Violent conflicts, if not properly resolved or managed, often have destabilizing effects on the development of any society. This is because they result in pain and trauma from abuses and injuries, loss of property, and, in extreme cases, death. The killing of innocent people, the spread of fear in the community, and the destruction of livelihoods in many cases feed a cycle of conflict, which can only be broken through peace interventions and the cessation of hostilities. This essay explores the use of Theatre for Development (TfD) as an alternative peace intervention tool in the case of farmers-pastoralist conflicts in Tanzania, drawing on a case study of the Kilosa district of Tanzania.

Conflicts between pastoralists and farmers in Tanzania have been ongoing for decades. The violence between these communities has been driven by competition over land and water resources and complicated by the lack of effective conflict resolution mechanisms, unclear tenure rights, as well as the acquisition of large tracts of land by large-scale investors.1G. E. Massay, In Search of the Solution to farmer-pastoralist conflicts in Tanzania, SIIA Occasional Paper, 257, 2017, pp. 1-17. Retrieved January 3, 2020, from; A. S. K. Norman, Conflict Management among the Farmers and Pastoralists in Tanzania. International SAMANM Journal of Business and Social Sciences ISSN 2308-2372, July 2013, Vol. 1, No. 2, 2013. This has deprived many small-scale producers of their ancestral lands, rendering them landless and without livelihoods. Kilosa is among the districts in Tanzania that have been affected by violent conflicts between farmers and pastoralists. In one incident in the late 1990s, over 40 people were killed, many others were seriously injured, and the fighting destroyed properties, livestock, and crops. In 2000, more than ten farmers lost their lives and properties in yet another violent incident involving farmers and pastoralists.2IWGIA Report Tanzania Pastoralists threatened: evictions, Human rights violations, and loss of livelihood. IWGIA in collaboration with PINGO’s Forum, PAICODEO and UCRT, Denmark, No. 23, 2016. These recurring conflicts in various Kilosa communities have been a source of insecurity ever since. Similar land-related conflicts over competing livelihoods have been documented in different parts of Tanzania such as Mbarali, Rufiji, Iringa, Kilindi, Hanang, and other districts occupied by farmers and pastoralists.3M. E. Falanta & K. M. Bengesi, Drivers and Consequences of Recurrent Conflicts between Farmers and Pastoralists in Kilosa and Mvomero Districts, Tanzania, Journal of Sustainable Development; Vol. 11, No. 4; 2018, ISSN 1913-9063 E-ISSN 1913-9071

Various efforts have been made by the government of Tanzania to address the problem and resolve the conflict between farmers and pastoralists. Such efforts have included introducing regulatory guidelines such as the National Land Policy of 1995, the Tanzania Agriculture and Livestock Policy of 1997, the Village Land Act No.5 of 1999, and the Animal Feed Act No.3 of 2010.4I. D. Mwasha, Farmer-Pastoralist Conflict in Kilosa District, Tanzania: A Climate Change Orientation, Dissertation. Sokoine University, Tanzania, 2016. Despite these policies, the conflicts have persisted. This essay seeks to explore alternative avenues for resolving these ongoing conflicts by using TfD as a mechanism for reconciling farmers and pastoralists and to incentivize both communities to seek non-violent or peaceful means of settling their differences. It makes a compelling case for the use of TfD as a strategy for peacebuilding in the Kilosa district.

Theatre for Development (TfD)

TfD is an action research method, which means a theatre-making process in which community members are involved in researching, analyzing, discussing, finding solutions to their development problems, and translating them into a theatrical form to be communicated or performed to themselves and other community members.5N. Shamagana & B. C. Musa, Harnessing the Potentials of Theatre for Development (TfD) and Faith–Based Organizations (FBOs) in Conflict Resolution and Peace Building: A Focus on Shiites-Army Conflict in Nigeria. Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. Nigeria, 2018. Furthermore, TfD is a community-based interactive process that uses theatre forms to practically awaken people’s critical awareness by making them engage, understand, discuss, analyze, and find actionable solutions to the problems that may be hindering their development, including violent conflicts. Through TfD processes, people come together, build confidence and solidarity, stimulate discussion, explore innovative and alternative options for action, and build a collective commitment to collective change by starting with people’s urgent concerns and issues.6D. Jonathan, Theatre for Development Practice and Development Communication, Makurdi Journal of Arts and Culture (MAJAC). Vol. ISSN: 1117-3440 2014, pp.81-96; I. O. Ajibola, Integrating Theatre Approaches in Conflict Management Techniques in Nigeria. Journal of Business Management & Social Sciences Research (JBM & SSR) ISSN No: 2319-5614 Volume 3, No.1, January 2014.

