Experiencing the re-rooting approach for cultural continuity
Her first time to travel to Togo, ABN’s Administrator Janet Bahati shares her experience with the elders, youth and their assignment to re-root and pass on the knowledge of their culture.
I was received at the airport by Edwige Agle, an intern at JVE Togo who took me to their office where other participants of the Agro Bio-Cultures Festival had gathered. Edwige gave us a brief tour of the JVE office in Lomé where we had a scrumptious traditional meal before embarking on our journey to the Festival in Kpele Tsiko, in the Grand Kloto region. Though it was the rainy season, the weather was hot but bearable. After driving over three hours with a few stopovers, we arrived in Tsiko at night where the event was to be hosted, scheduled to start the following day.
Opening ceremony of the Agro-BioCultural Festival/ Kpelephonie (local governance day)
Kpelephonie is the back-to-root valorizing culture of the Kpele people. It encompasses their local and traditional governance, local resources, food and intergenerational learning, showing how the youth can be mentored and integrated into governance functions of the communities. I mingled with more than 217 participants from 11 countries across 3 continents. Various people spoke about their cultural diversities, the unique roles of each member in the communities and the involvement of the youth in community affairs. Representatives of the government were also among the dignitaries of the event including two District Commissioners, eight Municipal officers, 10 representatives from the decentralized services, 17 Mayors and their representatives besides several traditional chiefs and Queen Mothers.
The youth had elaborate discussions with the local and traditional leaders on the efforts of city councils on sustainable food systems and forest landscape restoration; efficiency of decentralized services to citizens and intergenerational debate between the youth and traditional leaders. These discussions elicited intense debates where elders seemed overwhelmed with the curiosity nature of the youth. You could see more than 15 youth surrounding an elder and engaging them in discussions for more than 2 hours without a break. I was amazed at the beauty of the approach and the sight of the youth and elders spending time together to learn about their traditions and culture.
The climax of the day was the marking of the day’s ending with a torch retreat called Kakati in the local language. The youth went around the villages with lit torches to announce the beginning of the festival activities and arrival of the visitors to the festival.
The participants were split into two groups to visit two villages each and with the assignment to discuss with the elders of the various communities the origin of the communities, the meaning of the village names, key activities of the communities, relations between the youth and elders, resilience strategies to confront climate crisis, biodiversity loss, conflict management mechanisms, among other important themes.
In the villages, the chiefs and their elders poured libation before welcoming us to a session with them. The communities were welcoming and excited to hold discussions about their culture they still hold on to. We learned a lot from their past and the origin of their communities. The commitment and cooperation of the chiefs, elders and the youth was amazing. At the end of the Festival, the youth were challenged to go back to their communities to learn their history, culture, beliefs and traditions, which means living the ABN approach of ‘Going back to our roots’.
I was thrilled at the speeches from the government officials committing to support youth in agroecology matters at this Festival and was delighted to have been able to experience this work for myself.
JVE International is a partner of ABN in Togo. The Executive Director, Sena Alouka is also a board member of the ABN.