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Naturefriends talk: Petra Müller / Vice President of NFI

Petra, you are the Programme coordinator for Africa of Naturefriends Germany. Why are the Naturefriends Germany so involved in Africa? What does the partnership between NF Germany and the African Naturefriends Network look like?

Naturefriends Germany have been working with Naturefriends Senegal and Togo for many years now. It all started with the trips to both countries organised by Naturefriends, which gave us a chance to experience our friends’ activities regarding environmental education, biodiversity and climate change first hand. Those topics are also very important for NF Germany. Our projects always have a social aspect so that the local community can benefit as well.  

To improve the cooperation and to help coordinate joint-activities we established the Africa-Europe-Network within Naturefriends Germany in 2012. The network is open for all interested Naturefriends and has its own mailing list. There is a yearly seminar with representatives from the African Naturefriends organisations. Together, we discuss common issues such as climate justice, genetically modified organisms or land grabbing. In addition, experiences regarding mutual projects, reports about our group activities and the development of our cooperation are being shared. When choosing the location for the next meeting, we always include the local Naturefriends group so that our friends from Africa can get to know the local activities within the NF Germany network.

So far, what are/were the highlights of working together with Naturefriends Africa?
The highlights are and always were the personal encounters with Naturefriends during our tours in Africa. The commitment of the teenagers in the environmental clubs of the Naturefriends, talking to student groups and the local groups about their specific projects, seeing the visible improvements and the continuing development of the projects show that our cooperation is well on its way.

On January 13, the Landscape of the Year 2018/19 was opened – the first Landscape of the Year in Africa. Naturefriends organised a two-week tour through Senegal and the Gambia; the so called “Tour d’horizon”. How important do you think is the slow expansion of tourism for a sustainable development in the region?
In my opinion, there is a lot of potential for sustainable tourism in the chosen region. In Janjanbureh (the Gambia) tour guides for nature and city tours are being trained by our partner “Just Act”. The Gambia River offers many possibilities for nature observation on and off the water. In Koungheul (Senegal) you can find the first guided nature activities. The main road connects the region close to Tambacounda und Kedougou – in this region first tourism developments are already the visible. Necessary for the development of sustainable tourism is the connection of the existing offers with the new offers from the Landscape of the year. All this will influence the economic, structural and cultural sustainable development.

You attended the opening ceremony and took part in the Tour d’Horizon. What impressed you the most?
There were many details that made the event unforgettable. We were able to experience the diverse local culture, saw the serious interest of the local stakeholders for the Landscape of the Year - and the strong participation of the people in both Senegal and the Gambia really impressed me.

Which opportunities do you see for the border region Senegal/the Gambia being the Landscape of the Year? How can Naturefriends groups outside of Africa support a sustainable development in the region?
One important aspect is the network between the local stakeholders. There are already different initiatives in the region on both sides of the border, so there is no need to reinvent the wheel. The best options are definitely to work on developing good methods of communication and joint action plans. A first, vital step has already been taken, since the road between Senegal and the Gambia has been developed and is in good condition.  
A long-term support of the development in the region can only be done in cooperation with the Senegalese Naturefriends. Naturefriends groups who want to be part of this development need to familiarise themselves with the activities of the African Naturefriends. It would be wonderful if many groups would focus on “Consequences of Climate Change in Africa and Climate Justice” in 2018/19. In addition, they can raise awareness for the Climate Fund of NFI. Down the road, it would also be possible for groups and member organisations to support the region by creating their own tours. Naturefriends Senegal has a lot of experience with the organisation of tours for Naturefriends groups and can offer support when needed.


(January 2018)

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