The Future of Climate Change in Central Africa: WICA Fellows Gather to Celebrate Completion of First Year of Program

YAOUNDÉ, CAMEROON – The excitement in the room was palpable as fellows from the Central Africa Women’s Initiative for Climate Action (WICA) gathered in July 2022, their first-time meeting in person since the start of their program in February 2021. These women, hailing from Cameroon, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Republic of the Congo, are the first cohort of WICA, a program designed to help address gender discrepancies in climate work in the region. For over a year, 103 women have been learning about climate change issues through training workshops, webinars, internships, and participation at national and international climate change conferences. Having completed the program, this in-person regional conference was an opportunity for fellows to finally meet colleagues, offer feedback on the first year of the program, visit different institutions in Cameroon working on climate change, and most importantly, celebrate their achievements and hard work.

WICA fellows show off their diplomas at the awards ceremony.

A clear highlight of the 3-day symposium was the awards ceremony, where nineteen fellows were given their diplomas in Greenhouse Gas Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification, after successfully earning degrees from the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute (GHGMI). In attendance to celebrate were Mr. Pierre HELE, the Minister of Environment, Protection of Nature and Sustainable Development, Mr. Christopher John LAMORA, the United States Ambassador to Cameroon, and other climate change leaders from around Central Africa.

Participants then had the opportunity to visit three institutions in Cameroon that work on climate issues – the National Observatory on Climate Change (ONACC), Crelicam, a company specializing in responsibly traded ebony, and the Higher Institute in Environmental Services (IBAY SUP). The first stop was at ONACC, where participants took a tour of the facilities, learned about ONACC’s work, and met with the Director General of ONACC, Professor Joseph Armathé AMOUGOU. ONACC was an early partner of the WICA program, and six of the WICA fellows from Cameroon have either interned or are currently interning at ONACC. 

WICA fellows checking the quality of ebony pellets with the guidance of a CRELICAM quality control specialist.

The next stop was at Crelicam, an international supplier of ebony, who is setting new standards for socially and environmentally responsible business in the timber sector.  The women were given a tour of the processing factory and an onsite plant nursery by the CEO, Mr. Matthew LEBRETON. Crelicam specializes in processing ebony for the construction of musical instruments. In partnership with the Congo Basin Institute, Crelicam is funding research to better understand the ecology of ebony to cultivate it sustainably in the future. They also run a community-based agroforestry program committed to planting thousands of ebony trees over the next several years.

The final visit was to IBAY SUP, an educational institution that specializes in environmental sciences. Here the WICA fellows were welcomed by the rector and founder Professor Zac TCHOUNDJEU. An expert in the vegetative propagation of indigenous African tree species, Professor Tchoundjeu spoke to the women about his field of study and demonstrated different vegetative propagation techniques. His lecture encouraged the women to be more engaged in tree planting to help alleviate rural poverty, improve livelihoods, and address climate change.

At the end of the three-day event, WICA fellows expressed their wish to see the program expand its focus and include more course modules. As a first step towards the sustainability of this program, the first cohort of WICA fellows have enthusiastically committed to serving as mentors for the next group of women, as many of the them have already taken on new roles with climate agencies and NGOs.  As the first phase of WICA comes to an end, these women are already on their way to tackling the heart of climate issues in their home countries and beyond.

Professor Tchoundjeu lecturing WICA fellows on vegetative propagation techniques. 

The U.S. Forest Service supports the governments of Congo Basin countries in their efforts to sustainably manage forest landscapes and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions thereby contributing to the improvement of livelihoods, conservation of biodiversity, and stabilization of the global climate. The initial WICA program was supported by the Department of State (DoS)’s Climate Fellows Program, and the 2022 program is supported by the U.S. Government interagency technical cooperation program SilvaCarbon.

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