Global climate change has been one of the most disturbing issues in the last decade attracting global attention. The climate crisis is a metaproblem which is so severe in its extent and reach that it surpasses most other challenges including gender inequality, poverty, conflict, and loss of natural resources.
In the last four years, sub-Saharan Africa has once more been hit by severe climate-induced disruptions because of the El Niño and La Niña weather phenomena, according to Bukar Tijani, assistant director-general of the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and regional representative for Africa. Bukar holds that the ongoing El Niño and La Niña, with their related droughts and floods, are considered the worst since the turn of the century, and have affected the livelihoods of tens of millions of poor households.
The situation is even worse in the Sahel region, which cuts across the northern part of Cameroon. The UN special adviser on the Sahel, Ibrahim Thiaw, describes the region as “arguably one of the most vulnerable to climate change [with most likely] the largest number of people disproportionately affected by global warming.”
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Arid Environments posits one in six trees has vanished since the 1950s because of climate change. A fifth of local species have also disappeared. This could irreversiblydamage Cameroon’s rich and unique environment.
As part of the Bonn Challenge initiative, Cameroon pledged to reinstate more than 12 million hectares of deforested and degraded land by 2030 as well as take other climate actions. But these have apparently been thwarted by underfunding, lack of good policies, pressure on ecosystem and to an extent the phenomenon of government officials tampering with public funds. Transparency International says corruption and embezzlement are “rampant” in Cameroon.
As there is no magical solution to quickly fix the climate change problem in Cameroon, it is remarkable that some 21 young people are energised to take matters into their own hands. They want to protect their future by taking climate change head on now.
Grouped under the budding youth movement – Action pour le Développement Communautaire (ADC), known in English as Action for Community Development – the youths have been working enormously since 2017 to halt climate change across Cameroon, home to the world’s second-largest tropical rain forest (the species-rich Congo Basin) and particularly in the northern Sahel part of the country. ADC got legal status in March 2019.
Do-it-yourself Climate Action
In the district of Figuil in the north of the country, the impact of climate change had been exacerbated by the activities of a marble production company until Action for Community Development stepped in. ROCAGLIA had been abusively harvesting trees in the locality to fuel its production furnaces.
The youth movement launched an advocacy campaign targeting administrative authorities in order to halt the deforestation at industrial scale. This yielded a little success but locals too kept cutting down trees for fuel and shelter.
Faced with this, Moise Mbimbe Nlom, 28, National Coordinator of Action for Community Developmentsays they engaged in training the locals in producing a sustainable alternative offirewood. “We started with the training of 25 youths on green entrepreneurship. We had to make them understand that they can produce eco-friendly fuel for their personal usage and even sell the excess for income,” Nlom said.
The alternative to firewood proposed by Nlem’s youth movement is fuel produced from corncobs and waste obtained from the processing of millet. Corn and millet are stable foods in the region and are widely cultivated by the mostly agrarian population. The wastes which were hitherto disposed are now turn into useful fuel. “We also teach them how to fabricate improved stoves from clay which go with the eco-friendly charcoal,” Nlom noted.
Adamu Moussa, a local in Figuil told JournalduCameroun he did not understand anything about climate change until he was sensitised by members of ADC. “I did not understand why the small stream where my cattle drink water from kept drying off each passing year. Now I know and I cannot be indifferent in the fight against climate change,” Moussa said. The cattle breeder, who used to fell trees for firewood, now considers the practice as a taboo.
Besides providing an alternative to firewood, the youth movement has also been involved in tree planting in order to make the locality green again. In just two years, they have been able to plant and carefully nurse over 200 trees in Figuil and Guider; two arid localities. Action for Community Development plans to plants thousand more trees especially in Figuil in order to contain the air pollution caused by CIMENCAM, a cement production plant in the locality.
Nlem says most of them, with an average age of 27, are experts in natural resources management with different profiles. “So we decided to join our different profiles in order to fulfil our respective desires of contributing to the attainment of the SDGs.”
The youth movement has intensified its work on sensitisation and capacity building on climate action in some schools in the economic capital Douala, impacting over 300 students. According to the National Coordinator, disaster risk reduction is a priority for them. “We want people to think globally and act locally,” he advocates.
*Amindeh Blaise Atabong is an investigative freelance journalist who has has special interest in climate change, governance, human rights and global development.