Interview of Martial KOUDERIN, CREDI
Martial, you are back from New York, where you received the Equator prize in 2019 for the work done by CREDI. Congratulations … What does represent this award to you ?
It is a feeling of joy and satisfaction that animates me and drives the entire CREDI-NGO team at this memorable moment in our history. The Equator Prize represents for us, on one hand a very encouraging mark of international recognition of our efforts for the conservation and sustainable management of natural resources, our common heritage. And on the other hand this award highlights the effects and impacts of what our daily efforts – for already more than a decade – have generated on biodiversity and communities of the Sitatunga Valley Community Nature Park (PNCVS). Today more than ever we feel invested of a heavy responsibility in the eyes of the international community and have at heart to keep all our CREDI-bility to » contribute to the emergence of generations of ‘citizens of the world’ able to propose and implement local and sustainable solutions for a human development respectful of Nature ‘.
What do you keep in mind from your stay in New York, including the meetings with the other winners of the prize in 2019 ? Did this stay change your vision of things and what are the lessons learned ?
My stay in New York was an opportunity to realize the importance given to our work in our little area in Benin. The meeting and the exchanges with the other laureates allowed me to realize that we are not alone in this fight for the protection of the environment . Just like us, many actors around the world have opted for a community approach for managing natural resources. It is quite comforting and galvanizing to have the chance to find out as much and in so little time in the same place … I could not hide my desire to go around to go to discover, enjoy and enrich more these different realities and various field actions implemented throughout the world. The opportunity for me to see that the issues affecting the conservation of nature are everywhere the same but in varying degrees. Given this, it seems to me important to have a collective intelligence and – I am convinced – to feed our current solutions with Elders Wisdom and Knowledge.
In terms of vision, this stay reinforces my beliefs with respect to the ability of indigenous people to develop a livelihood based on the sustainable management of natural resources in their landscape. I am more concerned for urban people such as in New York – where I set foot for the first time – who almost live ‘off the ground’ and will in my opinion more difficulties to achieve this because of the lack of roots to water. This questions our own models of sustainable cities and territories in Benin and Africa.
Today CREDI NGO has the feeling of belonging to a large family – one of the many winners of the Equator Prize. This filial belonging obliges us . We want to take an active part to boost collectively the change of practices and a more favorable global policy to indigenous peoples and local initiatives for the Conservation of Nature.
What are the challenges for CREDI nowadays, the prospects and the priorities for the years to come ? Did your stay give you new ideas to try out on the field ?
By refering to the vision developed in the Development and Management Plan (GAP) Valley Sitatunga , I quote « In 2030, the PNCVS is an interstate conservation model that ensures improving state of natural resources and the sustainability of ecosystem services for people’s happiness » end quote . The major challenge for CREDI-ONG is to work for the institutional and operational empowerment of the PNCVS . Indeed, at the current stage of the » Sitatunga Valley » initiative, CREDI-ONG still remains very indispensable in the management system. as this seems perfectly normal at this time in the light looking at our history, the desire for sustainability requires us at this moment to set up an institutional framework that gives more responsibility to local authorities and reinforces the legal status of the protected area. To this end, CREDI-ONG in the coming years will work to :
- Strengthen the management system and to provide it with the right tools
- Conserve biodiversity and habitats in a participatory way
- Improve knowledge about species, ecosystems and their functioning
- Value resources through tourism development and environmental education
- Sustainably improve the living conditions of vulnerable groups through the development
of cultural and ecological activities.
This price just reward for individuals and their leadership. According to you, what is being a good leader ?
For me a good leader is the one who is the first to embody for himself the changes they wish to see happen around him. Thus, he ensures the coherence between his actions and his speech which gives him all his credibility. Humble, a good leader will remember always that what he harvest is often not the result of his only work but also the one from the rain, sun and this wonderful biodiversity which, in the shadows and often silently transformed a matter in other miles …
An advice to give in to young actors of the society civil African wishing to work on the environmental issues in West Africa to ?
An adage says, « Do not be afraid of being slow, just be afraid of being stopped! « This is the main advice I would give to my younger brothers of the African civil society. In fact, I noticed that patience is an endangered species of virtue. However, the development of initiatives like ours – a bit against the current trajectory of our current African societies – requires deep and long changes regarding our territory, to its culture – always strongly devalued – and to its nature. Its changes must be sown today while knowing that they can remain dormant for a long time, to sprout a beautiful day, then to grow slowly when conditions are favorable … We are young and have time for us. So patiently, sow, sow relentlessly, a seed will eventually germinate!
» Many little people doing a lot of small steps in many small places can change a lot the world. » Let’s all be little people and the world would be a lot better.