Sustainable planet: Volunteers work to preserve the soil on YMCA Togo sites

Date: 11 September 2023

By Mathurin Aziakpor

Change Agent Cohort 5.0

Deforestation, or the unchecked felling of trees, is an anti-ecological act that contributes on a large scale to soil degradation and global warming. It is proven that the presence of trees makes soil rich in organic matter and resistant to bad weather and erosion. On the other hand, when a forest species is destroyed, the ground becomes fragile, making the ecosystem more vulnerable to natural disasters such as landslides and floods. 

That’s why the young volunteers of the Union Locale Wisdom (YMCA Togo) took it upon themselves to carry out actions to prevent and preserve the soil. Within the framework of National Tree Day, celebrated in Togo on 1 June each year, a series of reforestation activities on the sites housing the buildings of YMCA Togo took place in June and July.

Responding to Pillar 3 of YMCA Vision 2030 – the quest for a Sustainable Planet – these reforestation activities aim to work towards the restoration of the vegetation cover of the YMCA Togo sites, replacing the trees removed from these sites a year ago. The work took place on 14 June 2023 at the national headquarters of YMCA Togo in Lomé, and on 1 July 2023 at the location of the Centre d’Accueil de Formation Active et Permanente (CAFAP) of YMCA Togo in Bagbé.

According to the president of the local union Wisdom (YMCA Togo), Arnold Atanhoueleto, this reforestation activity called “A life for the YMCA, the impact of its generation”, reflects the goal of his local union to protect the environment in line with  Sustainable Development Goals 13 and 15 of the United Nations.

“Putting a plant in the ground allows us to contribute to protecting the environment. It also allows us to put a representative life for our generation – say, each plant we plant will be identified by the name of the volunteer who planted it. This plant will be monitored, and, in five or 10 years, will become a big tree and symbolise the active member: The person whose name it bears is within YMCA Togo,” Arnold said. 

When you cut down a tree, you have to plant several

The sites of YMCA Togo represent the “soul” of the movement. On these sites, most of the activities of the National Movement take place. It has been two years since trees that were already aging were cut down on these sites and had to be replaced, which is why these sites host this reforestation activity.

“I think it is an effective objective for reforestation that when you cut down one tree, you will plant several”, Arnold said. He added the Bagbé site is favourable for future projects, such as ecosystem preservation, excursion and tourism projects, etc.

Ecological responsibility and contribution of Y volunteers to the reforestation policy of the Togolese government

The Togolese government aims to reforest 1,400,000 hectares by 2030 to make Togo greener. However, the government alone cannot achieve this ecological and vital objective for the survival of the country’s soils. This objective must be an overall movement, a collective action with the involvement and contribution of all actors, civil society organisations and young people.

Says Ruben Koffi Nubukpo, a student at the end of his degree  in sustainable development engineering who is President of the Association for the Conservation of the Environment and Environmental Education of Young People (ACEEJ) and a volunteer of YMCA Togo:

“We felt the need to support the government because everything put in place today is not necessarily for us, but more for the future generation as required by the SDGs. When we talk about sustainable development, it’s more for future generations. If we don’t settle the situation now, not only will we be paying for the broken skins, but even more so, the generations to come will suffer the consequences”.

“So in this sense, we take it upon ourselves to fight, to form a barrier against the anti-ecological acts already taken by our parents and people today. We want to create a barrier for that so that future generations can live in a healthy environment.”

According to Marcelin Kougblenou, an agronomist by training and supervisor of producers in a local company’s fruit and vegetable sector, particular emphasis was placed on the choice of these species of plants given their medicinal, economic and health benefits. 

A journalist by profession and communications officer for the local wisdom union (YMCA Togo), Mathurin Aziakpor has been an active member of YMCA Togo since 2016, committed to the cause of children and young people. An S2C (Subject2Citizen) Ambassador and Change Agent, he is passionate about social justice, serving people, and humanitarianism.