Partner of the Month: Nature Plurielle, Benin A dialogue with Laurent AHONGBONON, President of Benin-based NGO Nature Plurielle (NaP-NGO)

Please introduce NaP-NGO to BES-Net partners and give us a glimpse of its journey. What has motivated the organization's work?

NaP-NGO is a non-profit organization created in 2015 and officially registered on 23 May 2018. The enabling factors of our work are skills, determination and spirit of sharing.

Our organization chose to focus on the environment and climate thanks to the professional experience of its members, mainly naturalists, agronomists, geographers and natural resource managers. We were led by the determination to achieve our objectives and, thus, we adopted a coordinated approach. On the one hand, we recognized and built off the interconnection between the different components of nature. By protecting both animal and plant species, the human species will cope with the most difficult challenges. On the other hand, we addressed behaviour change within communities by engaging with other like-minded organizations – those with the same views and missions as ours. To improve our understanding of protecting natural resources and biodiversity, we committed to pursuing collaboration, team spirit and participation.

Concerning the challenges we face daily, it would be necessary to ensure the availability of required material and financial resources to achieve the objectives of our three-year plan.

What is the most valuable support that the international community can provide to an organization like NaP-NGO? Has NaP-NGO already received such help for some of your projects?

Our organization faces some logistic challenges. For instance, to carry out our advocacy work and support the integration of international frameworks on climate change and biodiversity loss into the local level, we would need to move around the country. So, we would require some vehicles to do that. We also look for specialized equipment to run our centre for the promotion of agroecology and climate adaptation. This centre is designed to introduce the younger generations to ecological culture to better understand the value of species such as earthworms and ladybirds and their impact on long-term food security.

For the time being, we receive technical and material support from the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) for the VE-ODD/CC project. The support of the IRD representatives in Benin allows us to raise awareness and build the capacity of local teachers on SDGs, who later act as thought leaders within their schools.

We also highly appreciate the support provided by BES-Net as it sheds light on our work and its impact on local communities.

NaP-NGO launched training sessions in 2018 for students on SDGs and climate change through various activities. Please tell us more about this initiative.

Despite the increased public awareness of the environmental and climate change issues communicated by international scientists, many young people in our region have remained indifferent to these messages. Thus, we designed training sessions for students on cross-cutting challenges, such as SDGs, climate change and biodiversity loss. As a result, more than 1,000 students were trained in record time to serve as young climate and environment ambassadors. This activity is in line with one of the strategic objectives of NaP-NGO: "to organize knowledge sharing and awareness campaigns on scientific subjects related to biodiversity and climate".

Following the same intention to raise awareness of the youth on pollution and climate change, NaP-NGO recently developed the Climate and Eco Ambassadors (CEA) programme. What inspired you to create this programme?

In response to the concern that environmental challenges and the protection of forest species are yet to receive adequate attention from the policy communities, we started organizing a training focused on environmental policy. This initiative is crucial to build capacity and rethink public policies in the future, focusing on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. CEA is a platform for young leaders to find innovative solutions to climate change and biodiversity loss. It aims to prepare future leaders (students and delegates of the colleges of general and technical education) to build off environmental best practices and address the dangers of global warming and negative externalities of human activities.

The first phase was successful overall. However, due to the lack of vehicles and training materials, we have not reached all the initially envisaged regions. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Ministry of Secondary and Technical Education and Vocational Training of Benin for believing in us and authorizing this training in the location under its supervision. We would also like to thank all those who participated in this initiative for their collaboration and support.

NaP-NGO also organized a competition for young storytellers on biodiversity and climate in West Africa. How does it raise youth’s awareness about the importance of natural resources and biodiversity?

The "Planet Advocacy" project is a regional competition to identify the best storytellers on biodiversity and climate in West Africa. This initiative allowed students and young storytellers to present their stories on the importance of nature conservation, the dangers of biodiversity loss and environmental education. This project aimed to raise awareness of younger generations on environmental challenges through literature and dramatic arts. A total of 30 essays on nature, biodiversity conservation and its importance for the planet Earth were selected and awarded by a jury of well-known writers and environmentalists.

Laurent Ahongbonon is a naturalist–entomologist, Temporary Teaching and Research Assistant in Zoology and Plant Protection at the University of Abomey-Calavi. Within NaP-NGO, he coordinates several programmes and projects, including the Climate and Eco Ambassadors (CEA) programme, Vacances des Enseignants sur les ODD et les Changement Climatiques (VE-ODD/CC - Teachers' Holiday on the Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Change) project and entomological field surveys as part of the EntomoDiverCity project.


Images courtesy of Nature Plurielle