My experience of a lifetime as a Greenpeace Africa Volunteer
I saw a fully loaded truck of timber while I was travelling to Douala a year ago. I often see trucks like this carry three logs at a time but this one carried only two long logs. One of the logs was so huge that a third log couldn’t be added. And I stared at this marvellous product of the forest, many thoughts rushed through my mind as the truck faded out of my sight. I thought of how long it took for this tree to develop and how much biodiversity was destroyed around this tree while it was being cut.
This hurt me so much that I could feel the pain in my chest. These trees are from the second largest forest of the earth which is the Congo Basin forest. Its rate of destruction is alarming considering the number of timber that I see leaving Cameroon each time I am in the economic Capital – Douala…
Surely this can’t be right, I thought to myself. If trees contribute to the quality of air we breathe, if they absorb all the pollution we create, then there must be huge consequences to the climate if we continue to destroy our forest. The complaint of local farmers of changes in farming seasons is a clear example.
I honestly think that if we protect what is left of the Congo Basin forest, we have a great chance to reduce climate change. That’s why when I heard about Greenpeace Africa’s ship tour I was so excited to take part in it. This will be the first time for the Greenpeace ship the Esperanza to visit Cameroon, which was quite exciting for all of us Greenpeace Africa volunteers in Cameroon – Green Ambassadors. It would give me and the peers a chance to support the campaign for the protection of the Congo Basin forest.
Finally seeing the Esperanza ship was exciting. The long wait and anticipation was over and there she was! Group photos and selfies with the ship took over as everyone wanted to immortalise the great moment.
The ship arrived at the port of Douala on the 13 of October 2017. The Esperanza didn’t arrive like other ships. She came with a message to ‘Give the Congo Basin Forest a Chance’. This was what made the difference with her visit. The event became really special for me as an Environmental Ambassador. It was going to be an adventure for a good cause!
The chief of the Sawa community was present with his elites to welcome her. It was great to see how Greenpeace opened up to communities through their leaders, giving a chance for their voice to be heard in environmental decisions. For many who came on board, it was like me, their first experience on a ship, which made it even the more exciting.
The participation of the public during the ship tour in Douala was phenomenal. Both young and old were interested in the message brought by The Esperanza. What I admired the most was the huge interest and participation of the youths in the protection of the Congo Basin forest. The pupils did a wonderful job with the drawings they made of the forest. It was encouraging to see the children being involved in forest protection. The wishes made by the children will be taken to Bonn during the climate meeting COP 23 from 6 November. There is a guarantee for more environmentally-aware leaders tomorrow.
The entertainment wasn’t limited to the children. The volunteers of Greenpeace caught the interest of the crowd with their beautiful choreography to the Congo Basin song.
Some Cameroonian artists and musicians took the stage to animate the crowd. They also showed their support by writing their wishes and putting it on the wish tree. There were many other personalities who came to visit the ship and Greenpeace used the opportunity to share the message of protecting the Congo Basin forest with them.
It wasn’t only about entertaining, but also bringing about solutions to protect the mighty Congo Basin forest. The Esperanza brought together actors of the Congo Basin in Cameroon from the civil society and the communities to discuss the way forward for the Congo Basin. Solutions like the follow-up of projects for the protection of the forest, the inclusion of the communities in decisions concerning the forests were proposed during the conference. It was so inspiring!
Then came my opportunity of a lifetime! I was among four Greenpeace Africa volunteers, who were given the chance to sail on the Greenpeace ship the Esperanza. It toured the coast of Central Africa, mobilising communities, talking with political leaders, engaging civil society with one central message ‘Give the Congo Basin forest a chance’. In four weeks, the ship will make stops in Cameroon, The Democratic Republic of Congo and The Republic of Congo.
As we sail off the Douala port, my heart still ached at the sight of the logs that await exportation. But I am inspired by the enthusiasm of all who came to the ship to add their voices to the call the ‘Give the Congo Basin a chance’. A chance to keep existing, a chance to develop and a chance for our generations to come to get to know it. Add your wish for the Congo Basin forest to the wishtree here and we’ll take your wish to the climate conference in Bonn, Germany in November.