Building Environmental Education and Civic Engagement Leadership for Climate Action in Cameroon


Building Environmental Education and Civic Engagement Leadership for Climate Action in Cameroon

Each month, NAAEE will post narratives from the CEE-Change Fellows as they implement their community action projects and work to strengthen environmental education and civic engagement capabilities, all supporting the mission of cleaner air, land, and water.  Join us on their journey! The Civics and Environmental Education (CEE) Change Fellowship is NAAEE’s newest initiative to support leadership and innovation in civics and environmental education in North America. This ee360+ program is a partnership between NAAEE, US EPA, and the Cedar Tree Foundation.

As I sit at my desk to compose this update about my CEE-Change Fellowship Community Action Project (CAP), I can't help but reflect on two quotes that have shaped my passion, enthusiasm, and commitment to building and developing leaders for climate action:

True leadership is about empowering others to achieve things they did not think possible. —Simon Sinek

Empowerment is not about giving people power; it is about unlocking the power they already have. —John P. Kotter

These quotes have been on my mind as I've championed and led our environmental education and climate action work at the International Student Environmental Coalition (ISEC) Cameroon and beyond. Before embarking on my CEE-Change Fellowship journey and developing my CAP, our work at ISEC Cameroon over the past six years has shown me that young people are passionate and enthusiastic about leading the climate movement in their communities. They simply need the capacity, mentorship, and empowerment to do so. I believe that through environmental education and civic engagement, young people across Cameroon can address environmental challenges, including those caused by climate change. Our efforts at ISEC are helping build the next generation of climate leaders and environmental educators.

Background on My Community Action Project

ISEC Cameroon has been at the forefront of environmental education, youth empowerment, and climate action initiatives since 2017. In 2021, a survey we conducted in Yaounde involving 100 secondary school students revealed startling statistics:

  • 75% of secondary school students had never heard of climate change. 
  • 80% believed the government should do more to educate them on this issue. 
  • 92% expressed a desire to learn about climate change through extracurricular activities. 

These findings inspired the creation of our Green Earth Initiative, a nationwide program designed to educate and empower young people in schools across Cameroon for climate and environmental action. Through a structured approach involving educational sessions, club activities, competitions, and interactive discussions, students are not only learning about climate change but also actively fostering climate action in their schools, homes, and communities. Since its inception in 2021, the Green Earth Initiative has impacted over 15,000 students in more than 20 schools across three regions of Cameroon. This includes establishing 15 Environment and Eco-clubs, planting over 7,000 trees, and distributing 150 adapted waste bins for proper waste management in schools. While the initiative has seen significant success, our limited team at ISEC Cameroon and our commitment to sustainability led me to further enhance our efforts through my CAP as part of the CEE-Change Fellowship.

Students learn about Sustainable Development Goals in a secondary school in Yaoundé during a Green Earth Initiative Outdoor activity.  Photo credit: Harrison Ashangwa

Students learn about waste management at a Green Earth Initiative education session in Douala. Photo credit: Harrison Ashangwa

Building Leaders for Greater Impact Across Cameroon

The CEE-Change Fellowship has been an exceptional opportunity for me, starting precisely when we aimed to enhance our Green Earth Initiative program's scope and impact. The CEE-Change Leadership Institute at the start of the Fellowship, where our cohort came together for an in-person leadership training at the National Conservation Training Centre in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, profoundly influenced the leadership dimension of my CAP. Engaging in inspiring sessions, insightful discussions, and learning from fellow participants’ diverse experiences has undoubtedly propelled our initiative to the next level.

Through my Community Action Project, we've devised a leadership and training guide for the Green Earth Initiative Project. This guide equips young people and leaders nationwide to spearhead environmental education and key activities within their communities. As part of my CAP within the CEE-Change Fellowship, we conducted an Environmental Education and Civic Engagement for Climate Action leadership empowerment workshop in Douala, Cameroon. From a competitive pool of over 700 applicants, we selected 35 young people representing various professions, including teachers, engineers, nurses, educators, activists, and novelists. Expert presentations, discussions, group work, keynotes, and panel discussions equipped these changemakers with the tools and skills needed to advance climate action effectively in their communities.

Organizing this workshop and collaborating with my team to bring my CAP to fruition has been immensely gratifying, aligning with my fervent commitment to inspire and empower young people as leaders for sustainable and equitable communities. 

The feedback from participants has been incredibly motivating, as evidenced by one participant's experience shared in this blog post:  

My satisfaction levels are through the roof because the workshop exceeded my expectations and now I can smile because there is hope for humanity. As I collaborate diligently with my team on our group project, I eagerly anticipate expanding the reach of the environmental clubs that I oversee in various schools. Moreso, recognizing that the challenges in my neighborhood can be overcome with education and expertise, I am committed to developing the skills and knowledge needed for success…  

A leadership workshop on Environmental Education and Civic Engagement for Climate Action held by ISEC Cameroon in Douala as part of the CEE Change Fellowship. Photo credit: ISEC Cameroon

An engaging and pivotal aspect of the leadership empowerment workshop was the division of participants into three groups, each representing a distinct region of Cameroon. Utilizing the tools, skills, and guidance provided by our Green Earth Initiative, these groups tackled community issues in Buea, Bamenda, and Yaounde. From plastic pollution to inadequate waste management and urban heat waves, the projects implemented by workshop participants have left a lasting impact. Our unwavering commitment to employing environmental education and civic engagement to foster climate action is geared toward creating sustainable and inclusive communities nationwide. Furthermore, we aim to cultivate civic-minded and environmentally-conscious leaders who will join us in this endeavor.

Finally, I am profoundly honored to have been selected as a 2023 CEE-Change Fellow. Recognizing the rarity of this opportunity, I prioritize utilizing the resources, knowledge, and insights gained from the fellowship to empower other leaders, thereby building lasting change across the country. Through the Fellowship, which has not only kindled hope and ignited passion in individuals like Nsangou Rudolf from Bamenda, Cameroon, who participated in our workshop, it also equips and empowers changemakers across the country to leverage environmental education and civic engagement for driving climate action.