Between the 15th to the 19th of December 2014, Eco Relief organised a series of workshops on Climate Change Literacy to promote practical environmental education among college students and teachers in the Buea Municipality. With over 1,615 students and teachers from 8 colleges given awareness on the basics of climate change mitigation and resource efficiency, Eco Relief undertook five months of consultative discussions with school and municipal authorities. This was to support the schools in producing a comprehensive analysis of their environmental protection potential with regards to water, waste, sanitation, green spaces and sustainable consumption. It is within this perspective that Eco Relief launched its Eco-Campus Programme.
The rationale for this programme is based on the fact that schools constitute a major source of greenhouse gas emission from student activities worldwide and Cameroon, like most developing countries, does not have sustainability courses on school curricula to build student capacity for reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.
Our approach to address this problem was to set up campuses as living labs for the development and demonstration of future sustainable solutions; by students for students. With all 8 campuses involved, our funding and training engaged students in three key activities:
- Development of nurseries and planting of 100 shade trees and 200 flowers per campus.
- Installation of rainwater harvesting systems on campus for sanitation services.
- Erecting of facilities to reduce, reuse and recycle campus waste. Ten months later, Eco Relief and its local partner GREFCAM took a tour of the campuses to see the tree planting work carried out by students. There has been remarkable transformation which we are extremely proud of and for which all stakeholders get the due credit for their hard work. The head of the Student Task Force for Planting, Samuel Jato, expressed this pride and joy when he said: "Thanks to Eco Relief and GREFCAM, I have understood the basics of global warming and acquired practical experience on how to adapt my environment to climate change by planting trees on campus. This is information I must share with my parents."
The trees planted are expected to attain a height of over two metres in under 18 months, and major benefits will include guarantee of clean air on campus, provision of shade from sunshine during recreation hours as well as minimise the impact of runoff and soil erosion during rainfall.
By harvesting rainwater for use in campus toilets, the water and sanitation problems that most academic institutions are currently facing all over the country will be eliminated here. A direct impact of this will be a drop in absenteeism rate among female students who often stay away from school for upto 5 days per month because of lack of proper water and sanitation facilities on campus to meet their monthly hygienic needs.
Likewise, educating the youth to reduce, reuse and recycle waste is laying the foundation for future citizens who will uphold the tenets of resource efficiency and sustainable consumption.
As the Eco-Campus Programme continues to rollout, the youth will develop their knowledge and skills as environmental actors: they will transmit the message to family members, friends and their local communities that positive change is possible from the grassroots. A culture of bottom-to-top action on climate change thus emerges from the education sector. Who would have thought about that?