New IVU International Council Member from Togo
Erick Mokafo-Brhom Yeleneke is a new member of the IVU International Council. He is also President of Vegan Students Association, President of Vegetarian Society of Togo and Coordinator of the African League for the Rights of Human and Non-Human Living Beings. Erick kindly agreed to be interviewed for 'IVU Online News'.
1. How did you become a vegetarian?
I became a vegetarian because in 1998, I was having problems digesting my food, and eating vegetarian food helped to solve that problem. I also learned that it was good for the IQ, and since I was a high school student, this was very important to me. Later, I met a yogi from Ghana in 2000, Godson Ajaworlu, who gave me a list of thirty meat-related diseases. On the other hand, he also gave me a list of plant sources of protein, such as beans (all types), corn and other grains.
In 2002, I joined a group where all were vegetarians (milk and butter were the animal products they used). By December 2009, we all went vegan. I am 33 years old now.
2. How did you become a leader of a vegetarian organization?
In 2008, the leader of the Vegan Students Association of Togo went to China to pursue his doctoral studies in Geophysics. Thus, he had to resign. When he resigned, I ran for the presidency and was elected. And since then, I have been happy to urge, support, motivate and encourage the members of my association to spread veganism and vegetarianism in Togo.
3. Has that situation with vegetarianism in Togo been changing?
In 2004, a man came in the media in Togo. His name is Elmoncio Godson, and he preached vegetarianism and spirituality. He preached the scientific benefits of a vegan diet and the spiritual advantages that people could get. He was so eloquent that he convinced many people through his TV shows. In 2008, we joined the hard work of other groups in the field. But our style is different. At the university, we talk about veganism for the good functioning of our body and share the other benefits of a vegan diet with our fellow students.
For example, we organize cooking demonstrations where people really touch and taste the vegetarian dishes. Then, we show them where to buy products and assist them in their homes in case of need. We have also gone on national TV to share the benefits of a vegan diet, including the question of meat production and climate change.
4. How does your organisation seek to change people's diets?
By assisting them closely, by taking people seriously, by cooking vegetarian or vegan dishes with them and telling them our experiences. The much raised question is the proteins and vitamins--where to find them in plant foods? We gladly respond by giving in detail the vegetables and other vegetarian sources via which people can meet their nutritional needs. By giving people answers to their questions and solutions for their problems, our support is appreciated. Plus, we ourselves are healthy and, thereby, influence people by our example.
5. What organisations - governmental, NGOs, corporates, and international organisations - do you work with?
Here are some examples. We work with GRETO (Reflection Group of Ecologists of Togo), the Ministry of Environment and Forestry Resources, and the staff of University of Lome, Togo. On the international level, we work with the IVU, the IFA (International Funds for Africa), EVA (Ethiopian Vegetarian Association), Wisconsin Vegetarian Society, ETOILE CALL SHOP (Cote d'Ivoire) and many more.
6. How did you hear about IVU?
I first heard of IVU in Ghana when 15 members of my association took part to the West African Vegetarian Congress from 29 Oct to 1 Nov, 2009. There, we met the Ghanaian IVU committee, Emmanuel Eyoh (the IVU Regional Coordinator for Africa), and many others from around the world.
7. Please tell us one recent success story.
At our university, the Vegan Students Association organized a sensitizing programme from 1 Sep to 31 Nov, 2010, entitled ―Welcome to the Vegan University‖. As Sep and October are the months when students come in great numbers to register at the university, we were there once a week from 9am to 3pm. We walked around with soya and gluten kebabs and other vegan products, and spread the news about the benefits of a vegan diet.
Many people tasted the kebabs and appreciated the food and information. Next, we did a show on national TV. We shared the benefits of a vegan diet so eloquently that people called to congratulate us, asked us to teach them how to go vegan and even asked for the another show done by us. People learned many advantages of a vegan diet, and, as a result, more students are joining our association.