Inside Catholic Priest’s Kitchen Garden of Plastics Cleaning Streets in Cameroon

Fr. Innocent Akum Wefon pushing a wheelbarrow in his kitchen garden at St. Raphael Archangel Parish of the Catholic Archdiocese of Douala. Credit: 3650 Plastics At 10

Fr. Innocent Akum Wefon’s kitchen garden is an alluring collection of bottles of different sizes and colors that enclose spaces in which the Catholic Priest has planted various kinds of vegetables and fruits.

The garden at St. Raphael Archangel Parish of Cameroon’s Catholic Archdiocese of Douala is not just providing a constant supply of vegetables in the Parish. Through the garden, and a number of other plastic recycling activities that Fr. Innocent is engaged in, the Catholic Priest is keeping the Cameroonian streets clean one bottle at a time.

In a Thursday, March 17 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Innocent said that he embarked on the 3650Plastics@10 initiative to collect 3,650 plastics to celebrate his 10 years as a Catholic Priest.

“When I celebrated my 10 as a Priest last year, I decided to collect 3,650 plastics, which I thought I had failed to collect from the day I was ordained a Priest. The number of plastics was to be equivalent to the days I had served as a Priest. On such an occasion, Priests make cards, shirts, key holders and other things to mark the important day. I decided that my souvenir was going to be plastics,” Fr. Innocent said.

When he spoke to ACI Africa, the Catholic Priest who serves as the Superior of Mill Hill Missionaries in Cameroon said that he had already picked 10,000 plastic bottles from trash bins, on the streets, on river banks, and on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.


Credit: 3650 Plastics At 10

The Catholic Priest who is also engaged in tree planting said that his aim is to create as much awareness as possible on the need to protect the environment among Cameroonians who he says are oblivious of the dangers they face owing to the effects of environmental degradation.

“There is a lot of what I could call ignorance among the people of Cameroon. The country has a good amount of tree cover. There are lots of heavy forests and the people have food. They therefore take so much for granted,” Fr. Innocent said.

The member of the Mill Hill Missionaries added, “Cameroon is a land of plenty. And even though we have started experiencing changing weather patterns, the people simply can’t piece everything together. They cut trees to build houses and never care to plant other trees. They think that the forests will be here forever.”

The same ignorance, the Priest says, is manifested in the way in which people negligently throw plastics around and destroy the environment.

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Fr. Innocent who served as the Parish Priest of St. Joseph’s Luanda Catholic Parish of Kenya’s Diocese of Kakamega before he went back to his native country thought about recycling the plastics during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Credit: 3650 Plastics At 10

“There wasn’t much to do during the COVID-19 lockdown and so I started thinking of how to move forward with the plastics I had collected. My first idea was to make them into bricks for construction but I thought a manufacturing plant would be too expensive to set up. So, I settled on making kitchen gardens using the bottles,” he said.

In the kitchen garden, Fr. Innocent grows collard greens popularly known as sukuma wiki, managu or black nightshade, tomatoes, spinach, watermelons, cucumber and maize. Produce from the garden is used for meals at the Parish and given to the needy, the Priest said.

He said that parishioners as well as the community around the Parish are starting to appreciate his work by asking for tips on how to set up the beautiful gardens in their homes.


In addition to the cosmetic value, the bottles help keep animals and birds that destroy plants away from the gardens.

“This place that is surrounded by recycled plastics is a beautiful gift of nature. I come here to have a quiet time and to meditate. I also love to listen to confessions from this place,” Fr. Innocent said.

Credit: 3650 Plastics At 10

Apart from the kitchen gardens, the Priest is also working with the youth in the Parish to make furniture, including tables, and baskets using bottle tops. The aim is to expose the youth to various ways of income generating activities through the recycling of bottles and to keep the environment clean while at it.

Fr. Innocent says he was brought up in a home that relied on agriculture, adding, “I learnt a lot about nature and grew up appreciating the environment as my friend. But it is Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato Si’, that solidifies my passion for environmental preservation.”

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“A lot is happening in the environment that underlines the need to protect and take care of nature. We no longer see the animals we used to see. We no longer enjoy the fruits we used to eat in the forests because we have cut down the indigenous trees. It is no longer possible to transmit the kind of knowledge that we received about the environment because we don’t have these animals and trees,” he said.

The Mill Hill Priest who describes himself as an environmental activist is vocal in Cameroonian media where he champions for the collection and recycling of plastics and the planting of trees to protect the environment.

This story was first published by ACI Africa on 18 March 2022

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.