UNESCO education prize-winner brings sustainable change to remotest parts of Cameroon
A sustainable development education organization working hard to connect with marginalized people in the remotest parts of Cameroon is one of the winners of the 2016 UNESCO-Japan Prize for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).
The Centre for Community Regeneration and Development (CCREAD) is a youth-led development organization empowering marginalized children, youth, women and indigenous populations with environmentally sustainable projects that alleviate poverty
Executive Director Hilary Ngide said: “We are working in very remote country far from any major cities and we face multiple challenges. Many of the people we work with are illiterate and will have no, or only the most basic education. They are hunters living in forest communities who because of lack of employment are drawn to indiscriminate harvesting and killing of wildlife.
“The people we work with are for the most part peasant farmers. They are organized by traditional systems of governance and often our first challenge is to find a point of entry. We have a strategy to try and live with these communities, to have a presence and engage people and build from there. To take things forward group leaders have to come from the communities and we must work within traditional structures to mobilise people.”
Concretely CCREAD works to broaden sources of employment and nutrition and ensure they are not detrimental to the environment.
“We promote sustainable agriculture and agro-forestry. We are trying to move the emphasis away from the forest to other sustainable means such as livestock, pigs and poultry.”
Giving women their voice
The project is careful to include women in all aspects of their work.
“Women in most of the communities we visit don’t have a voice. Custom and tradition means they don’t have equal opportunities; they don’t have the right to form unions or speak at meetings. We try to create an artificial bias to empower women so that they cannot help but come to the fore.”
Mr Ngide said the prize would alleviate one of their greatest logistical challenges which was to reach the communities in the first place.
“Just to get to where we wanted go to has been a transport challenge. It has been very difficult for our volunteers to access schools and people. Happily, that is one challenge that is now in the past.”
He said the prize money would also help to consolidate their activities and help them to share with other parts of the country and the world.
“Because we work so remotely many people do not know of our work. We are under-represented. Hopefully the prize will get our name better known.
The organization attributes some of its success to the fact that it is very much youth-led.
“In Cameroon we have a very vibrant youth population but they suffer economic and social insecurity so are very often not given the chance to develop. For example, those with business ideas are faced with huge challenges bringing them to fruition. We are working in 10 regions with young people trying to create maximum impact with few resources.”
The Prize, which is funded by the Government of Japan, consists of three annual awards of USD 50,000 for each recipient for projects which recognize the role of education in connecting the social, economic, cultural and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.
This year, along with CCREAD, prizes have gone to the National Union of Students, UK for Green Impact project and the Okayama ESD Promotion Commission. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova will award the laureates in a ceremony at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 11 October 2016.
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