Testimony of Quentin Hulo, our Civic Service photographer
Quentin, you were the first civic service (French volunteer agreement) with the GSAC Alliance for 6 months, from September 2019 to February 2020. Passionate about photography and nature, you studied at the École des Métiers de l'Environnement in Bruz (France). What exactly was your mission for the GSAC Alliance?
During my entire Civic Service which took place in Cameroon, Gabon and Congo, my main mission was to valorise the great apes of the Congo Basin forests and to promote the field work of African civil society. As part of my Civic Service, I worked with 3 of the 7 NGOs members of the GSAC Alliance (TF RD, PROGRAM, ESI) for the realization of several photo and video reports presenting the actions of these members. The aim of these missions was to allow the GSAC Alliance to communicate about its work to its public on social networks, to have photo content for its website and to present its actions for its activity reports. An exhibition and a meeting were also to take place, but with the recent Covid pandemic these were postponed.
Just before leaving on a mission for the GSAC Alliance, you were finishing a training course in photojournalism. You also did a volunteer mission in the Republic of Congo with an association that works for the protection of poached chimpanzees. Why did you decide to get involved with the GSAC Alliance?
In 2018, I started writing a photo book, documenting the situation of great apes around the world, explaining the complex reasons for their disappearance and the solutions that can be found to mitigate these threats. This book is intended to serve as a tool for great ape conservation groups to support communication, funding applications, education and awareness raising.
In becoming involved with the GSAC Alliance, I wanted to learn more about the great apes, the threats they face and the solutions that can be applied locally for their conservation. This civic service has therefore contributed to documenting the work of African civil society around conservation, while providing my book with photos of great apes.
What was your day-to-day work with NGOs in the field?
My daily life was very different depending on where I was:
In Cameroon, I travelled almost every day through the Dja loop (Eastern region) to document the daily work and impact of TF RD in the field, photographing the work of former poachers who had become cocoa producers thanks to the organization.
In Gabon, my work was very tiring but very exciting. Every day, I documented the work of a team of PROGRAM trackers who were responsible for following and tracking a group of gorillas. The aim of this work was to accustom the gorillas to human presence in order to develop ecotourism the tourism based on the viewing of great apes. We walked every day between 10 and 15 kilometres to find them.
In Congo, my activities depended on my geographical location. In Pointe-Noire, I was able to document the behind-the-scenes of the strategy workshop organised by the GSAC Alliance, a workshop to reflect on the network's medium-term strategy. Then we went to the intervention site of the host NGO, ESI CONGO, in the Mayombe forest for the general assembly of the network members. There, I stayed for some time to photograph ESI CONGO's awareness raising work with the local community.
For the last 3 years, you have been involved in photography, first in France, then in Central Africa. How does your work as a photographer contribute to the protection of endangered species and more particularly to that of the great apes?
When I was younger, I was very inspired by the work of the photographer Michael Nichols, who worked with scientists for the preservation of biodiversity. I was already taking pictures at the time, and I felt that this was the path I wanted to take in order to add value to the environment instead of necessarily having a negative impact on it. Today I am convinced that it is by living in harmony with the other animal species on earth that we will be saved from our own destruction.
My work is divided into 3 parts:
Raising awareness: by working on writing books, organizing exhibitions or publishing articles in the press, I want to be able to raise awareness about the ravages that humankind is causing on biodiversity, local solutions and the beauty of nature. Indirectly, I believe that awareness is a long process, but in the long run it has a strong impact on society and the environment.
The promotion of conservation organizations: I want to bring my skills as a photographer to the world of conservation to enable associations, NGOs and scientists to promote their actions and make them more visible. Visuals play an important role when presenting one's work. I am convinced that by playing my role as rigorously as possible, I will be able to help conservation actors to continue their work.
Organizing exhibitions for the search for donations: by organizing exhibitions for the search for donations, I want to be able to help the world of conservation by providing them with funding, however humble it may be.
One of the most striking anecdotes of your 6-month mission with the GSAC Alliance and its members?
In the Dja loop in Cameroon, I had the opportunity for several days to follow and document the work of a former poacher who became a cocoa producer thanks to the work of TF RD. This meeting made a big impression on me because, in addition to seeing a positive change for the region and far from being an isolated case, I was able to see that changing mentalities for conservation does not always need international organisations and that local organisations can be just as effective in their region. That they were often better placed to make a difference and that they were often more effective and sustainable in doing so.
The IV General Assembly of the network is taking place next week in the Republic of Congo!01 Nov 19
Mbou-Mon-Tour and his fight for the protection of Nature and Human Being29 Jul 19
Intervention of the Alliance GSAC during a training organized by the cultural department of the French Embassy in Cameroon29 Jul 19