Congratulations to Hilaire Guilahoux on being selected as PEN’s December Educator of the Month! Special thanks to Julia Riedel for her nomination and blog submission.
I have known Hilaire Guilahoux since 2003 when he worked as a School Director in schools around the famous Taï National Park in Côte d’Ivoire. From the beginning, Hilaire has independently pushed the importance of environmental education in local schools and I have supported his remarkable career ever since. Hilaire is truly an unsung hero of environmental education and conservation in Côte d’Ivoire; his efforts and motivation to inspire the next generation to protect the country’s environment never cease to amaze me.
For over 10 years, Hilaire has worked to preserve the biodiversity of his country, especially in the Taï National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to important populations of the West African chimpanzee, the forest elephant, the pygmy hippopotamus, and many monkey and duiker species. He has done this through environmental education and micro-projects for the local communities living near the protected area. In recent years, this region of West Africa has undergone profound changes that have critically threatened this vitally important ecosystem. As a witness to this, Hilaire has always placed emphasis on local children, realizing they are the answer to the future preservation of the local wildlife. He always says, “Learn for nature – act for nature”.
In 2003, Hilaire became the General Coordinator of the Environmental Education Projects Unit at the Regional office of the National Education Ministry in Soubré, Côte-d’Ivoire (Cellule des Projets Environnementaux – CPE). This led him to develop an environmental education scheme in nearly 200 schools around the Taï National Park. His determination has enabled him to become a key figure, facilitating collaboration between stakeholders involved in the conservation of the Taï National Park, including the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation, the Office Ivoirien des Parcs et Réserves, and the different Ministères de la République de la Côte d'Ivoire (e.g. the Ministère de l'Environnement du Développement Durable, des Eaux et Forêts, and the Ministère de l'Education Nationale).
Since 2007, Hilaire has worked as the Environmental Education Program Officer for the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF) in Côte d’Ivoire and is responsible for developing and implementing all education activities and micro-projects in his country. He has also helped the WCF in Guinea to start similar environmental education projects, namely the extra-curricular school program Club P.A.N. (People, Animals, Nature). Club P.A.N. is operating in 15 schools in Côte d’Ivoire and 4 schools in Guinea.
Hilaire's expertise lies in his ability to train local teachers and school directors in environmental education, as well as to motivate them in developing their own environmental education schemes. He has also shown tremendous capacity in coordinating and evaluating projects and facilitating collaboration with ministries and NGOs.
In 2012, Hilaire created his own local NGO “Actions Eco-Citoyennes” in Soubré, Côte d’Ivoire. This association wants to promote environmental education initiatives and local development through schools and micro-projects. Projects include solutions for waste management, water, and electricity problems in villages. Hilaire is creating green spaces and waste systems in all schools where he is working. He is an outstanding African conservationist with the potential to become a key figure in integrating environmental education in the national school curriculum in Côte d’Ivoire.
Primate Education Network (PEN) is important for Hilaire’s and our work in general because we have a platform to exchange experiences and share education materials. Nominating Hilaire for PEN’s Educator of the Month is an honor. I give him my strongest possible recommendation.
This blog post was written by Julia Riedel. Julia has been involved in helping the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation team in Europe with fundraising and supporting Club P.A.N. and the partner school project between German and Ivorian schools. She is currently doing her Ph.D. on female chimpanzee social relationships and is part of the Conservation group at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Julia previously helped with habituating chimpanzees in the Taï National Park.