Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Greening Innovation

I remember travelling to Sokoto for the first time and being struck by how arid the land was - you could see far into the distance, and only see sand.   I understand it wasn’t like that decades ago.  Desertification is the result of climate change and global warming effects in that part of Nigeria.  Although there have been several campaigns urging communities to plant more trees as a means of mitigating desertification, it doesn’t look like these campaigns have been very successful.  On the other hand it might just be that the trees being planted cannot keep up with the rate of those being felled.  Tackling the root of the problem, which is finding an alternative to firewood energy for cooking is the approach adopted by SIFE in Katsina State.  Sokoto State may soon benefit from a similar approach.

SIFE is an international nonprofit organization that works with business and academic leaders to improve life through the “positive power of business.”  They run programs with students in tertiary institutions.  In Nigeria, they work with 44 institutions covering 27 states.

To confront the problem of desertification in Katsina State, SIFE with the support of First City Monument Bank (FCMB) and a Katsina based NGO, Service to Humanity Foundation developed the Evergreen project.  The project addresses the challenges of deforestation and desert encroachment by training participants on the production, use and commercialization of briquettes, an environmentally friendly alternative to gas, kerosene and coal.  Briquettes are blocks of flammable matter used to start and maintain a fire and are made from agricultural waste.  The use of briquettes automatically means a reduction in the need for firewood and also opens up new business opportunities for the people of the area.

The communities involved in the project were also provided with the Save80 stove and trained on how to use it.  This is a type of stove that is energy efficient because it reduces the amount of energy consumed by the traditional cooking methods by at least 80 per cent.  In the first phase of the program two hundred and fifty (250) project beneficiaries were recruited from ten (10) communities in two Local Government Areas of Katsina state and trained on the production, use and commercialization of briquettes.  However it has been expanded using the “train the trainer” approach.  This is hoped will not only expand it but ensure the project’s sustainability.  

One interesting thing about this project is the fact that the technology was developed by students of the Federal University of Technology Owerri.  This shows the potential that Nigerian students have to innovate and be creative in developing technologies that suit Nigeria’s particular needs.

The U.S. Mission to Nigeria has become involved in the project and it will now be extended to Sokoto State with the same success story expected.  The Katsina project is a case of different groups in the society coming together to find a solution to an environmental problem.  In what ways can environmental issues in your community be tackled without relying on government?

No comments:

Post a Comment