Working in partnership with the UN World Food Programme, ArtGlo uses participatory theatre to engage communities on issues affecting food security.

Successive climate shocks left nearly 6.7 million people in Malawi facing critical food insecurity in 2016-17. We created the Theatre for Healthy Living in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP) to empower communities to take action on issues contributing to food insecurity, using Theatre for Development (TfD).

Following intensive training, local drama groups created partic­ipatory plays addressing issues including dietary diversification, water, hygiene and sanitation, as well as gender and protection, which they toured around surrounding communities. Each performance linked local people’s experiences with information provided by WFP, and culminated in the production of Community Action Plans, where community members developed solutions to the issues raised.

The project was successfully piloted in 2016 in Phalombe and Chikwawa. In 2017 it was rolled out to more communities in those same districts- with drama club members trained during the pilot project now training new groups- and also introduced in the districts of Zomba and Machinga. The project was run in close collaboration with WFP’s Cooperating Partners- Emmanuel International (EI), the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and World Vision International (WVI). In the 2017 project, 16 drama groups conducted 115 performances, reaching an estimated 85,000 people. Find out more in our Success Stories booklet.


The project evaluation, conducted by an external consultant, found:

'The drama groups played a critical role of identifying the challenges, crafting the messages into participatory performances taking into account contextual information and engaging community members through performances toured around surrounding communities, as well as helping facilitate the development of action plans and later make follow ups

The Community Action Planning integrated into the performances helped communities to take ownership of agreed plans on both an individual and community level.'

The quantitative research identified promising shifts in social behaviour change. For example there was an overwhelming increase in the proportion of respondents who stated that it is necessary to eat six food groups from 60% in the baseline to 99% in the end line. The proportion of the respondents who reported covering the food with nets and containers to avoid insects and germs increased significantly during the end-line (67%) compared to the baseline (45.8%).

  • The questions that are asked by the performers to the audience feel like we are also in the performance, and we find ourselves judging our own practices.
    — Audience member, Mwananjobvu, Chikwawa district
  • The major difference is that, at first the drama group used to just entertain people, they were plays just for entertainment, But now they are sensitising people on sanitation and hygiene, diversified eating habits of the six food groups. As you know, we receive maize, but we used to just sell it, now the plays are sensitising us to stop because if we continue, we will die of hunger.
    — Group Village Headman, Mwananjobvu, Chikwawa district
  • I’m seeing a lot of changes taking place for the better using the methodologies we’ve learned here, mainly to do with participation - involving the people to solve the problems they are facing in the communities.
    — Victor, Blantyre Implementing Partner training participant