On the sidelne of the 3rd United Nations Environment Assembly held at the end of last year, Era Environnement was part of a press conference held by the minister of Forestry and Environment of Gabon, Pacome Moubelet Boubeya, who is also the president of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment ( AMCEN). Mr Pacome Moubelet Boubeya gave his view on the significant role that (
Interview by Wandile Kalippa in Kenya
Era Environnement: Do you think Africa is ready to walk the talk on pollution, in view of the contrasting realities of ecosystem pollution by oil companies in Central Africa and Nigeria, and West Africa particularly, Nigeria and Gabon to be exact?
Pacome Moubelet Boubeya: We have a big challenge. We have a challenge of developing our countries, of financing that development, of creating jobs and wealth to our countries, but we have a greater challenge even that of making sure that in the development strategies that we are taking we are not going to be destroying our own countries because of the exploitation of oil for instance, so, we have to be very aware of that and we have to adapt our development ambitions to what the reality is going to be tomorrow. If we do not do so now that the West is making and taking every effort for them to align with what they believe tomorrow is going to be. If we do not do anything today, it means that tomorrow we will be once again twenty of fifty years late, if we can compare with the West. So, we have a challenge. The challenge is to as I was saying to create wealth, give jobs to our people in the case of Nigeria and in the case of Gabon as well, you see that our population is very young and if we foresee the increase in population, let us say in Nigeria we can see that within the next twenty – twenty five, fifty years the population of Nigeria is going to increase by something like twenty five or thirty five percent, and we need to adapt our environment , global environment with the increase of population that we are going to have to make sure that we have the means and wealth to take care of these people as well. But maintaining what we have the most permanent in our countries which is our earth, our environment and we have to do whatever we have to, to protect, it means what? It means we have to take their responsibilities, and we cannot just accept to sacrifice our own future and the future of generations to come just on financial interest, which at times do not even impact on local populations as well. So, we have to be very strong and we have to be bold in our attitude in order to make also our points towards what we have and what we want Africa to be tomorrow.
How much of African indigenous knowledge is being utilised in some of the development programmes that Africa is undertaking in order to be able to see to it that the continent is not endangering its population, when it comes to development projects related to the environmental sensitive areas?
I want to agree with your questioning. I believe personally that you cannot possibly hope to go forward if you do not know what knowledge you can actually extract from what our past generations have, what our communities have, what people called natives know. Natives are ourselves meaning our parents, grandparents and so forth. So, it is very important to go back into ourselves first knowing what we know and pointing forward the knowledge that they have. The West is taking advantage of that because if you go to cosmetics for instance, if you go to even medicine or whatsoever, they are using some of the knowledge that we have as natives to contribute to a development of the world. We ourselves we should also take advantage of that and make sure that our development is based upon these traditional knowledges as well that we have. So, this is very important question which we have to include even into our education programmes and Universities, and it is a very important question you are asking me.
You talked about African countries generating their own income to fight against climate change while looking for funding from partners, now there is this example of carbon sequestration we have seen here in Kenya, that environment as passive it should be replicated in other coastal African counties and they are pushing for a drive to have this included into most of the REDD+, so as African Ministerial Conference are you looking at this agenda on the table?
Of course it is quite important that we continue capturing carbon either in our cities or in our forests and so forth. We need to understand that cities create much carbon because of the cars, because of cooking , because of all urban activities that we have. So we need to capture that, as well. So, the example of Nairobi which is happening, this is my third or fourth time in Nairobi. We can see that it is a city which integrate like a green size, a very important green size. It is an example to follow and many countries should actually go and take these examples. We as African Ministers for Environment we have these questions put on the forefront of our papers as well, and we are making sure everybody when possible could follow examples as you have just mentioned.
Africa has a resolution on innovative solutions and South South Co-operation or regional co-operation between african countries is really crucial for the continent. How actually the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment is facilitating the exchange between African countries especially through business?
