As I stepped out of the plane at the Yaounde international airport, the humid twenty-eight degree Celsius (28⁰C) midday temperature engulfed my face and though perspiring, it gave me the feeling of a warm welcome to the capital of Cameroon. Walking towards the Immigration control and carousel for baggage claims, I recalled it had been just five months since my first visit. This was during the Greenpeace Africa Congo Basin forest ship tour across Central Africa.
Airports tell you a lot about the state of a country. As with my first visit at the Douala international Airport, I watched the long queues and the apathy on the faces of the immigration officers on my arrival in Yaounde. I wondered what this meant for the larger political, economic and social system in the country. I am in Cameroon for the second time to work with my fellow Greenpeace Africa staff, volunteers and partners in protecting the Congo Basin forest.
The second largest rainforest in the world is under threat from industrial agriculture in Cameroon. After the awareness campaign to “Give the Congo Basin forest a chance” last October of 2017, I was amazed by the optimism of our volunteers – The Environmental Ambassadors – and local partners. I am back in Cameroon to support them to efficiently counteract the threats facing this global resource. In addition to its role in regulating global climate, the Congo forest supports the livelihood of millions of people.
In my meetings with the volunteer groups, I enjoyed the determination in their voices, the zeal to stand against all forms of plunder of priceless environmental resources. The depth of their questions certainly confirmed that with the required support, they will be the new generation of leaders who will foster the green and peaceful world we all desire. Their energy and passion in protecting what could be one of the most important resource in Africa is contagious.
Campaigning for any cause in sub-Saharan Africa is not for the faint-hearted. But I stand encouraged by the spirit of our volunteers and partners and their passion about safeguarding the sacred Congo Basin forest. During my meetings, I implored our volunteers and partners to invest in strategy and planning, as a good campaign does not necessarily require a huge number of people but it must be able to attract many people. Sometimes, we must expect the unexpected during campaigns so that we never have surprises that will deter us.
I reluctantly depart from the colourful city of Yaoundé with little insights on what the hints at the airport mean for the infrastructure, the political situation and the general state of the country. But, I am excited that despite low support to the office, our Cameroon office boasts of a fast growing volunteer base in Africa with over two hundred and fifty volunteers. This enthusiastic team has participated in collecting signatures against the SGSOC grant renewal in Cameroon; clean the mokolo market during World Environment Day; efficiently mobilised human resources during the forest ship tour and many other international spotlight moments. I hope that we shall translate this positive energy and enthusiasm into creating a movement within the region to highlight the importance of the Congo Basin forest to humanity.
Let us all give the Congo Basin forest a chance!