Génies en Herbe: Nurturing Youth Climate Champions in Senega
Amidst the backdrop of environmental and climate vulnerability faced by the commune of Bargny in Senegal, the Rassemblement des élèves de Bargny pour la Réussite (REBAR), in collaboration with Natural Justice, orchestrated the sixth edition of the cultural Navétanes competition of Génies en Herbe. This event, held in tandem with the platform Mboro SOS’s inaugural edition, was a part of the broader African Activists for Climate Justice project, with the overarching theme of “Environment and Climate Change.” Its primary objectives were to sensitize the population, especially the youth, to environmental and climate issues and advocate for climate justice among decision-makers.
In Bargny, the sixth edition of the cultural Navétanes competition of Génies en Herbe brought together 20 Sports, Cultural, and Environmental Associations (ASCE) and 120 young “herbogénistes,” who engaged in spirited competition over eight days, including two hosted in local neighborhoods. The competition featured a total of 25 matches, with one category specifically dedicated to environmental challenges. Moreover, reforestation activities were undertaken in the two neighborhoods that hosted the local competition days, resulting in the collection of one hundred trees. A portion of these trees was planted within the hosting neighborhoods, while the remainder was distributed to the neighborhoods of the participating teams.
Continuing this environmental journey, a high-level panel discussion on “Pollution, a Major Issue in Bargny” convened experts including Mr. Daouda Larry Gueye from RAPEN, Issa Thiaw from GREEN SENEGAL, Ousmane Seck, a Geomatics specialist, and Mrs. Fatoumata Djitté, an Agri-Food Engineer. These experts conducted a comprehensive assessment of polluting industries in the locality, addressed coastal erosion in Bargny, and tackled waste management challenges. Their insights were accompanied by practical proposals for more effective management and mitigation. The panel discussion culminated in a heartfelt tribute to the late Mrs. Voré Gana Seck, a fervent environmental defender.
In Mboro, the first edition of the competition witnessed the enthusiastic participation of CEM Mboro 1, CEM Mboro 2, Darou Khoudoss, and Mboro High School. The final of this inaugural edition unfolded on December 2, 2023, with the victory going to Mboro High School’s Taïba ICS against CEM Mboro 2.
These two editions, centered around the themes of “Environment and Climate Change,” not only facilitated competition but also served as powerful platforms for environmental education, awareness-raising, and instilling a sense of responsibility among the youth in Senegal. They allowed for the achievement of several objectives:
Sensitization: Both competitions successfully raised awareness among participants and the local community about pressing environmental and climate issues.
Education: The events encouraged learning and in-depth understanding of climate change, pollution, and waste management.
Advocacy: By bringing together experts and decision-makers, the competitions promoted advocacy for climate justice and better environmental management.
Community Engagement: Reforestation activities and neighborhood involvement fostered a stronger sense of community engagement and environmental stewardship.
Youth Empowerment: The competitions empowered young participants to become champions for climate action and environmental protection.
One of the participants from ACS Yallus poignantly expressed, “This competition was an awakening. It transformed climate change from abstract knowledge into an urgent reality. We are not just finalists; we are agents of change.”
These initiatives underscore the vital lessons learned: that education, awareness, and community engagement are essential components of effective climate action. They have shown that through collaboration and a shared commitment to addressing environmental challenges, meaningful change is not only possible but achievable.
As these initiatives culminated in an exhilarating final competition, with the victory claimed by Taïba/ICS High School and CEM Mboro 2, they serve as powerful symbols of hope in the ongoing battle for climate justice and a more sustainable future.