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Using the participatory mode of documentary filmmaking for knowledge exchange and empowerment: a case study of house-hold food security in the uMgungundlovu district of South Africa.

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This study explores the usefulness of a participatory video approach in facilitating knowledge exchange and community empowerment. In this vein, participatory video is used as a methodological approach to conduct a participatory communication research project that seeks to enable positive communication between Willowfontein (a peri-urban1 community of South Africa) and numerous other stakeholders. Participatory video is being used to examine and address issues around food security/insecurity in this community. This participatory approach empowers the community with a rare opportunity to participate in a decision-making process and to communicate at a constructive level with persons such as governmental practitioners, and agricultural and academic experts. These key stakeholders are usually recognised in decision-making processes, unlike the people of these peri-urban communities. This community-based participatory research, through a series of workshops and focus group sessions, enabled the Willowfontein community to advise on the production of a documentary film that documents their experiences, focusing on food security and food gardening. This community experiences a severe lack of food security as a result of various factors. The community relies on household crop gardening in order to have food, since unemployment and the cost of food are very high. However, crop gardens are failing too, which means that there is a serious hunger problem. Lack of food access leads to lack of nutrition, which inevitably leads to daunting repercussions such as a high level of child malnutrition and mortality. In South Africa, there have been many interventions and projects from the government and other community out-reach organisations in an attempt to assist such communities with crop production. However, most of the projects are consistently unsuccessful. This research examined, through participatory video, the factors that contribute to failing crop gardens in this community. Findings reveal that, at the root of any community development cause, positive participation between different stakeholders, including the community, is vital. However, conventional strategies from community out-reach and government do not facilitate collaboration that encourages the contribution of community members. As a result, community development projects fail since they lack this most fundamental component of community development. This project argues that participatory video, as a process that works in collaboration with the community, offers an appropriate approach to explore any community development cause, including food security/insecurity. The documentary film, Freedom from Hunger, Hunger for Freedom, produced with the community therefore comprises 50% of this project submission and the dissertation that reflects on the participatory process comprises the other 50%.


Master of Arts in Media and Cultural Studies. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2016.


Documentary films--South Africa--Pietermaritzburg., Food security--Documentation--South Africa--Pietermaritzburg., Knowledge management--South Africa--Pietermaritzburg., Theses--Media and cultural studies.