Prospects of using theatre for development in peacebuilding

Based on the research conducted, TfD has the potential to build peace among conflict-affected farmer-pastoralist communities in Kilosa, and other areas with the same type of conflicts. Through TfD processes, it was shown that TfD is a very informative tool that creates awareness about ways to address the prevailing conflicts among community members. Through the process of TfD, participants recognized the part being played by community members in causing and participating in conflicts. Before TfD, they partly blamed the government for recurring conflicts. At the beginning of the TfD process, the participants (farmers and pastoralists) sometimes blamed each other as being responsible for the violence and the discussions were very heated. But in the end, after long discussions, they came to realize that each group was contributing to the escalation of the conflict in one way or another. Being aware of conflicts is one step towards conflict resolution as the mind of the individuals becomes open to new non-violent ideas. This is important because, when people talk about their issues, engage themselves, and reflect on the issues militating against peace, then the likelihood for peacebuilding and conflict resolution increases. For instance, one of the TfD participants, a Maasai, said, “I didn’t know if we were also the cause of the conflicts. Now I know that we are, because we hate each other, we do not care when our cattle destroy farmers’ farms; generally, we are not patriotic.” They went further by claiming that, if they loved each other, even when the cattle destroy the farmer’s crops, they would settle the issue without causing any damage or conflict to other society members. In this way, the TfD is a part of collective efforts to find innovative solutions that are not produced through preexisting models of peacebuilding.

The TfD has the power of empowering community members to have the courage to interrogate old assumptions and openly negotiate or advocate for peace. This is because it promotes the involvement of the communities directly in the entire process of conflict resolution and peacebuilding. For instance, participants were able to discuss the shortcomings of their leader freely, something which was difficult in the past due to fear and not having a platform for expressing themselves. This was also performed in a play by acting out a scene showing the bad behavior of their leaders. In the process of collecting and analyzing data for the plays, participants were able to reflect more on their problems and become empowered to address their conflicts. This creative approach facilitated the opening of a democratic and participatory process whereby the community members are involved in identifying and resolving their conflicts. Using TfD helped to mobilize community action and collective responsibility. People became more committed to initiating community-led peacebuilding.

Grassroots communities often do not have any platform where they can voice their concern about conflicts. TfD was found to be a tool that gives voice to voiceless people, especially those at a grassroots level, who are most affected by conflicts. This was evidenced during theatre (play) creation as participants were able to air out their voices that otherwise might not be heard in prevailing approaches to peacebuilding. The play was created by participants themselves depending on data collected and analyzed, with the guidance of the researcher. During that process, one participant said, “I like this approach; we have been able to communicate things which we have never communicated before.” In the whole process of TfD, the researcher observed the openness of participants during discussions, a newfound sense of togetherness, and love among themselves as participants realized their role in peacebuilding as the main actors. In that sense, TfD has offered an alternative by facilitating the type of verbal discourse that emphasizes participation, critical consciousness, sensitization, and social transformation by stimulating dialogue within the people. This indicates that TfD is a bottom-up approach to peacebuilding which can result in long-lasting post-conflict peace. On top of that, TfD enables grassroots communities to break through communication barriers, because it draws from life, wisdom, and the experiences of the community within a given context. It is in this sense that TfD reveals its potential for the principles of community-led peacebuilding to seep into the communal narratives and sustain locally-driven initiatives.

TfD also deals with emotions, which play a key role in fueling conflicts. Emotions such as fear, anger, revenge, and humiliation often prevail after the conflict, with a considerable influence on how communities define themselves. After conflicts have occurred, there is fear and hunger among community members. Under such circumstances, it becomes exceedingly difficult to engage in a genuine healing process. But by using TfD, it becomes easier for people to come together to share their experiences and open the door to peaceful dialogue. For instance, during data analysis and theatre production, participants shared their anger and fear during and after conflicts and, in the end, they arrived at a compromise. This was possible because TfD uses forms of theatre that derive from and express the lived experience of community members as it seeks to transform life where it matters most: how people see and experience every day (conflicts). For instance, one participant during a TfD session said: “I don’t even understand what the government is doing in its efforts to make us live peacefully. We always do not know how to produce conflict resolution mechanisms, but this process is very good. It has made us understand more about our conflicts and we are discussing how to do away with conflicts.”


This essay establishes that TfD has immense potential in mediating and resolving farmer-pastoralist conflicts as it has the power to empower community members to reflect more on their conflicts and address conflicts through community members’ proposed means. It is pertinent to say that farmer-pastoralist conflicts are part of human life because conflicts can erupt at any time as people seek space, identification, and access to political power, and limited resources in society. The processes of TfD come with a lesson that people, especially those affected by conflicts, often lack platforms to communicate their concerns about conflicts and their views on the solutions to secure a peaceful life. Most measures to resolve conflicts are top-down. This makes these measures lack the ownership of community members; hence even the implementation of proposed initiatives becomes difficult. Therefore, it is recommended that, even if there is a measure proposed to resolve conflicts outside of community members, a community strategy is preferable and TfD can be used for implementing peace initiatives. TfD provides a platform for local communities to discuss and find means for creating and implementing peace initiatives and projects. The successful implementation of such collective projects helps sustain peace and development.

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