#Article (Archive)

Environment: Youth engagement in the protection and conservation of the environment in Gambia

Dec 20, 2012, 9:02 AM | Article By: Abdou Rahman Sallah

Hello readers and welcome to another edition of the Environment, your weekly column that brings environmental issues to the lime light.

In our today’s edition, we try to recognize the efforts of young volunteers in protecting the environment and how to harness their potential in the conservation of our natural resources.

In that regards, we bring you an interviewed we had with Joe Bongay, executive director of Young Volunteers for the Environment (YVE-The Gambia).

“The climatic changes associated with the current trend of global warming are set to impact on The Gambia, as in the rest of the world as a result young people like us are taking the initiative to fight and mitigate the root causes of climate change and use right based approach in tackling the global phenomenon of environmental problems,” he said.

These impacts will come in many guises; floods, droughts, massive increase of vector and water borne diseases, rapid desertification and coastal erosion, he said.

Noting that unless effective adaptation is in place they will lead not only to environmental degradation and forced migration but also to famine, sicknesses and loss of life, land and livelihoods, on a previously unprecedented scale.

He stressed that engaging young people to address climate change is a critical element to any nation’s strategy and young people are key point of influence for other segments of society (e.g. families and communities) if citizens come to understand the risks of climate change and how they can play a role in reducing the impact of climate change they can become an integral part of the solution.

Joe noted that youth are an important source of creativity, enthusiasm and drive for any actions to address climate change.

The issue of environmental management and improvement should be a major concern to young people and they ought to play active roles in program and activities which improve the environment such as recycling, community clean-ups, land reclamations etc.

He said that deforestation in The Gambia has being mainly a consequence of bush fires and the illegal logging of trees.Trees are extensively felled for firewood for commercial and domestic heating or as a raw material for the construction of fences, roofs and boats.

“Trees are also burned to produce charcoal for heating, even though the practice has been legally banned in the country since 1980. Forests are cleared for the extension or establishment of villages and cities. Livestock breeding or rearing often calls for bush clearings and the cattle are often allowed to overgraze on marginal forested areas. Certain forest zones are cleared for mining and extraction of sand and gravel,” he added.

Growing demands for food, feed, fuel, fibre and new materials create local and distant pressure for land use change. Many of the weather and environmental changes that have been observed are potentially linked to climate change, or could be exacerbated by climate change in the future.

According to him, many had express concern about deforestation and it is of particular concern to those in rural areas which can be describe as deliberate burning of forested land and the felling of trees for charcoal and firewood and other illegal commercial logging.

It is believe that drought is primarily caused by local deforestation as the loss of trees affects the rainfall patterns, depleted local water sources, and contributed to a loss of soil moisture, he said.

Many around Africa especially in urban and peri-urban areas are particularly concerned about poor sanitation, waste management and pollution from vehicles and industry which many view as the umbrella of pollution and also often see as overcrowding.

He said that, some people attributed pollution and poor sanitation to the carelessness of growing urban populations and failure to provide effective waste disposal, and the growth of industry.

Plastic bags are also littering the environment, in the past we usedpaper bags, which decompose, but now we use plastic bags which take a long time to decompose or don’t at all.

Adding that, the causes of disasters are either caused or exacerbated by environmental degradation. Deforestation leads to rapid rain runoff, which contributes to flooding. For example the creation of drought conditions and the relative severity and length of time the drought lasts is mainly a natural phenomenon, but agricultural development and the system of food distribution may exacerbate conditions. Similarly, climate changes, which are presumed to be a result of the phenomenon of global warming, may result in more disasters due to such hazards as flooding and desertification.

Young Volunteers for the Environment (YVE-The Gambia) - or Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement (JVE) in French – YVE Gambia is a youth oriented, non-profit organization, helping the youth fulfill their potential participation in sustainable development in all aspects to accelerate the quest for a more sustainable society and that young people in communities would provide continued strong leadership in the areas it is responsible for. As we believe the actualization of a durable sustainable development is the responsibility of everyone, be it young or old in meeting community needs for useful environmental information, knowledge sharing and the promotion of actions for better environmental outcomes.

The organization is a professionally youth-oriented environmental non-profit organization, registered as a charitable organization promoting youth participation in environmental protection & sustainability, love for ecology, coastal & ecological building, clean energy, social justice & entrepreneurship, climate change advocacy, policy analysis, renewable energy, waste management, water, health, solar and sustainable development through its communities.

YVE Gambia is a member of Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement (JVE International) present in 24 African countries , some European countries and has its headquarters in Lome, Togo with itsactivitiesmainly focusing around access to basic energy, water and sanitation services; cultural biodiversity and eco-conscience; climate change; and natural resource management.

The mission is to develop leadership and eco-citizenship of young people for their involvement in the promotion of sustainable development of communities and some of the objectives including the protection and preservation of the country’snatural resources, promoting the spirit of volunteerism and taking initiatives, involving children, youth, and women in the protection of the web of life, facilitating the integration of the youth in the economic, social, and technological structure and facilitating access to natural resources, the defense and the protection of the rights and interests of the peasantry and groups at risk.

