By Folli Herbert Amouzougan
It all started in college. I learnt to only throw garbage in the trash, and sometimes I kept a banana peel in the trash pocket of my school bag for a long time. My cousins often made fun of me, thinking I was going crazy because I often told them that I would rather pollute myself than directly pollute the environment. My interest in environmental issues grew until, on the advice of the college director, I opted for a science course at the Lycée. I landed at the Biology Department of the University of Lomé after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and SVT (Life and Earth Sciences). There, I quickly understood that I was getting to the heart of the genesis of the universe. Shortly after, I joined the Scouts. I learned discipline, openness, devotion, purity, loyalty and how to be useful to one’s community by approaching problems with a sense of duty towards others. One night when a thunderstorm erupted louder than ever, the rumbles of thunder were felt on the floor and the room responded by shaking with each rumble of thunder. I was distraught and saw it as the anger of the environment because of the negative actions of humans towards nature.
I left for neighbouring Benin to continue my research in Electrical Engineering and Industrial Computing. I came back and ended up feeling challenged by the bad news that kept coming on TV. The melting of glaciers, deadly cyclones and forest fires all over the world combined with the climatic hazards that we knew at home in Togo. What struck me was the change in the rainy seasons. We spent more time in the blistering heat, which is unusual compared to when I was younger. At one point, it was rarely raining, and the price of basic necessities soared considerably. This prompted me to initiate an ecological agriculture project in Ségbé-Zanvi, a suburban area located about 15 kilometres from the capital Lomé. With my little brother, my mother and four other children of my roommates, we cultivated nutritious, medicinal and fruit plants on an area of 100 square metres. The result was quite surprising because I had time to study the behaviour of different plants. There was manure but not enough so I had to use diluted urine as the main source of nitrogen for our organic fertiliser. I was very strict about not using chemical fertilisers, and we couldn’t even afford to buy it anyway.
The food was produced by us for ourselves. I published the results of my research on scout.org. It was not academic research, but it was conducted in a scientific way and the approach was mainly applied to samples and then scaled up. For example, to protect corn cobs from moth larvae, we were advised to use kerosene, but I refused. Instead, we used garlic or ash that we collected from surrounding households. The ash also served as an accelerator for the decomposition of organic matter.
After this, I collaborated with the Sanguéra section of the JVE (Young Volunteers for the Environment) to carry out several projects including the sanitation of several medical centres, the cleaning of wild dumps and raising community awareness. A wild dump is a landfill that arises from individuals or companies depositing waste outside authorised waste management facilities. There are all kinds of hazardous waste, causing air and water pollution, and the proliferation of pathogens responsible for diseases such as typhoid fever, cholera and malaria.
After these rich experiences, I made my merry way in environmental activism! In 2017, I made and presented an eco-responsible battery (called ‘AFH Battery’ from the initials of my name) at the Togo Youth Tech Camp, organised by the GAAT (Global Alumni Association of Togo) in collaboration with the Embassy of the United States. Since then, I have contributed to community development through the realisation of projects, practical training, capacity building workshops for young Togolese through Scouting, in which I was appointed coordinator of the Messengers of Peace program in 2019. This program, of the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM), is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and aims to make young people active citizens and agents of positive change in their communities.
I carried out several actions, in particular the sharing of good organic practices, the training of young people, awareness-raising on sustainable production, responsible consumption, the recycling of plastic waste and electronic waste, and organising group initiatives to clean local beaches, hospitals and other public spaces. My little brother and I had just launched the ‘A House, A Garden’ project in Sanguéra, a peri-urban area located about 15 km from Lomé, aimed at raising awareness among people on sorting their waste, initiating a vegetable garden at home and consuming organic food.
It is urgent that concrete actions be taken in favour of the environment. I urge young people around the world to take an interest and get involved in the environment. The climate is broken and the planet is seriously ill, but humans continue to increase their carbon footprint. The nuclear arms race, unregulated mining and illegal fishing are all evils for which we humans are solely responsible. I wonder why man continues to provoke Mother Earth.
I decided to make 2022 a year of environmental activism. Since I am a digital actor, I have created the Youth Committed to Climate and Digital Education (JECEN) which will be based on past experiences to make giant strides.
In order to achieve our objectives and reach a wide audience, our needs are material, educational and financial. We are open to donations (in kind and in cash), to partnerships, to the sharing of experience. We also need training on the management, treatment and recycling of waste.
This blog is part of the Action Today for Tomorrow Series within SEI’s environmental justice research. The blog series highlights the work of activists at the vanguard of climate justice in 2022, with a focus on the grassroots and national environmental justice perspectives of those working to create climate solutions around the world. It is curated by Research Assistants on the Creating Just Food and Energy Policy project, Hannah Della Bosca (SEI) and Oli Moraes (RMIT).
Folli Herbert Amouzougan has a background in information and communication technology (ICT), electronics, design and biology, and brings an immense passion for learning and positive change to his justice and conservation work. He is an ICT professional with 10 years of experience and studied at the Department of Biology at the University of Lomé. His justice work includes low-cost prototype battery development, outreach, community education, clean-ups and tree planting initiatives. He is currently coordinator of the Messengers of Peace program, managed by the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) and is the founder of the Youth Committed to Climate and Environment and Digital (JECEN), an association entirely dedicated to the environment and the climate through action (the management, treatment and recycling of waste), which aims to spearhead justice and environmental conservation in Togo.
Header image: Waldemar Brandt via Unsplash.