Taking Environmental Cleanliness to Makoko

The wellness walk and sanitation exercise organised recently by FmACL in Makoko, Lagos, has motivated women in the community to intensify action on their environment, Peter Uzoho and Ugo Aliogo report 
It was a sort of operation show your neatness outside at Makoko, a slum community bedevilled by the harsh effect of unclean environment in Mainland, Lagos.
Although the women living in Makoko have been striving to control the incidence of dirt in and around the community, through the compulsory weekly sanitation exercise, but that could only achieve little or nothing owing to the fact that one vital area has not been worked on and incorporated into the exercise. And that was the mind of the people of the community which was only set towards keeping the inside of the rooms clean while leaving the outside to take care of itself.
However, that caught the attention of FmAdabale Consulting Limited, who through its community tour and sensitisation programme, decided to intervene to help the people have a different understanding of keeping environment clean.
So to FmACL, there was no better way to mobilise people to action than by using an organised women group in the community, who are known to be very powerful in stimulating others to take action.
Consequently, the wellness walk and sanitation exercise carried out recently round Makoko community saw women turn out in large numbers, dressed in white T-shirts customised for the outing, carrying placards with varying inscriptions such as ‘keep your environment’, ‘health is wealth’, ‘always clean up your mess’, among others. Accompanied by drummers and trumpeters, the women swirled and twirled at some points intermittently to show their excitement and willingness in the exercise.
The walk which started from Apollo Street terminated at Church Street junction, Makoko.
Managing Consultant, FmAdabale Consulting Limited, Mr. Olufemi Adabale, said the exercise was part of the community tour and sensitisation programme of the organisation which used to contribute to the development of Lagos State. He revealed that a recent survey carried out by the organisation showed that there were communities in the state who were not being remembered in the scheme of things and Makoko happened to be among them.
“Last year FmACL came with the initiative of community tour and sensitisation after we carried out a base-line survey of about 14 local governments in Lagos State and a number of communities, we interfaced with these 14 LGAs ranging from about 4 to 10. We worked with the Directors of Dr. Akinwunmi Ambode Campaign Organisation then. So in the course of carrying out this survey, there are a couple of things we discovered in communities within Lagos. We discovered that most of the communities are left behind; they are not being carried along in the mega city project of Lagos,” Adabale said.
“So the community tour and sensitisation is an initiative of FmACL which we want to use to contribute our own quota towards the development of Lagos State,” he added.
Telling more about Makoko and why they chose it as one of the communities to visit with the wellness and sanitation programme, Adabale said “What made us to come to Makoko is that Makoko happened to be one of the communities we have worked with and when we discovered that when you’re coming to Makoko through Iwaya Road or through Adekunle Estate, you see dirt everywhere. But if you’re privileged to enter the houses and rooms of this people you will discover that it may look small and scanty, but they keep them neat and tidy. So we now thought that the neatness they have inside, let’s try and help them show it outside.
“Often times they wait for government and government doesn’t come. So that was why we engaged the youth and the women folks. Today, we’re looking up to the women in the wellness walk. Today’s programme is called wellness walk and sanitation. So they’re channelling their energies outside of their living rooms,” he said.
Explaining further on the shape the clean-up exercise would take, Adabale said “By the time the women of Makoko come out we are going to organise them to pack dirt. They will pack gutters, pack their dirt, once it has been packed, those that have shops directly in front of these gutters are the ones to pack the dirt into the sacks. Now this is going to be a periodic exercise, we are looking at working with the women in Makoko on monthly or quarterly basis.”
According to him, “The effect is that by the time women come to pack your gutter for you, and then you will discover that before you can throw any trash inside the gutter, you will think twice. Because you will have at the back of your mind that women within this community have come out to pack your gutter for you. So the sense of having to drop trash in the sacks provided for you will be there. Also by the time you see them pack the gutter consecutively for two or three months you have to think twice before putting anything inside the gutter.
“We are looking at getting a bigger trash can that can be customised for their use, but by and large the idea first is to work on their mind-set on the habit of trashing their dirt. In the long run, perhaps, six months from now, we begin to get bigger trash can. And mind you the habit we are trying to build is that we don’t want a situation whereby they will pack dirt and it will overflow and they start packing it all over again.”
Adebale pointed out that they had partners who had been supporting them with some relief materials to achieve their targets. “We do have partners, like last year’s own, part of our partners was FrieslandCampina, producers of peak milk, but this year Cadbury supported us with some relief materials,” he added.
Also speaking, Founder and Leader of Iya- ni Wura, a woman group in Makoko community, Princess Maria Akinbule, said they had decided to help themselves and the government by taking up the responsibility of cleaning the mess in the community, saying that the women do sanitation within the community every two weeks in order to keep their surroundings clean. “We have decided to help ourselves and also help Lagos State Government by cleaning our environment every two weeks.
“Everybody thinks that Makoko is a dirty place, but that’s not true. We want the government to know that Makoko is not a dirty place as people believe. Government should not come and demolish this place for us. Poor people are living here,” she noted.
She explained that the association was formed as a platform for guiding their children on the right way to go for them to be responsible to themselves in future, noting that they have monthly seminar where every mother brings her children for training.
Akinbule who spoke in Yoruba language, lamented that poverty and lack of job for their children who they managed to train in schools was their major challenge, calling on government to come and help them.
“Government should stop playing politics; they should come and help us. We don’t have money, we don’t have food. Our children who we have managed to train in schools don’t have job,” Akinbule lamented.
Also to enable them maintain the regular clean up exercise they have embarked on, she called on government to assist them in the provision of some equipment to make their work easier and faster.
“We want government to assist us in doing this clean-up. We are begging them to provide us with food so that we’ll have the energy to be doing it. They should also give us some equipment like shovels, rakes, wheel barrows, trash cans, cutlasses, hoes, rain booths, hand gloves and other things,” she requested.