International Network in Environmental Education

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How can Environmental Education be dispensed to small farmers?

2002, by Urbain NJATANG

The APEC project main objective is to reinforce the capacities of the Cameroonian Non Governmental Organizations, and to help them become, through a policy for sustainable development, the essential actors in EE and in the dialogue for an implication of the populations in the implementation of the recent forest policy in Cameroon.
It is financed by the Canadian Agency for International Development (ACDI) in the setting of the cooperation between Cameroon and Canada.
This project is lead by the Union for Sustainable Development (UDD), a Canadian NGO that essentially regroups environmentalists and scientists, and which is famous for its capacity to encourage the dialogue in the field of sustainable management of resources. The UDD works in Cameroon, in the setting of this project, in partnership with seven local NGOs . These organizations are for most active in the South of the country.

In the framework of this project, a specific methodology was developed, aiming at sensitizing the adult rural public on the natural resources management. This methodology proved to be perfectly adequate and judicious for mobilizing the public and help them appropriate environmental issues.

The APEC project conceived a set of didactic material aiming at facilitating an educational action on the ground. The most widespread material is a set of illustrated posters, format 81cm x 60cm, including specific categories: debate – exchanges, data sheets.

To implement its activities, APEC trained group leaders who act as an interface with the populations. It conceived a practical guide for popularization and animation in peasant environment, which addresses the local educators and all people wishing to use the APEC data sheets. It relies on a technique based on interactive exchange and consists of three main phases: the first is a preparatory phase. It allows the group leader to know the target public and his knowledge. The second is focused on the methods to moderate a session with farmers. And the third phase dedicates to animation and assessment.

The group leaders inform and exchange with the rural populations on diverse topics: water, forest, biodiversity, agriculture, fishing, breading, hunting, green areas, etc.

The exchanges on these topics aim at transmitting and developing to the populations elements allowing them to better understand their surroundings, to participate to the governmental efforts for the environment conservation and its sustainable management, to understand the meaning of the new laws and contribute to their respect. For that purpose the animators take into consideration the local knowledge of the population, especially when they must make a definitive classification of the forests. In this case, a consultation is organized by a commission regrouping representatives of the local administration, elected people, traditional authorities and the populations living along the forest to be classified. These populations intervene in the specific classification of their forest using their local knowledge. For that purpose a set of didactic material is designed, according to the topic in debate.

This technique implementation was a success with the farmers organizations and the actors in environment. APEC currently supports several farmers organizations which solicited its help in the setting of the communal forests and the working accounts realization. APEC, to popularize this technique, allowed the people and independent organizations to use its material.

In summary, this project uses the interactive exchange technique which relies on the circular communication method. The teacher learns from the learner and vice-versa, avoiding thus any conflict and complex between the small farmers social category and the "intellectuals", which often occurs. Another interest of this approach is that it allows the group leaders, after assessment, to reorient the content of the training. The main role of this methodology was to help the population appropriate the forest issues and to incite more and more groups to manage themselves the community forests.