Back in the year 1995 when I was in fifth grade, I heard the name of Greenpeace’s vessel “The Rainbow Warrior” on international radio. Since then, I wish I could join that amazing organisation. I still remember this day just as if it was yesterday.
A few years later, I was talking to a friend and he told me that Greenpeace is just next door, it was actually in Dakar. Wow! I could not believe it! My dream was about to become true.
I began my search for its whereabouts, until I found the Greenpeace Africa offices in downtown, Dakar. It was on a summer day back in 2010, when I first set foot in the Greenpeace office. Since then the adventure started as a volunteer until 2015 when I become a staff member.
In 2011, the World Social Forum (WSF) was going to be held in Dakar for the first time on Senegalese soil. I received a call from Greenpeace’s office to join them for an activity in Goree Island the following day. Joining the Greenpeace staff in the Island was how I set sail in the organisation. My role at that time was that of a photographer for the whole session of a press conference. I was so proud I could play such a key role during this event, capturing images that will illustrate and immortalise one public moment for Greenpeace. These photos are still on the Greenpeace Africa library.
One of the key moments during the WSF, was the training on the solar energy and clay stove. Afterwards, I was able to install a solar panel on the roof of the office. An equipment that as a volunteer, I had to often maintain. It was also part of my responsibilities to welcome and induct newly recruited staff/volunteers into the organisation.
Later that year, the Oceans Campaign had a project named ‘My Voice, My Future’. The plan was to ensure that communities along the coast sign a petition asking the Senegalese government to consider fisheries in their run for presidential elections. Three thousand signatures were the end goal for this hand-printed petition. Together with fishermen, communities and volunteers from north to south, we were able to exceed our target. We got six thousand petitions! Amazingly, this project had a significant impact in the campaign. We garnered enough signatures to lobby the candidates during the 2012 presidential election, to consider fisheries as priority in their campaign. We brilliantly ended the project with a memorable action of the school kids from Ecole Dior, forming the famous Human Fish Picture, which circulated widely in international and local media.
Just about the same time I was contacted by the organisation to be on a ship as a cook assistant. I wished it was the famous “rainbow warrior” that was mentioned over the radio in my teenage days! I was eagerly waiting for that day to come. Though I did not get on the Warrior, I was still very excited and proud to be onboard ‘My Arctic Sunrise’. The expedition aimed at bearing witness, document and expose the monster boats that were plundering the West African waters. One of the fondest memories of my fantastic experience onboard MYAS was my first direct action against a monster boat at sea.
In 2017 Greenpeace Africa unfolded an ambitious ship tour called “Hope in West Africa” for the preservation of the environment and the well-being of the people. This time, I was to mobilise and engage various stakeholders in Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania and Guinea Bissau to come together with Greenpeace and denounce the plunder of their nation’s birthright. During one of the stops in Guinea Bissau, we had a special guest aboard the ship: His Excellency José Mario Vaz, the Guinea Bissau President at that time. It was such a privilege to welcome him aboard.
In 2020, despite the Covid 19 pandemic, together with communities, we were able to
influence political decisions of the Senegalese authorities. The project consisted of mobilising all the actors of the fishing sector, industrials, artisanal fishermen, volunteers and stakeholders to convince the government to stop 52 licenses of fishing fleets that were about to fish in the Senegalese waters. The success of this project led to the Oceans campaign obtaining its second victory for the protection of the oceans, the preservation of fishermen’s livelihood and food security.
After more than 10 years of adventure, the memories and passion remain the same, although there are challenges to overcome. Building a safer and healthier environment can only be possible if we work more closely with communities, civil society organisations, volunteers, partners and key stakeholders across the continent. I would like to express my hearty gratitude to all the people who have guided and strengthened my steps in the organisation from Africa, Europe and around the world. Special credit goes to the volunteers of Senegal, DRC, Cameroon, Kenya and South Africa as they are key players and a source of motivation for the work Greenpeace is doing in Africa.
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