From Passion to Action: The Journey of ELF and Its Founder, Edwin K. Bamfo

From Passion to Action: The Journey of ELF and Its Founder, Edwin K. Bamfo

Our planet is currently facing unprecedented environmental challenges that threaten its delicate balance and the well-being of all living beings. From climate change and pollution to biodiversity loss and resource depletion, the dangers we confront are urgent and demand immediate action.

In the midst of these critical times, passionate individuals like Edwin K. Bamfo have stepped forward to make a difference. In this article, we will delve into Edwin’s journey to starting Environmental Leadership Forum (ELF), ELF’s mission, and explore the specific goals and initiatives that the organization focuses on to promote a clean, healthy, and diverse environment.

Tell me about yourself, your background, and how the ELF journey started.

My name is Edwin K. Bamfo, and I am a dedicated lifelong learner and a passionate steward leader committed to environmental causes. Professionally, I work as an Environmental Sustainability Professional and a Communications Designer. I obtained my degree in environmental science from KNUST in 2019, where I developed a strong foundation in the field.

Currently, I am pursuing an MPhil in Environmental Resources Management at KNUST. In June 2021, I officially registered an NGO called Environmental Leadership Forum (ELF) with the aim of championing a clean, healthy, and diverse environment. However, even before the establishment of ELF, I was actively involved in environmental initiatives. As early as 2017, during my second year as an undergraduate student, I participated in annual World Environment Day events. On occasions such as World Environment Day, I would engage with various groups, including primary school students and individuals I met, to raise awareness about environmental protection and the management of plastic waste. Leveraging my skills as a communications designer, I effectively utilized infographics and videos to convey my message.

ELF emerged as a formalization of the work I had been engaged in for several years. Prior to its establishment, my friends and I used to organize virtual events on World Environment Day. However, to give these efforts greater structure and impact, I made the decision to establish ELF as an NGO dedicated to carrying out these activities more effectively and sustainably.

Can you provide an overview of ELF’s mission and the specific goals or initiatives that the organization focuses on to promote a clean, healthy, and diverse environment?

At ELF, leadership is of utmost importance. It defines our organization and shapes our mission. When we think of leadership, we envision responsibility, problem-solving, influence, and action. These words resonate with us because they embody our purpose. Our mission is to raise environmental leaders who will champion a clean, healthy, and diverse environment within their local communities.

At ELF, we subscribe to John C. Maxwell’s principle that “Everything rises and falls on Leadership.” We firmly believe that the key to addressing environmental challenges lies in nurturing environmental leaders. What makes an environmental leader? – an individual who assumes responsibility for the well-being of their environment and takes proactive measures to bring about positive change. These leaders are passionate, knowledgeable, and skilled, possessing the know-how to make a difference. They wholeheartedly accept that safeguarding the environment is their personal duty. This is the essence of our mission.

Our organization operates on the strong pillars of advocacy and community service. Everything we do revolves around equipping leaders with the necessary skills and knowledge to be effective advocates. We firmly believe in the transformative power of words. Knowledge is essential for societal transformation, and words serve as a potent medium for conveying knowledge. Advocacy is at the core of our efforts, as we dedicate ourselves to organizing impactful monthly training sessions known as “impact sessions.” These sessions focus on training individuals to be effective advocates.

Furthermore, we actively engage with communities through hands-on activities to set an example for environmental management. Our initiatives include annual events such as tree planting exercises, cleanup campaigns, plastic waste segregation projects, and more. 

By fostering environmental leaders and emphasizing advocacy and community engagement, we strive to create a better future for our planet.

What are some of the major environmental challenges that ELF addresses, and what strategies or approaches does the organization use to tackle these issues?

A few days ago, I was thinking about what exactly we do at our organization with respect to projects. It dawned on me that our primary focus revolves around addressing the pressing issues of climate change, with a particular emphasis on climate education, and reforestation. To combat deforestation, we have consistently engaged in tree-planting exercises over the past few years. This year, we are excited to participate in the Green Ghana project on Saturday, June 10. 

In addition to our efforts in tackling deforestation, we have also undertaken initiatives in plastic waste management, as well as various aspects of sanitation and environmental management. These areas are of utmost importance to us as we strive to overcome the challenges related to climate, plastics, biodiversity management, and sanitation.

To effectively tackle these issues, we employ a multifaceted approach. We conduct both virtual and in-person campaigns as part of our advocacy efforts. Moreover, we place great importance on forging partnerships with like-minded organizations, as collaboration is key to our approach.

You recently organized a plastic waste management campaign dubbed “Rubber Nu Adooso”. Can you share more insights on this campaign and its goals?

We prioritize both online and in-person campaigns, which have been instrumental in our success. One recent campaign we focused on was the “Rubber No Adooso” campaign, launched to commemorate World Environment Day. The theme for this year’s World Environment Day was “Solutions to Plastic Pollution,” with the mantra “Beat Plastic Pollution.” During the event, we assembled a dedicated team of over 50 volunteers who were provided with a comprehensive education on the detrimental impact of plastic waste. We then embarked on a door-to-door campaign, reaching out to over 500 students on KNUST campus, offering them practical tips and information on how to effectively manage plastic waste.

