By Fabian Schmidt
Me, relaxing in Calabar
On June 5th, CERCOPAN once again held a truly inspiring and flamboyant event to celebrate World Environment Day (WED). The event was attended by thousands of school children, the Governor of Cross River State, Commissioner of the Environment, Special Advisor on Biodiversity and Forests and the Chairman of the Forestry Commission, amongst many other important guests.
Although CERCOPAN began hosting this International Day of Environmentalism over ten years ago, this was my first ever trip to Nigeria and so I was very excited to be able to witness it for the first time. Coincidently, the celebrations fell on the last weekend of my stay in Calabar and as a result turned out not only to be a great opportunity to meet the Rhoko team again, but also to end my trip on an incredible high note.
Although the event itself is just a single day, CERCOPAN starts the preparations and associated environmental outreach almost 10 months before the actual carnival! Indeed, after one World Environment Day celebration ends, there is hardly time to relax before preparation for the next starts once again in earnest. As the event approaches nearer and nearer, the preparations reach a crescendo and by the final week all staff seem to be working tirelessly day and night to ensure that the event is perfect and hitch free – not an easy task in Nigeria!
I happened to be visiting CERCOPAN in May and June undertaking virology studies to assist CERCOPAN with their important release programme. Although I had set aside the final week of my stay to view pathology folders, it was almost impossible not to become caught up with the excitement of the event and before I knew it, I had been co-opted to join the event planning team! The majority of the funding needed for World Environment Day is provided each year thanks to the kind support of Cincinatti Zoo and Botanic gardens. Nevertheless, CERCOPAN also tries to involve local businesses and government to garner additional in-country support and increase the magnitude of the event. This year was no exception, and in addition to gaining the support of many local companies, the government decided to help jointly host the event.
World Environment Day 2010 celebrations
Everyone who had previously experienced the day, had explained to me how much June 5th means to the children and how much they look forward to the carnival, music, dancing and celebrations every year. Despite hearing so many stories I was amazed by the sheer strength of the reaction from the children on the day. The Chairman of the Forestry Commission in his speech put it best saying that for him and the children the event was like “a second Christmas”.
Children Enjoying World Environment Day
The day was filled with unique and colourful dancing, environmental banners, speeches, the giving of prizes for environmental competitions run by CERCOPAN during the year and even a tree planting ceremony. The part of the day with the highest environmental education impact for me however, was probably the drama competition, which took place in front of the governor. His Excellency was not only notably moved by the enthusiasm of the acting, but also made the point strongly that that the future of our environment lies in the hands of the youth.
His Excellency, Liyel Imoke, Governor of Cross River State enjoying the dramas
For me, World Environment day was a great way to end my trip to Nigeria and left me with lots of memories I will never forget. I am sure however, even as I write this and think about last months event, CERCOPAN are already busy working out how to make next years celebrations even bigger and better!
World Environment Day forest drama