Ignorance of the people: the biggest challenge of the environment - Wonne Afronelly
The International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) is a global event initiated by Ocean Conservancy (OC) since 1986. The aim is to engage citizens to remove trash and debris from beaches and waterways all around the world, identify the sources of debris, and change the behavioral patterns that contribute to pollution.
“My Environment My Wealth”, a Port Harcourt based environmental group held their 2nd Port Harcourt Beach cleanup event in a glamorous way on the 30th of September, 2017. The team lead, Wonne Afronelly maximized the day to engage young people in the Cleanup of Port Harcourt Tourist Beach and later celebrated her birthday with the participants, mostly secondary school students.
In this interview with Alli Abiola, Afronelly shares insights on Coastal Cleanup, Environmental advocacy and youth engagements. Excerpts..
You just had the 2nd Port Harcourt Beach Cleanup. What is your review of the event?
The event was successful especially with respect to kid’s participation as most look forward to another fulfilled cleanup exercise. This year's cleanup had 3 primary schools, and individuals from other schools plus adult volunteers.
"My Environment, My Wealth" held the 2nd Port Harcourt beach cleanup, 1st one was organized by Afronelly for Clean Coast Nigeria (mother body - Ocean Conservancy).
Port Harcourt Beach Cleanup is not your first, take us memory lane – how you started and what it’s been like.
Wonne Afronelly started Environment Advocacy in 2012 as a team lead for Clean Coast Nigeria: International coastal cleanup - Lagos bar beach cleanup Oct 2012 organized by Kofi Renner. Afterwards, she introduced cleanup exercises to 2 new states; Rivers in 2013 and Oyo in 2014 for Clean Coast Nigeria.
In a bid to ensure consistency, sustainability and passion to keep making continual impact, she was not discouraged by Kofi's absence as he's still studying in the UK and has put activities on hold, she decided in 2016 after her NYSC, to start off an indigenous group that talk about all aspects of environmental education and protection.
You have been very involved in Environmental advocacy – particularly using your radio platform: My Environment, My Wealth. What level of impact would you say has been made?
It has been fun, demanding, challenging, motivating and inspiring! The media environment advocacy program is not just a radio program.
From the interactive session with schools in Port Harcourt, Dec 2016 to World Environmental Education Day Sensitization Jan, 2017; World Water Day Campaign March 2017, World Environment Day #1000ManMarch #withnature June 2017. We can say – wow, it is right!
I and the team are working on ways to measure our impact – although, it may not be easy or precise, we can say apart from family and friends and get very conscious about littering around us, we have captured 10 schools that engage in good environmental practices. There are still lot of work to be done as we intend to cover up to 50 schools including tertiary institutions.
There were other options for you to have celebrated your birthday. Why did you choose to spend the day organizing the Port Harcourt Beach Cleanup to mark International Coastal Cleanup?
A good option with available cash at hand would have been a weekend with nature at the Obudu Cattle Ranch (smiles). But like one of my team members: Ose aptly said: "On the 30th day of September a child was born and the burden of the environment was gonna be on her shoulders".... in Merlins voice. (lol).
When you realize your purpose for life on earth, it's best you start living the life already. Point is - I made up my mind to impact as many lives to equal the number of days I have lived on earth almost 11000 days.
Having this as priority, it would have been of no profiting to me to mark my birthday without making impact.
What’s the bigger picture for future beach cleanup beyond Ibadan, Lagos and Port Harcourt?
Hopefully, we would take the beach cleanup to other coastal regions in Nigeria (Delta, Cross-river, Bayelsa, AkwaIbom, Edo), and also non-coastal regions. Our water ways are flooded daily with trash. When and if we can reduce or stop the influx of trash from the point of generation, then we can say - OK.
What are some of the biggest challenges you see people facing when reducing waste from the environment?
Waste management system or structure usually is a major challenge apart from ignorance and poor understanding of laws and policies. When the government decides to control and manage the entire structure for waste management without employing Private Partnership, it is quite difficult especially when laws and policies are not implemented or enforced. Whilst some communities and neighborhoods have appropriate temporary dumpsites, most of lack appropriate locations – hence, they dump indiscriminately.
Ignorance of the people about laws and policies, sociocultural reasons, non- cooperation from citizens, unwillingness of citizens to pay any stipents for waste evacuation, political reasons.
What are some of the innovative brands that are doing some good things with reducing waste from the environment?
GoGREENwithAfronelly - An environment club newly introduced to schools to work on projects that convert waste to usefulness with or without recycling. Waste Revalued – a group I met at the Port Harcourt environment summit, they convert plastic to interlocking stones, usually mixed with sand.
As a female environmentalist, how do you juggle work and family?
Lol. I have the best understanding and supportive family. I usually work with prior schedules, helps a lot. Dad still uses food time table in the kitchen, so it's an easy method to adopt.
Don't get it wrong, sometimes house chores suffer because I have to work.
On a final note, What is the favourite way to start your day and what defines a fulfilled day for you?
Favourite way to start my day! - With music (singing), recap previous day, score myself sincerely then add new schedule for the day to activities. Fulfilled day: when I can count how many lives I impacted in a day, it's fulfilling, when I can't count, it is more of a wish I lose track daily.