One crucial aspect we emphasized during the campaign was the significance of proper waste segregation. Specifically, we stressed the importance of utilizing yellow bins for plastics. By segregating plastic waste correctly, we aimed to support ongoing efforts on campus to manage and recycle plastic waste more efficiently. Currently, the recycling plant on campus faces challenges due to students mixing different waste streams, rendering the recycling process less effective.

Overall, the primary objective of the “Rubber No Adooso” campaign is to facilitate improved plastic waste segregation efforts on KNUST campus. By educating students and raising awareness about the importance of proper waste disposal, we aim to address the issue and enhance the effectiveness of the recycling plant.

How does ELF engage and empower environmental leaders within the community? Can you share some examples of successful leadership initiatives or projects that have made a significant impact?

Let me share with you the story of our organization’s launch in 2021 and how we empower environmental leaders. The launch took place in June 2021, and we had the privilege of inviting Dr. Eric Twum, a highly esteemed chartered environmentalist recognized worldwide, to inaugurate our organization.

Dr. Twum graciously accepted our invitation and delivered an enlightening seminar, engaging with our audience, which primarily consisted of students. The central theme of his talk was Ecosystem Restoration, emphasizing the crucial need to protect the environment and the potential consequences if we neglect it. This aligns perfectly with our organization’s mission. Our aim is to empower these environmental leaders through training sessions and by inviting accomplished professionals in the field to share their stories.

The impact of these sessions has been significant. Our leaders have been inspired by the experiences of other accomplished professionals, enabling them to identify their strengths and find their place within the vast spectrum of environmental management. Some of our environmental leaders have even discovered new career paths by interacting with facilitators like Matthias Charles Yabe. Our commitment to training is unwavering, as we believe that by addressing mindsets and introducing new ways of thinking, we can bring about lasting change.

We recognize and appreciate John C. Maxwell’s principle that change begins with a shift in mindset. Therefore, we not only engage in community service initiatives but also prioritize the personal growth of our environmental leaders. We actively seek opportunities for them to participate in external events, allowing them to broaden their horizons and network with like-minded individuals.

One of our most significant projects is the Sustainable Futures Project (SFP), which we launched last year. This initiative has had a profound impact and stands as one of our organization’s most remarkable achievements. The success we witness in the SFP is a typical demonstration of our core value that “Teamwork makes the dream work.”

Additionally, we have been actively involved in tree-planting exercises for the past two years. In 2021, we successfully planted 100 trees on campus, and we are thrilled to report an impressive 95% survival rate. During my recent visit, I captured some pictures, which we eagerly shared on our social media platforms to showcase our progress.

We also engage and empower our leaders through the ELF podcast, where we bring joy and inspiration to environmental action by sharing in-depth knowledge about environmental sustainability. Over the years, we have witnessed numerous instances where these experiences have positively influenced and shaped our leaders.

How does ELF measure its impact and evaluate the effectiveness of its programs and initiatives? Are there any key metrics or success stories that you can share to demonstrate the organization’s achievements?

I am highly passionate about personal connections, and I have noticed that the most active leaders (or volunteers) are those who are in close proximity to Team Leaders. I strongly believe in the power of personal relationships, even within the context of an NGO. I prefer engaging in numerous personal interactions as a way of multiplying leaders to promote our vision in their communities. For us, the primary gauge of growth lies in the testimonials we receive from individuals whose lives we have impacted.

During a volunteers’ meeting recently, a second-year student took the stage to address the team. I couldn’t help but be amazed by his fluent speech. It was a surprise because when I first met him during his freshman year, he could barely maintain eye contact while speaking. However, after providing him with guidance, attending events together, and exposing him to various opportunities, he has transformed into a confident speaker. That, Charlie, is what truly interests me: empowering these leaders to make a difference in their communities and take proactive initiatives.

SFP (Sustainable Futures Project) represents one of our most remarkable success stories. We visited Gazelle Community School and had the opportunity to educate more than 28 students about environmental management throughout the entire semester.

Can you provide some insights into ELF’s funding model? How does the organization sustain its operations and support its initiatives? Are there any ongoing challenges or opportunities in securing funding for environmental causes?

We primarily fund our projects through sponsorships and support from our family and friends. However, we would appreciate some more financial assistance. While we haven’t focused on official fundraising systems in the past, I plan to initiate a robust fundraising campaign within the next year. Currently, our main source of funding remains contributions from our loved ones  and partner organizations like Reality Apparel and Reality Express Design Consult.

I recall that the Sustainable Futures Project (SFP) was successful in generating substantial funds, thanks to the efforts of our team members. These funds were crucial for sustaining the project.

Looking ahead, what are some of the key priorities and future goals for ELF? Are there any new projects, campaigns, or partnerships on the horizon that you are particularly excited about?

Looking ahead, our main areas of focus will be climate action and plastic waste management. These two issues are of paramount importance to us. Additionally, we are committed to promoting climate education and expanding our efforts in tree planting and growth, as we strongly value the preservation of our trees.

We are also proud to announce our partnership with the Institute of Green Growth Solutions, specifically their “One Tree Planted Project.” This initiative aims to restore 100 endangered African tropical plants, such as Mahogany and Ceiba. This year, we will collaborate with them to plant 20,000 trees. Our primary objective is to nurture and develop more leaders who are passionate about environmental conservation. To achieve this, we will conduct consistent training sessions and focus on multiplying the number of environmentally conscious leaders. Moreover, the Sustainable Future Project (SFP) will also continue its mission this year, aligning with our vision.