African environmental, ecological and green social work must prioritise environmental decolonisation, repossession and justice

Happy World Social Work day. WSWD is a day to remember the role social work plays in our society. This year the theme is focused on ecological social work, aka environmental social work or green social work. For those in other regions of the world, it is about environmental protection, sustainability and climate change and related issues. But, what does ecological social work mean for Africa? What should be social work’s priority in Africa? These are key questions. Often the tendency is to follow what is happening globally or in the parts of the world, especially the western world. But is that enough? Does that really address Africa’s environmental challenges? Does that contribute to development and poverty reduction?

Some important issues African social work should emphasis in environmental social work are:

  1. Environmental decolonisation and repossession of stolen land
  2. Environmental justice to address imbalances within communities and countries
  3. Access to productive land for agriculture, mining, fisheries, wildlife management etc
  4. Access to home and housing land
  5. Environmental protection and sustainability

Environmental issues in social work, it seems, are neglecting land rights and focusing more on environmental sustainability and protection. Focusing on sustainability is good, but it tends to forget the more structural and present day issues Africans face. It also neglects historical dispossession that resulted from colonisation and imbalances that exist today even in decolonised African communities.

In Africa, if social work advocacy, research, education and publications could focus on the five ideas listed above, that would make social work more relevant and more developmental. Focusing on the future when some people have no land or are still dispossessed, should not be a priority for African environmental, ecological or green social work.