Fongoh Eric (36) is passionate to save the oceans from plastic pollution, a dream that started to develop during field work trips with his geography students along the west coast of Cameroon.
Fongoh Eric enjoyed the beach of West Cameroon to the fullest when he was young. Many years later, when he went there on field trips as a geography teacher with his students, he realised that the ocean became more and more polluted and something had to be done. Not much later, he founded the foundation ICENECDEV to organise beach clean ups and raise awareness about ocean pollution.
What is your earliest memory of the ocean?
I remember playing at the beach and swimming in the ocean when I was a teenager; sometimes I also went fishing. I always loved being in the ocean – it was a place to have fun, but I also remember being a bit scared while swimming in the ocean because of the marine species down there.
And what does the ocean mean to you today?
The oceans provide the Earth’s most valuable natural resources and offer a livelihood for many people in different ways. Fish and other marine species form an important source of animal protein for billions of people all over the world. To me, another important benefit of the ocean is that it creates wonderful recreational opportunities: it’s a great place for relaxation. And, last but not least, the oceans play a crucial role in moderating the Earth’s climate through the hydrological cycle, which makes taking good care of the oceans even more important in times of climate change.
“The oceans provide the Earth’s most valuable natural resources.”
What changes have you witnessed in the ocean near Cameroon?
A recent change that I noticed is the increase of ocean pollution, in particular plastic pollution. Lots of materials – like cigarette butts, fishing gear and plastic bottles – are dumped into the oceans by fishing companies, local communities and other people. All this waste in the oceans has negative effects on marine life and the ocean as an ecosystem. Another change I’ve witnessed is the increase of heavy rainfalls leading to more and severe floods, endangering coastal communities.
Can you tell more about consequences of these changes?
Ocean pollution doesn’t only affect marine species and their habitats, it affects all of us. For example, chemicals like oil, lead and pesticides are poisoning our oceans and thus our food and other resources, which may have consequences for our health. Humans have to realise that we’re part of the ecological chain.
“Ocean pollution doesn’t only affect marine species and their habitats, it affects all of us.”
What do you do to contribute to healthier oceans?
When I realised that something had to be done to save the oceans, I founded the foundation International Centre for Environmental Education and Community Development (ICENECDEV) in 2005, with the objective to raise awareness on the impact of plastics on marine ecosystems. We organise beach clean ups to increase awareness about ocean plastic pollution and to avoid that plastics on the beaches of Cameroon end up in the Atlantic Ocean. So far, we have collected more than 2000kg plastic waste with the help of our partners. Other activities of ICENECDEV are campaigning for community-based organisations and companies to participate in the beach clean ups and promoting research on the impact of plastics on soil among small-scale farmers along the west coast of Cameroon and community research on the influence of plastics on marine wildlife
“So far, we have collected more than 2000kg plastic waste.”
That’s very important work. What are good solutions for better conservation of our oceans globally, in your opinion?
I think beach clean ups can have a big impact globally if organised on a large scale. As such, it’s important to campaign for clean ups among coastal communities, as well as capacitate these communities – including children that are still in school. Because mangroves are crucial for healthy oceans and play an important role in the fight against climate change by storing carbon for long periods of time, we must protect and restore mangrove forests in particular.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are also important to conserve the oceans, because protected areas enable restricting, controlling and punishing the illegal dumping of waste into the oceans. Also, they protect marine wildlife and areas of high ecological importance, like coral reefs and mangroves. At the same time, MPAs offer tools for promoting ecotourism, sustainable fishing and other sustainable ways of living for coastal communities.
Let’s look forward to 2030: What do the oceans look like in ten years?
We have to make some real changes. If we don’t, marine species will disappear because of threats like ocean plastic pollution and climate change. The oceans will become dumping grounds and will be too warm, giving many marine species little chance for survival and endangering many people at the same time.
Thanks for sharing your story, you’re an Ocean Witness now! What would you like to say to other Ocean Witnesses?
Keep up the good work! Reading the stories of other Ocean Witnesses inspired me to do more to save the oceans from plastic pollution and to share my story as well. We can make a significant impact on the oceans’ health by joining forces.
“We can make a significant impact on the oceans’ health by joining forces.”
And if you would give one tip to the reader at home about how they can contribute to healthier oceans, what would it be?
We have to fight together against ocean plastic pollution. It’s very important that we all choose nature based solutions in our daily lives to conserve marine resources and protect the livelihoods of many coastal communities.
Fongoh Eric (36) is passionate to save the oceans from plastic pollution, a dream that started to develop during field work trips with his geography students along the west coast of Cameroon. Through the foundation ICENECDEV he raises awareness about marine pollution and stimulates coastal communities along the West Africa’s coastline to take better care of the oceans. The foundation aims to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals by organising educational campaigns, beach clean ups and other hands-on projects.