Hilaire Gomé

Ashoka Fellow

Citation

This profile was prepared when Hilaire Gomé was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1992.
The New Idea
Hilaire seeks to capitalize on the power of traditional beliefs and practices about the environment to create a potent environmental protection policy for Cote d'Ivoire. Hilaire believes passionately (and his view is confirmed by many experts) that pre-colonial Ivoirien culture valued and protected the environment in unique and effective ways. A major manifestation of this is the "sacred forests," which were designated near most villages, and which are still widespread today. It is forbidden to cut down these forests where rituals like circumcision are performed, and where medicinal herbs used in traditional medicine are found.
Hilaire says that all Ivoiriens, "Ph.D. or not, respect the idea of "sacred," and he plans to use the power of this belief to formulate tenable environmental regulations that will be acceptable to the government and enforced by the villagers themselves. Through this strategy, Hilaire seeks not only to value and preserve Cote d'Ivoire's forest, but also its traditional culture, and adds that "if we destroy our forests, we will destroy our culture. We have to combine our book learning with our oral tradition, the wisdom of our ancestors."
Through Cote d'Ivoire's premiere environmental movement, the Croix Verte, which he founded ten years ago, Hilaire seeks to implement a massive campaign of public education and environmental awareness in addition to his forest protection plan. The central mission of the Croix Verte is to sensitize people to such an extent that not polluting becomes a reflex action. Hilaire wants people to fully understand both the environmental and demographic implications of environmental issues. Through the Croix Verte, Hilaire plans to establish a "network of African youth for the environment."
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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