, lessons learnt, and experiences of the countries involved. It aims to document the baseline conditions and existing sustainable land and forest management practices in the different dryland landscapes by capturing and presenting them through a visual medium. 

MEV-CAM is working alongside the GEF-6 Resilient Food Systems (RFS) to highlight the best practices achieved under the project, as they are defined and experienced by communities themselves. The countries involved in this training program are: Burkina Faso, Burundi, Malawi, Niger, Tanzania and Uganda. Moreover, MEV-CAM contributes to the implementation of the GEF-7 Dryland Sustainable Landscapes Impact Programme (DSL-IP) by training project participants on using participatory video approaches to upscale the work achieved in GEF-6. In this model, participatory video enables horizontal and vertical knowledge sharing by facilitating accessible community-to-community exchanges across distance and time while also delivering community-based knowledge, innovations and needs directly to decision makers. The countries involved from the DSL-IP are: Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malawi, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. Zambia is also participating through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Forest and Farm Facility (FFF). In fact, some countries have already been featured in the GEF-7 launch video with footage from their baseline videos! Finally, The WeCaN Community of Practice for women in dryland regions and agrosilvopastoral systems is also working with MEV-CAM to focus on women and the role they play in their local communities. The countries involved from WeCaN are: Lebanon, Mauritania, and Togo. 

 What do these videos aim to capture from these projects, and what is the long-term result?  

Whereas traditional monitoring and evaluation (M&E) techniques involved surveying, Q&A, and second handwriting of reports by appointed stakeholders, participatory video captures the voices from the ground. To help illustrate these voices, PV allows the individuals to express their ideas, share knowledge, and demonstrate techniques that can be upscaled. Instead of reading an article secondhand about a story, community members can share their stories directly – empowering the speakers and leaving the viewer with a personal and powerful impression of local realities. These videos, nonetheless, are a form of knowledge management that goes beyond traditional pen and paper. As technology continues to dominate the communication world, PV taps into this expertise and allows communities to advocate for better policies, addressing their local, national, and regional leaders. Through the South-South Cooperation (SSC) Gateway, the dissemination of this knowledge is more tangible than ever.

As a result, the MEV-CAM participatory video training is conducted by InsightShare, a leading organization in the participatory video and media field. Together with InsightShare, FAO has developed a training course comprised of four modules, which will take place throughout 2022. Module A is focused on a general introduction into participatory video and the most significant change (PVMSC) technique, a participatory monitoring and evaluation methodology, developed by InsightShare. Module B will focus on facilitating participatory videos. Module C will act as the post-production stage, where 4 countries will work with InsightShare to develop video outputs, highlighting best practices identified by communities and used to upscale the work of both GEF projects. Finally, Module D will be the training of trainers (ToT), where trainees involved will learn how to mentor others in local communities on using PV. Modules A, C and D are in English and French.

The individuals selected to participate in this training were nominated by the respective project focal points. These individuals were selected because they work in their corresponding project as either a monitoring and evaluation expert or a communications expert, and, most importantly, visit the targeted landscape regularly and have established relationships with communities. Thus, they directly communicate with the communities and can work with them to utilize this PV technique.

‘Enlightened,’ ’motivated,’ ’prepared, and ’excited,’ are just some of the sentiments felt after Session 1 of the trainings were complete. With Module A well underway, the targeted trainees have covered the basics of using participatory video in their projects. Some commented that they discovered ’hidden techniques in the community participatory filmmaking approach.’ So far, trainees have learned about the participatory video for most significant change methodology and how it can be used for knowledge sharing, empowering marginal voices and influencing policy, and have experienced a story circle and selection process. They have also learned technical skills in filming. Attending this, and central to any participatory video process, is handing over the camera: teaching others how to use it and harness it as a tool for sharing stories, knowledge and ideas. Facilitation skills will be further developed in the coming weeks.