Democracy and good governance are the topics in focus on yali.lab.dev.getusinfo.com in February. While those words bring to mind big capitol buildings filled with elected officials, good governance can also arise outside of capitol buildings, driven by ordinary citizens who just want to achieve something important for their communities and their country.
YALI Network member Michael David Terungwa, in Abuja, Nigeria, is one of those people. He’s the current president of the African Green Movement(AGM), which he founded with a number of other African environmentalists working in Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Senegal, Ghana and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Q: Why did you start the African Green Movement?
Terungwa: Environment is the foundation of human existence and all other life forms. According to Christianity and Islam, God created man from the soil, a major component of the environment. Soil, water, mineral, plant and animal life and other environmental resources all help humans meet their needs.
The human quest to master the environment has been beating the Earth to death. Climate change, desertification, soil erosion and pollution — human actions have caused all these problems.
Human greed is exceeding the carrying capacity of the Earth. We are stealing the future, selling it in the present and calling it gross domestic product. At this rate of environmental destruction, future generations will inherit a desolate Earth unable to sustain human life. Applying sustainable development to economic growth can meet both present and future needs.
Careful stewardship of the land and better use of resources is a major global concern. Africa, our dear continent, cannot be left out.
Q: How did members of the African Green Movement come together?
Terungwa: We are all African youths who attended a Climate Reality Leadership training in Johannesburg, South Africa, in March 2014. That experience inspired us to activism, and we came together to form the African Green Movement.
About 100 active members of the AGM in seven countries share a vision to inspire young Africans to protect the environment, embrace agriculture and sustainable living.
Q: So your founding members are all convinced that climate change is affecting Africa currently?
Terungwa: Absolutely. Scientific reports show that Africa will be among the regions worst affected by the consequences of climate change. Climate change is already here with us in Africa, it’s true. The change in rainfall patterns, drought, flooding, failure of crops and low yields are all signs of the effect of climate change in Africa. The shrinking of Lake Chad — between Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon — is another clear sign; 95 percent of it dried up between 1963 and 2001.
Q: Do young Africans generally recognize the magnitude of environmental problems that challenge the Earth today, like climate change, species extinction and pollution?
Terungwa: No, the majority of African young people, particularly those in rural areas, are not aware of environmental problems and their magnitude. The young people in towns and cities do have a higher awareness because the problems are already evident.
Q: What main channels of information is your group using to improve understanding of environmental topics?
Terungwa: Presently, we carry out social media campaigns, with about 1,600 followers on Facebook.
We organize talk shows and write to newspapers to raise community awareness about the issues.
We also want to partner with religious bodies that might reach a larger audience, particularly rural people who do not use social media or read newspapers. We hope that by reaching out to them, encouraging them to reach out to others, we can achieve a multiplier effect.
Q: Generally speaking, are African governments proactive in protecting the environment?
Terungwa: Africa’s environment is heavily degraded and bringing adverse consequences to citizens. That is testimony to the fact that African governments are not proactive in protecting the environment and that regulatory frameworks have not had the desired effects.
Basic matters of health, education, opportunity, poverty are all pressing issues in Africa and maintaining a sustainable environment is related to all these. A degraded environment gives rise to poor sanitation, water scarcity, disease and poor yields in agriculture. These consequences lead to greater hunger, poverty, unemployment and poor health. Working for a sustainable environment will address all these challenges.
Q: What are some other objectives of the African Green Movement?
Terungwa: I’ll quote you the objectives in our mission statement:
- Promote agricultural sustainability as a business and job creator.
- Organize tree-planting campaigns and environmental clean-ups.
- Collaborate with, and seek assistance from, international organizations for our activities.
- Youth participation and involvement in international aid and development.
- Organize training for African environmental activists through workshops and capacity building for young people in Africa.
We are in the process of registering the African Green Movement as a full-fledged nongovernmental organization in Kigali, Rwanda. Presently, we operate from Abuja, Nigeria, where the acting president resides.
We do not have government backing or financial aid as of now. We fund our activities from our individual earnings but with the passion we have, we do this joyfully.