Soap Opera Promotes Development in Ghana

Oct 7, 2011 10:13 AM ET

Change is in the airwaves for communities of coastal Ghana. Biribireba, a new radio soap opera promoting sustainable development, premiered to 2.5 million people today in six districts of the Western Region of Ghana.

Like all dramas, Biribireba is filled with intrigue, corruption, temptation, chaos and love.  Unlike many dramas, Biribireba is infused with important social and environmental messages.  
“Every Tuesday for the next six months, listeners will tune in to listen to the twists and turns of the soap opera,” says Brenda Campos, Programs Director, Media Impact. “Biribireba script writers drew upon the Ghanaian tradition of storytelling and built upon local legends to craft a persuasive story to address eco-system governance and managing coastal resources.”   Both are important issues in a country with a population that is expected to double in the next 20 years.
The result of this work is a captivating story about a juicy love triangle rooted in conflict over conservation:
In the fishing community of Biribireba, Kweku Anokye is a young mechanic who contributes to the pollution of his community. Anokye is in love with Gifty, but Gifty is dating Officer Bob. Tina, a teacher in the local school, takes action to address the community’s sanitation crisis because she recognizes the interconnectedness of her environment’s physical degradation and the community’s economic health and public health. Former schoolmates, Anokye and Tina reconnect but Tina is disturbed by Anokye lack of concern or responsibility for his role in Eku Lagoon’s polluted state. As Anokye’s friendship with Tina grows and he begins to express concern for his community and take responsibility for his actions, Gifty (Tina’s cousin) takes notice of Anokye’s transformation and cannot help but be tempted to stray from corrupt Officer Bob.
“It is Tina’s character and Anokye’s reform that is motivating listeners to participate in community clean-ups and make behavior changes to reduce their environmental impact,” says Shoshana Court, Ghana Program Officer, Media Impact. “Preaching at people about issues and threats wasn’t working but showing people, through fictional characters in a drama, that small behavior changes are not overwhelming is already motivating people to take action to improve their community.”
Each episode of the drama will broadcast inside of a talk show designed to promote listener feedback and comments on the environmental themes. The drama’s launch will also be marked by several community fairs, including a theme song competition, cook-off between local women and soccer games for youth. The drama is a way to role model the behavior changes promoted in the larger program, and the community fairs and competitions help to engage listeners.
Biribireba is only one part of a larger sustainable development program, Hɛn Mpoano. Hɛn Mpoano, meaning Our Coast in the local language Fante, is a five-year program funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) executed in partnership with the Coastal Resources Center (CRC) of the University of Rhode Island, PCI-Media Impact through SustainaMetrix, Friends of the Nation Ghana and the World Fish Center.
Lindsey Wahlstrom
PCI-Media Impact