Fresh from the Field: Advocating for a clean environment in Cameroon

Waste disposal, particularly plastic waste, is a significant problem across Cameroon: there are insufficient trashcans or collection barrels where people can dispose of their plastic waste, and many communities lack the funds or the means to regularly clear or recycle plastics. As a result, plastic waste is often thrown away in water ways or on unused land. Not only is poor waste disposal harmful to the environment; it also causes the spread of disease. Research has indicated that floating plastic can be perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which spread cholera and malaria to nearby communities. With a growing population in Cameroon, plastic waste management is becoming an urgent issue.

Cultural customs can also lead to unsanitary disposal of menstrual supplies: it is believed that menstrual products should not be visible to others, especially once they are used, and so they are often thrown away in creeks or buried, adding pollutants to the environment.

Elvis, an environmental leader from our partner organization OGCEYOD, noticed the growing problem of plastic and menstrual health management product waste, i.e., pads, in his community in Lower Motowoh, Cameroon and decided to address the two issues together. Previous efforts to raise awareness were unsuccessful: community members found the lecture format used in the presentation to be lengthy and difficult to connect with.

"Problem Tree/Solution Tree" activity

Using the tools developed during our Creative Advocacy virtual course, Elvis gathered 20 youth advocates in Lower Motowoh for a three-day workshop in which they used creative activities from our training to explore different solutions to waste management. Through the “Human Spectrogram” participants gauged where they stood with common beliefs about recycling, waste disposal, and menstrual hygiene. Through “Problem Tree/Solution Tree” they identified ways of addressing misconceptions and harmful practices with their community members.

Elvis and the workshop participants then created a theatre skit and song about the harms of improper waste disposal, which they performed for 50 community members on the last day of the workshop. As part of the skit and the song, the participants created visuals and lyrics that would easily convey solutions to these issues in a memorable way so that the discussion will stay with the audience long after the workshop.

Small thing (pick am) / Small small thing (pick am)

Even na plastic (pick am) / Even na paper (pick am) / Even na your pad (pick am)

Mami pick am (Pick am) / Papa pick am (pick am)

Sister pick am (pick am) / Brother pick am (pick am)

Uncle pick am (pick am) / Aunty pick am (pick am)

All man bend down (so that we must finish am today)(2x)

After the performance, Elvis and the participants facilitated a dialogue about steps they can take to keep waste, particularly plastic waste, out of land and water sources. Attendees committed to properly dispose of waste moving forward, to clean up land and water where plastic had been dumped, and to share this information with their friends and family. Elvis has also identified a local entrepreneur who has agreed to buy plastic waste collected by community members – a collaboration that both keeps the environment clean and also provides a source of income for residents of Lower Motowoh!

It’s so inspiring to see artistic tools like skits and song being used in communities as a powerful way of sharing ideas, raising awareness, and catalyzing change! We also love seeing individuals feel empowered to lead their community in ending harmful environmental and health practices so that they can build a better, sustainable world!