Some of activities implemented includes Mandinary community garden mapping in this case the

YVE team with support from Mandinary community youth and local garden women took the lead in the process of local sustainable development to enable their community meet the needs of the present without compromising the efforts of the future to meet their own needs.In this respect, as an environmental organization working towards a durable sustainable development in communities, visited the Coastal side and the women garden of Madinary village.This visit marks the first community outreach efforts of the organization to be able to engage communities in building essential relationships with both the community and the organization’s target audience.

In The Gambia, Young Volunteers for the Environment-The Gambia (YVE) in collaboration with Youth Alliance-The Gambia (YAG), Global Unification (GU) and Green Tech as part of theircontinuousjoint efforts celebrated the Earth Day each year in manifesting its care, love and passion for a durable sustainable energy environment, together join the rest of the population around the world in mobilization by organizing a climate change film screening held at Tango Hall in Kanifing.

The Film Screening and Road Work sensitization and Drama Presentation was recently hold targeting participants from youth organizations, policy makers, school children, journalists, NGO repereentatives and other development partners .

The event show-case a documentary video on climate change effects and possible measures that needs to be taken in creating and shaping a sustainable environment and future.

The event also give opportunity to participants to better understand the current impacts, effects and situation caused by natural disaster and those caused by man. Speakers from the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the U.S Peace Corps - The Gambia, showcase short presentation on the current situation of both the national and international climate and environmental condition and possible solution in bringing change.

Global Unification, YAG, Green Tech and YVE are all non-profit charitable organization that seeks to improve the lives of rural communities promoting youth participation in environmental conservation, climate change advocacy, policy analysis, renewable energy, waste management, water, and sustainable development through education, health care, environmental conservation and development work.

YVE- The Gambia’s Lunch the Clean Energy for Africa (CLENA) project in 2012 to promote the use of efficient, reliable and affordable energy technologies that is sustainable and environmentally sounds.

This is geared towards complementing the efforts of The Government of The Gambia, JVE International and other stakeholders in achieving the goals on clean energy for Africa.

The project is expected to bring in new technologies and methods towards the development of clean energy in the Gambia especially in peri-urban and rural communities.

The project activity will help to identify and address the concerns of the country’s domestic energy situation, its vulnerability to climate change impacts and to develop possible proposals to government, donors, community and partners on accelerating the population’s access to reliable energy through cleaner energy sources for durable sustainable development.

It will also help in the implementation process of rural community’s energy access and clean energy development project to help address barriers, to develop and promote a market environment that is conducive to investment in renewable energy, strengthening legal & regulatory framework for renewable energy sector; capacity building, training, and general project management.

According to Joe, just recently YVE conducted a secondary Research Study on Energy Situation in The Gambia 2012.The study document is an effort to assess the energy situation in the Gambia and encourage actors to engage more extensively in the process towards achieving the aims and objectives of the project and to enable sustainable measures at the end of the project.Furthermore, the study provides basic information, describes challenges and share possible innovative recommendations or proposals for durable sustainable development.

The document further aims at helping actors on energy to map out the energy situation and Young Volunteers for the Environment (YVE The Gambia) to help implement CLENA project and encourage clean energy production, promotion and utilization in the Gambia. The general objective is to promote access to clean energy services throughout the country, with specific emphasize to ensure the accessibility of adequate, reliable, affordable and sustainable supply of energy services to support green economy and socio-economic development.

The study was conducted in the Greater Banjul Area (GBA), the Gambia. It involves local communities, organizations and with guidance from the energy expert of the Ministry of Energy and inputs from Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, National Water & Electricity Company, National Environment Agency and Ministry of Forestry and Environment, these inputs were meant to have all the relevant information on the document hence these institutions are operating nationwide.

YVE efforts in protecting the environment

The mutual mindset and passion among YVE-Gambia members is to help promote love for ecology, environmental protection & sustainability, coastal & ecological building, clean energy, social justice & entrepreneurship and the integrated management system of waste and water resources through its communities.

He said the endeavor to bring about change through advocacy, networking, training, dialog and partnership through which raising awareness, government and nongovernmental networking and lobbying, community dialog and corporate action will be the direction of its volunteer members for results.

All the activities that we embarked on were all successful in this short term despite of the struggles for funds and YVE The Gambia have in mindamong other things is to launchcommunity projects andenvironmental green entrepreneurship initiativesthat will provide communities with field research and documentary training, with the aid of media information technology, to facilitate the documentation and preservation of the diverse Senegambia Cultural heritage, coastal community river bolong, women and youth gardens among othersmany of which are rapidly disappearing from contemporary practice and use.

He noted that the mission of YVE is to collect, document, advocate and help support in the preservation and development of these important environmental sites, he added.

Noting that their activities have awakening communities and its youth population to be taking into consideration the urgent needs of environmental development and protection with concern for the future.

“ Joining developmental organizations like the YVE in putting pressure on the urgent needstakeholders, policy and decision makers etcto integrate a long term sustainable strategies and projectsintheir planning process and implement education, training and awareness projects that drive towards a durable sustainable development.”

These gradual activities have started changing the mindset of the youth and communities towards their attitude and behavior to the environment, he added.

For your comments, suggestions and contributions contact (0020) 6361340 or Email: bajgambia2011@gmail.com