Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Like all the countries on the planet, Togo is facing a wide range of environmental issues: Deforestation/Forest clearing, degradation of the green cover, soils, protected areas, fauna, waterways, living environment, and the consequences of a rapid population growth on Nature.
Actions are initiated for a sound management of natural resources and the environment, but they are hindered by specific constraints such as the lack of adequate means and accountability of citizens and structures responsible for the management of the environment. Also, the economic crisis is increasing the impoverishment of populations and the degradation of living conditions, along with the social crisis and some stubborn traditions and behaviors that are harmful to the environment. However, the major issue, remains, undoubtedly, the poor capacity of populations to give adequate response to environmental issues.
In fact, there is no educational, informational or training system dealing with ecology, nor is there a correlation between employment and environmental management. There is no practical training after university graduation, notably environmental training. The Government that is well aware of the need to take these factors into account in the National Sustainable Economic Development Policy, has launched a process for the National Environment Action Plan (PNAE). This plan seeks to define and promote a global strategic framework aimed at integrating environment and development issues with the effective participation of all actors and the preparation and implementation of programs and projects in the environment sector. Civil society organizations also intervene with actions including reforestation, recycling of waste, Ecotourism, renewable energy, sensitization etc…
In 2001, Sena Alouka created the Young Volunteers for Environment Association. With a team of four people, they set the objective of educating youth on environmental issues. He has organized conferences and workshops, recruited volunteers and trained them as agents responsible for sensitization in schools and communities. The themes mainly included the protection and management of forests and climate rehabilitation.
In 2009, Sena who is aware that environmental management is more efficient when coupled with lucrative activities, transformed JVE into a social and economic body with a dimension of “environment protection” through which the association can raise funds and support activities. This is how the association started revenue-generating activities (sale of improved fireplaces and solar lamps) with the volunteers and communities. Thanks to the support of Eau Afrique Assainissement (EAA), pumps and boreholes were installed and communities including 30 women groups assisted through an innovative credit system called AVEC.
With the new paradigm of green jobs, Sena saw an opportunity to increase youth interest in environmental questions by showing them job opportunities available in this field and offering post university training. In order to offer experience to a maximum of young people and make them ready for the job market, Sena posts announcements in universities and interested students go through a training attested by a diploma in project designing, group management, green economy after a 2 to 3-day training in a hotel. Some of the students stay at the JVE headquarters for a 3-month internship and defend a research memoir on environment. The other students are sent in the communities where they stay with host families to whom they offer assistance in their different economic activities and sensitize them on environment protection. As for Master’s Degree holders, Sena has designed a community development program. For a year, these students are sent in communities to create or support Village Development Committees.
After the internships, volunteers become members of one of the JVE local branches established throughout the country, usually counting 30 to 50 members each. Though autonomous, they work under the supervision of the central bureau based in Lome. In each community, a core group of young members is set up to take care of their immediate environment and initiate activities that are submitted for validation to the research units and creativity and innovation laboratories. General Assemblies are held each year to gather all the local branches. For 2 days, topics are discussed including energetic transition, reforestation, business creation, and personal development. Thanks to their energy, JVE is often called upon by the government and international organizations to bring solutions to the environment issues. Sena opened national representations in many countries worldwide like in France and in Nepal. Moreover, in order to be more strategic, he has decided to concentrate his efforts in Africa to address youth unemployment issues. JVE already has members in 25 African countries through universities or social networks, and has opened 11 functional offices.
Sena has developed a training program called Ecology/Awareness where internships final dissertations serve as basic documentation. Students are recruited and trained to be professional environmental teachers for JVE volunteers, school children, and communities. Sena started an environmental training program for teaching-staff in primary schools and led a sensitization campaign for Government to integrate this subject in the formal Togolese education. In a partnership with some school heads, free time is now dedicated to ecology classes. He has developed partnership with education inspectors who will be supervisors once the Ministry of National Education authorizes ecology classes. In 2011, JVE organized a meeting attended by ministers dealing with environment, employment, education as well as a steering committee with the objective of developing environmental education within the educational system.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
In order ensure better living conditions to future generations, Sena offers environmental and sustainable development education to populations. He uses youth volunteering and commitment to struggle around environmental issues and provide new job opportunities at the same time.
Taking into account the fact that the educational system is not adapted to the social and economic realities, and the incapacity of some students to pay for professional training after their university studies, Sena offers them trainings and activities oriented towards the development of ecological science as he considers that Africa’s future is in green economy. Also, Sena puts them in direct contact with communities where they gain experience and increase their employment opportunities.
With his organization, Young Volunteers for Environment, he has created the biggest young volunteers movement in Africa to protect the environment on a social and environmental scale (JVE). This will help build a movement of youth responsible and able to fight threats and aggressions against the environment and preserve the earth for future generations. Sena is currently discussing with the Togolese Ministries of Environment and Education for the introduction of environmental education in the curriculum.