My name is Chika Ugochi Onyekwere. I am a native of Abia state, Nigeria, and a chemical engineering graduate of the Federal University of Technology in Owerri. As a social entrepreneur, I create change in my community by escalating the need to protect the environment and help people live healthier lives. I recently founded Renew Energy Enterprise, which is a dynamic social enterprise focused on creating green-energy solutions to combat climate crises and tackle environmental challenges.
I grew up in Aba, a city of about 2 million residents. Aba is an industrious city, home to services and products embraced locally and exported abroad. This high level of trade generates a waste management issue. As a child, I saw dumps and the burning of unsorted waste on almost every pathway between my school and my home. According to a 2016 report by the Abia State Environmental Agency, Aba sadly generates about 800–950 metric tons of waste daily. The Nigerian government has committed itself to reducing carbon emissions 20% by 2030. While government intervention is necessary, individuals need to also take responsibility.
My team at Renew Energy Enterprise is primarily young people ages 12 to 19. We organize awareness and educational programs on climate-endangering practices and environmentally friendly habits through online and offline campaigns.
What we do and teach during our campaigns:
- Recycling and reuse of plastics.
- Tree planting and cleanup exercises.
- Educational outreaches (e.g., waste sorting).
- Physical exercises.
- Online awareness focused on environmentally friendly resources.
Our impact on the community:
- More than 400 households have taken action to stop indiscriminate waste disposal and reduce their carbon footprint by reusing plastic products.
- Exposure to health risks due to artificial dumpsites has been reduced by 2% in Aba.
- More than 5,000 people are aware of environmental challenges and how they affect the world.
- More people are signing up to volunteer and participate in this initiative. Their ideas and perspectives are of significant value to our cause as it sharpens our goals to meet target needs like SDG7.
Our campaigns are predominately organized offline, and we use our social media platforms like Instagram to share educational articles. We plan each campaign in accordance with environmental and climate awareness international days.
One noticeable challenge is getting people to act. It’s one thing to advocate and hold campaigns, but sustainable action comes from the will and resolve of the people. This is where I believe we need the government. Policies, laws, and regulations for environmental protection create greater chances of sustainability for citizens. Suppose a person is taught how to reduce waste and the government doesn’t provide continuous public disposal units to collect it. In that case, people will be forced to dispose of their waste by the most convenient means. Governments should make it easier for people to participate in environmentally friendly actions.
My advice to YALI Network members is that we should begin to take action immediately. No action is insignificant. It is everyone’s responsibility to protect our environment and fight climate change, and the lack of actions of others should not cause our inaction. We are the changemakers, so it is wise to drive the change we need to see. Africa is blessed, and it is our job to keep it clean, green, and our people healthy.
Are you interested in learning more about how to make a positive change in the environment? Visit our YALI4OurFuture page for more tools and resources.
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author or interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.