Cameroon Scouts championing plastic-free living

5 minutes
Scouts in Cameroon turning waste into new products

After the Tide Turners Plastic Challenge was launched in Cameroon in March 2021, some 30,000 Scouts, Scout Leaders, beneficiaries, and members of the public eagerly attended training to learn more about how the global youth initiative could address the country’s plastic waste problem.

Developed in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme, the challenge – an integral pillar of the Scout Movement’s Earth Tribe – supports young people’s efforts to fight plastic pollution. Divided into a series of activities over three stages – sensitisation, alternative action, and recycling – the challenge aims to raise awareness among young people of the damage caused by plastic pollution by engaging them in fun activities that lay the foundation for responsible stewardship of the planet.

Scouts in Cameroon have been using the challenge to address the country’s overuse of plastic and promote sustainable practices and environmental awareness. Here are some of their stories:

Giving plastic new life 

Surrounded by picturesque mountain ranges and red earth valleys, Bafoussam is the capital of the West Region. Despite having an impressive landscape, plastic waste is one of the city’s biggest environmental challenges.

Nankam Charlie, West Region’s Scouts Regional Commissioner, shared: “There are many factors causing the pollution. Here, it is common for people to be served plastic water bottles or juice in plastic containers during events, like funerals. After that, guests will just leave their bottles on the ground. It’s not exactly a good habit to have.”

Inspired by a “duty to others”, as outlined in the Scout Law, Nankam shared how Scouts launched a public awareness campaign that reminded people of their responsibility to the environment and sustainability. Their efforts reached at least 7,000 people, including 800 other Scouts in the West Region, and had some impressive results.

“We gained permission from Kengni Kout Levis Dieudonné, the mayor of Bafoussam, to collect waste from events and areas like marketplaces and funeral grounds. The mayor also provided tricycles for us to transport waste to recycling centres,” Nankam said. “Local authorities also supported the challenge by placing bins at designated points in and around the city for the public to dispose of plastic waste. At the end of every week, Scouts would gather the plastic for reusing or recycling.”

Some of the plastic was then repurposed to grow strawberries with the remainder crushed and mixed with other materials to make paving stones to line the city’s streets.

Scouts in Cameroon getting involved in various sustainability projects

Cleaning up popular tourist areas

Roughly an hour’s drive away from Bafoussam, the city of Dschang also saw positive changes after Scouts worked to rid the area of plastic waste.

“Over at Dschang Municipal Lake, the waters are infested with plastic bottles,” said Adolphe Lorcin Maloh, National Commissioner of Partnership-Services and Sustainable Development.

To create awareness of the problem and encourage the collection and recycling of plastic in and around the lake, a three-day event was organised as part of the Tide Turner Plastic Challenge. Activities included a mini jamboree, educational presentations, and lake cleaning activity.

More than 100 participants, including 30 Scouts and students from various schools, joined the event and were inspired to improve the area’s cleanliness and revive the once-popular tourist location.

Visitors to the lake later said that they were impressed by the clean-up. Many had assumed that it was a local council initiative and were surprised to learn that it was a Scout initiative. The event helped shift behaviour as littering around the lake reduced considerably. Scouts were also recognised by council representatives as change makers for the environment.

“It was a proud moment for Scouts,” Adolphe added. 

Scouts in Cameroon

Raising awareness at a university campus

Twenty-one-year-old Rover and Scout Leader Cathy Nyake was a first-year student at University of Yaoundé I in the Central Region when she first discovered the Tide Turners Plastic Challenge.

Shocked by the amount of discarded plastic that littered her campus pathways, she and 22 of her peers set up a booth on the university’s grounds for a two-day awareness drive on plastic pollution. Cathy also visited lecture halls to share with fellow students the negative impacts of single-use plastics on the environment.

“When I came into the halls, most of the time lecturers were present. I asked permission to share information about the challenge, and they would gladly give me the floor. I had the opportunity to use my voice, as a Scout leader, to convey my message to thousands of people,” Cathy proudly shared. 

The challenge has been instrumental in teaching Cathy the power of collective action. She learnt that anything is possible with enough determination. And she was right. 

Through their actions, the university began placing extra trash cans around the university. Almost immediately, the campus became cleaner as students were more mindful of where they disposed of their waste.

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