African Ministerial Conference on the Environment is already a platform where we can meet and exchange. We also have opportunities to meet in other places. Last time it was in Germany, in Bonn. We had a side event at COP 23: I think it is the time for us as Africans to interchange to also share our best experiences. We can see for instance that in the case of energy, we have a very good example with Morocco for instance. Morocco has a very good policy in using renewable energies especially with sun energy. This is an example we can follow. And within the African Union we have also an initiative on renewable energy, so I mean we have a platform already. So having the platform is one thing and exchanging is another thing, and putting into action is another thing. What you are asking and what you are saying to ourselves African ministers of environment its spot on lets go beyond just speeches, lets go and act upon what we saying. I mean that is a saying that goes that, thoughts without action is just conversation. So we want to go beyond conversation. We want to go and act and take the best from the practices that we have in order to implement them in every country whenever it is possible. AMCEN is the most powerful platform that exists as far as environment is concerned in Africa even in the world, because now many of the regional planning of the regions of the world want to take example of how AMCEN is working of what AMCEN has done in order to duplicate what we are doing. So we have been existing since 1985 and we have a big experience, experience of sharing , sharing with the rest of the world, sharing as well with the African Union and sharing with all the different regions as well.
Other question related to the mandate of the organisation AMCEN to ensuring that agricultural activities and practices meet food security needs of the region, not knowing that climate change threatens the security of Africa, in what ways is your organisation pushing for ecological agriculture to address security regarding food and also against the background that most of public because of ignorance is taken advantage off when it comes to negativities of genetically modified mechanisms, in what way is AMCEN pushing this forward?
You are addressing a very important question. Agriculture is responsible for eighteen, 18 percent of all the carbon emissions in the world, that is one thing, second we also need food security. That’s second. Third if you don’t have food security then you have a problem reaching of the goals that you have, linked with your own development, that’s a challenge. So how we actually take the challenge of food security, development and securing our future is a very huge question. There was a CTS meeting between AMCEN and the African Union in September, where that question was in the centre and we are putting together a number of initiatives, because we have to also as Africans develop our own way of defining what development is, is development what the West say it is, or development is a way to adapt ourselves and this goes back to the question you were having before to our own reality. We can see what the people from Asia, how they actually see their own development, people from the Middle East and so forth. So it’s quite important that we Africans take into account who we are first and how we can integrate that part of ourselves into our development, taking questions such as agriculture for instance into consideration. Do we need to go and plant like thousands and thousands of hectares of one crop or do we want to see it differently. A speech this morning by the executive director of UNEP, he took example President Kagame from Rwanda, a conversation that he had with him, why Rwanda so clean, and President Kagame said, “what we do in Kigali is what we were doing , what we are still doing in our villages”. In our villages everyone cleans before his own door and in the cities we have to do exactly the same. So we clean by way of multiplication we get a clean house. This is the same with agriculture security according to who we are maybe we may find solutions as well.
What reservations have you been able to implement and yet to implement, and then do you really think it would be right to say that governments committed to implementing the environmental agenda considering that some governments are surely exploring fossil fuel?
The question is concerning environment, climate changes. For the last maybe century or so, but we can see within the last twenty five years how we are very much concerned because we now more and more aware that if nothing is done then there is no hope for every one of us. So we have the obligation to go beyond not only taking resolutions but came to implementing them. You know that whenever we have assemblies like the one that we have sometimes resolutions are taken, but in order to implement a resolution you also have national obligations, some countries you can just go back and ask the president to take a decree of the minister to get a decree, but some other country need to go and consult to parliament as well. So the process is the decision making is different from country to country, but the will is there as you noted we say from UNEA one, to now UNEA third, the number of countries which committed to whatever action we want to do reserve the environment is greater we can even see that according to the numbers of participants that we have at this conference, and we can really see that because now some of us we want the frequency of this to be yearly instead of being twice every two years. So definitely action is being taken quicker in some places and slower in other places but everybody and everyone is aware that something has to be done.
Last question, what do you think on the collaboration between China and Africa, can you comment on that?
I mean China is a very good partner of Africa, it has been always. We have the relationship where China is a member of the Group of 77 and China is still considered as a developing country as well so we need to have a very strong South South co-operation as well, so we believe that China, the relationship with other countries as well great countries as well should be positive relations that we have to encourage.