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Naturefriends Talk: Marie-Bernard LEFEBVRE-DUMONT President of Naturefriends France

Marie-Bernard LEFEBVRE-DUMONT has been re-elected as president of Naturefriends France on March 31, 2018. She talks about her personal motivation for her long commitment to the Naturefriends movement and her visions for its development.


You have been active for Naturefriends for many years – on the national and as well on the international level. Help us understand your motivation for your deep commitment.

Just like many other French Naturefriends I joined the movement (more than 30 years ago) after working with youth hostels. I had just had a child and the work in „my” first local group was more compatible with my circumstances at the time. While the life in the local group and the exchange with Naturefriends from different backgrounds and countries was very appealing, I only took over a bigger role more than ten years later. Here, I find everything, that gives life sense in my opinion: Exchange, friendship, shared experiences, learning about different ways of life and cultures, tolerance and solidarity. Of course, none of this can be taken for granted but the example of our predecessors, as well as the needs of the current society in general and the Youth in particular, motivate me to continue.

What are your priorities for the work of Naturefriends France for the next years?


The 33rd Congress of our association clearly showed in which direction we need to go. It is about:
-    Support of the Youth Group which was constituted during the Congress and from which a Youth representative was elected into the board. With this we want to enrich and energize the movement while keeping in mind the current realities of life as well as the work done by the “elders”.
-    Improve communication: The first step was renaming the organisation – we are now called “Amis de la Nature France / Naturfreunde Frankreich”. It is true that despite having almost 8.000 members we are not well known, except maybe in the Alsace. However, the 100 local groups, which are part of our association, play an undeniable societal and social role either via their diverse leisure activities and/or the activities regarding nature and environment. However, we cannot forget – which differentiates us from others – that we operate houses and campgrounds (60 in France) with the help of our volunteers and can offer good deals. We also have to improve internal communications because despite communication tools constantly improving, the association and the members do not know each other well enough, which leads to problems when it comes to sharing experiences and making our shared values public.
-    Developing partnerships with other organisations which have similar values, in order to work together to influence political decisions regarding tourism, the development of events or the environment. In addition, we could offer our members better holiday and leisure options (as for example better offers when working together with other houses).
-    Organising the leadership structure in the association, networking regarding more democratic decision making processes, educational offers for people wanting to take up more responsibility in order to open up possibilities for new officials


Naturefriends France have played a major role in the development of the Naturefriends movement in Africa. You are a member of the Steering Group for the Naturefriends Climate Fund which is used to finance climate protection projects of Naturefriends Africa. At the same time many European Naturefriends organisations struggle financially. To be provocative: Would it not be better to invest into the European associations than to support organisations in the Global South?


  No, I do not think there is a valid argument there and we should beware of playing off the South against the North. Of course, some European organisations struggle; and they need help – France has provided help in the past. However, this cannot be done at the expense of the countries in the Global South. In addition, I would like to point out that the problems of the Naturefriends in Europe cannot be compared to the struggles in the African associations. In Europe, we are looking at political issues (for example in Hungary) – and here it is up to the NFI, with the support of the member organisations, to raise their voices at the European level. Otherwise, we are looking at issues regarding organisational development, which affects all associations. Here we need, together with NFI, to make sure that the goals of the movement are aligned with the current societal demands to give our movement new meaning and avoid to fade into insignificance again. If it concerns financial problems, we could maybe look into establishing a special solidarity fund, which could be for example financed with EU funds or by all members together. The Naturefriends Climate Fund is solely intended for African countries, where poverty and developmental issues are aggravated due to acceleration of the Climate Change and North-South trading relations. All projects submitted by African Naturefriends to the Fund deal with local development projects which aim at improving the livelihood and supporting the local population to live a life of dignity. The projects are financed by European Naturefriends in order to compensate the negative effects their travels have for the climate. This is about climate justice.


The Naturefriends Movement will celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2020. What do we need to remain successful in the future?


We constantly need to evaluate if our values are being heard by those around us and figure out which steps to take in order to make that happen. We need to improve the exchange between the member organisations, stand for a common message and achieve more publicity. Last but not least, we need to listen to the Youth and give them their rightful place.



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