Working Towards a Sustainable Nigeria

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The weather in Lagos has become unbearable, though I am not a geologist this uncomfortable heat could be characterised as a heat wave. Lagos and other regions are experiencing increasingly high temperatures. It is very uncomfortable and for those who have to spend extended periods outdoors, it is dangerous due to the health risks. Could this be as a result of climate change?  If this is the case we have much to fear, residents of warm climes suffer first and suffer the most with unbearable rising temperatures. India recently experienced a heat wave in May and there were over 1,400 reported deaths

In Nigeria, we are dealing with a myriad of issues centred on fixing the economy yet the environment cannot be ignored. If we paid greater attention to the environment we could have prevented the widespread transmission of tomato pest Tuta Absoluta. This disease has infected most of the nation’s edible tomatoes and resulted in a sharp increase in the price of tomatoes that are available. Apart from the increased temperatures, environmental issues include agriculture, wildlife and many more areas that are critical to the nations present and future. The economy is a critical problem that needs to be addressed but the economy does not exist in a vacuum, it is has many layers and elements and the environment is perhaps at it’s core.
The question is where do we start? There is so much to do and many areas of much needed intervention from different stakeholders including the government, citizens and the corporate sector. Furthermore where can we get our information on what is going on in our environment?  This is where new environment focused online resource ‘SustyVibes’ emerges. ‘SustyVibes’ is a website that posts regulate updates, interviews, and articles on issues regarding sustainability, the environment and women in Nigeria and Africa. It is the first of it’s kind and a much needed resource.  In understanding our environment we can begin to solve problems such as how to affordably feed our 170 million population with local produce and more. The editor of ‘SustyVibes’ – Jennifer Uchendu takes us through her journey to creating this website and the state of affairs regarding Nigeria’s environment.

This Day Interview
What is Sustainability?
Sustainability is basically the way we live our lives and manage all our resources (natural, human and financial) so that we are able meet our present needs and also for also our children, grandchildren and the future to be able to meet their own needs.

What does it mean in the Nigerian context?
In Nigeria, it means how we think, talk and practice responsible living; how we treat our environment, operate our businesses and how we consider the welfare of the people we interact with. It means going back to our consciences and re-awakening the being who was not created to destroy the environment or make war, to be able to use our knowledge and intellect to inspire positive change around us in every aspect of our lives.

How did SustyVibes come about? How many people make-up the SustyVibes editorial team?
SustyVibes came from an idea to teach more Nigerians and Africans about Sustainability; In my final year as a student of Biochemistry in Covenant University, I became so keen about the environment, especially with renewable energy, with support of my supervisor Dr Israel Afolabi, I continued to develop this passion with further study, during my NYSC, I worked with Unilever Nigeria, the experience helped me understand the concept of Sustainable living with the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan that had just been launched. I also volunteered with the Lagos State Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources for one year and worked directly with the Renewable Energy unit. Amongst other work experience, I also have experience working in the Nigerian E-commerce Sector, where the idea to incorporate online business with sustainability was formed. When I decided to start SustyVibes, I envisioned a platform that would serve any age group genuinely interested in living better lives and protecting the environment.
I also have a big passion for women, especially African women and as an ecofeminist, I am using SustyVibes to establish the link between women and the environment, I am promoting and featuring black women who have triumphed beyond expectations are giving back to their environment.
What people are currently seeing with SustyVibes is just the tip of the iceberg, I am so excited that we even started something and people are already responding positively. I am so grateful to God for the grace to keep pushing even in the midst of present financial challenges
As of now, the editorial team consists primarily of the founder (myself) and some volunteers and contributors who have expressed interest in what we do.

You seem to be supportive of the current Minister of the Environment – Amina Mohammed. What has she done so far to benefit the environment?
Amina Mohammed has actually done too much for the environment, As Nigeria’s Minister of environment, she is currently leading one of the most ambitious projects ever, cleaning up the Ogoni land and other affected Niger Delta areas that have been long polluted by Oil, this 25 year project has been described by the UN as the largest oil clean up exercise ever.
Prior to her appointment as Minister of environment, Amina Mohammed was also the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on post-2015 development planning, this is to say, she played a key role in the actualization of the now Sustainable Development goals the world is running with. She has fondly been called the mother of the SDGs by some international organisations and she even admits that the 17 SDGs are like her children.
She has also served as a Senior Special Assistant to the President of Nigeria on the Millennium Development Goals—serving three presidents over a period of six fruitful years.
In all of those years, Amina Mohammed worked tirelessly to lay a good foundation for the future and gathered a wealth of experience that has proved highly beneficial in her current role as minister of environment

The weather is slowly becoming unbearable due to the heat, is it climate change? What can we do in Nigeria to combat this?
If Climate Change is a change in the average weather condition of an area over a prolonged period of time, then we can dare say we are slowly experiencing signs of climate change, seasons are changing and the earth is getting even hotter by the day and people are feeling the heat greatly.
Nigerians need to first understand that climate change comes from rising levels of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases (methane, water vapour, nitrous oxide and ozone) in the atmosphere are warming the Earth and are causing wide-ranging impacts including the heat.
With this in mind, we need to both adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, by mitigation; I mean that we need to become more conscious about our emissions and green footprints. Burning fossil fuels and wasting electricity are top ways Nigerians emit carbon to the environment, so we are advised become energy efficient, switching off light bulbs and other appliances when there are not in use and avoiding wastage of resources, which need energy to create like water. For as many that can plant trees please do, as trees help trap these carbon from getting to the atmosphere.

What are the most significant challenges in Nigeria and our environment?
A significant environmental challenge in Nigeria right now is food supply and security of citizens with their interactions with the Fulani herdsmen, whether we agree or not, the tomato scarcity that arose from a Pest infestation is an environmental issue that could have plausibly been avoided. The unnecessary killings we have witnessed as a result of land use for the cattle’s of Fulani herds men are all environmental and social issues.
Then again, there is this issue of pollution, which Nigerians have done little or nothing to recognize, the way we litter our environment and manage our waste all comes back to us in countless diseases and infections. We do not have to wait for an outbreak of Ebola or Lassa fever before we start practicing good waste management. I can only hope that with SustyVibes and other waste management initiatives like Recycle Points and Wecyclers, Nigerians would begin to understand the need to maintain a clean and green society.
Q. If individuals want to support local initiatives or NGOs tackling the environment, which ones do you recommend?
Support SustyVibes; we are a young organisation with a vision to not just improve the environment but also people and businesses. Other notable NGOs are Green Impacts Development Initiative, FABE International Foundation and Health of Mother Earth Foundation; (HOMEF) they are all doing amazing work for the people and the planet.

  • Makonor Daniel

    Great one Jennifer. Keep at SustyVibes, together we can make Earth a sustainable place for all. Cheers

  • Lotanna Ezeogu

    I love what Susty Vibes is doing.