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Art for education: African schoolchildren inform York environmental project

Posted on 31 July 2014

Environmentalists from the University of York, a partner in the CHIESA (Climate Change Impacts on Ecosystem Services and Food Security in Eastern Africa) project, are to showcase winning entries from an East African school art competition that was used to celebrate International Mountain Day.

Artwork submitted for the CHIESA art competition

Launching a drawing competition around the theme ‘My Mountain, My Home’, 269 submissions of artwork were received from ten primary and secondary schools in Taita Hills, Kenya and Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Assessed by three judges from CHIESA partner institutions, 35 drawings were chosen as winning entries and are ‘on tour’ in the UK and Finland before being auctioned off in Kenya.

The ‘Art for Education’ competition enabled young people in the region to interpret and depict their environmental experiences, recording their thoughts and perceptions of their environment. The winning artworks were judged on the representation of mountain ecosystems, diverse human activities, farming technologies and climactic events.

Dr Rob Marchant, Reader in the Environment Department at the University of York, said: “One of the interesting things to come from the project is the different perceptions the children have about their surrounding environment; some show a bountiful and verdant landscape whereas others show drought and death.

“Many from the schools on Kilimanjaro make a very strong division between the National Park and the surrounding agricultural landscapes.  Ecologically these two broad areas are very much connected and the science project behind these artworks is to assess the connections between the natural ecosystems on mountains, people’s livelihoods and how these relationships are going to change in the future.”

Working closely with schools and local communities in Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia, the CHIESA project develops ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation in the agricultural East African Mountains. The project provides training courses and distributes academic literature and policy briefs to improve livelihoods reliant on crops in the region, and those affected by climate change.

The artwork responses are currently being collated by academics at York, and results will inform future CHIESA projects. The pictures will be displayed at the University of York during a British Ecology Society conference on 14 and 15 August.

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