EFA believes that in order to truly protect the environment in Sierra Leone and Liberia, we must look at the overriding root causes of environmental degradation at the regional level in West Africa. Only at this level, can the necessary political and economic shifts be made to safeguard the wealth of natural resources in West African countries and the people who should benefit from their sustainable use.
Addressing large scale macroeconomic forces affecting West Africa’s environment without understanding the day-to-day challenges and realities on the ground is impossible. EFA’s 15-year experience at the ground level provides a rich organizational history making it an authority on environmental issues in relation to humanitarian missions, poverty alleviation and economic development.
Collaboration, communication and awareness raising are the keys to protecting the environment and improving the standard of living for the people of West Africa.
In 2005, EFA became the regional partner of the Netherlands Committee of the IUCN (IUCN NL) which operates a small grants programme across West Africa. In this role, EFA began uniting environmental actors from 10 countries to harmonize efforts, share experiences and raise the profile of the environmental movement in the region.
Unlike other areas on earth united by shared resources or ecosystems, West African environmental NGOs, scientists and others have not historically collaborated to the extent possible. Yet, collaboration and networking are necessary to draw both national and international attention to environmental threats and injustices in this region – the poorest region on Earth*.
Building on the idea of regional collaboration initiated by the partnership with IUCN NL, in 2005 EFA put forth a concept to link all environmental players under one network known as the Green Actors of West Africa (GAWA).
GAWA’s mission is to synchronize green efforts, help each other gain relevant skills and speak with one voice on the most urgent environmental threats to West Africa and its people. GAWA and EFA’s strategies are to use high powered communications tools to raise awareness and conducted targeted advocacy campaigns. The EFA and GAWA Web sites will continue to expand, bring together resources and information necessary to make decisions about proper resource use in a range of situations: humanitarian, development and among the populations outside West Africa who benefit tremendously from the raw materials harvest here. By creating a strong foundation of leadership and coordination, GAWA is the source of collaboration and networking previously absent from the environmental sector in West Africa.
*As calculated by the United Nation’s Human Development Index.