Supporting Gbagyi women in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory to earn income from waste upcycling and business mentorship
all photos featured with permission from devimpath
By Glory Amarachi Brendan-Otuojor, 2023 GEN Seed Funding Recipient
A recipient of the Global Diversity Foundation’s GEN Seed Funding, Glory Amarachi Brendan-Otuojor from Nigeria is supporting 25 Gbagyi women in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to earn income from waste upcycling. Her GEN Seed Project funding focuses on training women in Nigeria on waste upcycling and business mentorship to enable women to run their own successful waste to wealth business in the future. The goal of the project is to create alternative income opportunities for women from waste and discarded materials that could have found their ways into the environment, landfills and drainage systems.
According to waste statistics, Nigerians generate over 10,000 metric tons of waste per day, out of which only 32% is recollected from the environment, upcycled or recycled into reusable items. The remaining waste is dumped indiscriminately into the environment or burned in landfills, thus contributing to pollution and health hazards. Among this waste is plastic pollution which seems to be more threatening as it is said that Nigeria uses over 1.5 million metric tons of plastic each year, generating about 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, the highest in the whole of Africa. Sadly, over 88% of the plastic waste generated in Nigeria is not recycled but disposed of in a way that ends up in water bodies.
Glory’s upcycle training for women is part of her organization, Development Impact Pathfinders Initiative’s Community Livelihood Alternative Program (CLAP) which aims to empower women with alternative livelihood and business skills to help them conserve natural resources within their communities instead of depending solely on them for livelihoods. Waste upcycling contributes to reducing plastic pollution and protecting the environment. It also creates aesthetic values and income opportunities for creatives. The project will empower women with alternative income skills and opportunities to create wealth from waste, conserve the environment and contribute to mitigating climate change.
The specific objectives of the project are:
This is the pilot of the project, which began with 25 Gbagyi women in FCT. Gbagyi people are indigenous people found predominantly in the FCT and a few other states in the north-central geo-political zone of Nigeria. Gbagyi women are predominantly firewood sellers and farmers. They are remarkable for the way they bear heavy loads on their shoulders instead of their head, a practice they say is rooted in their respect for the head, believed to be the “king” of the human body in their culture. The choice of Gbagyi women for this pilot project is based on the fact that the main occupation and source of livelihoods of most Gbagyi women in rural and peri-urban communities in the FCT is wood harvesting for production of firewood and charcoal.
This practice is detrimental to their health and the environment in the face of climate change and heightened desertification as trees serve as storage for carbon and protection from global warming. Trees also serve as habitats for many animals and birds and cutting them down for firewood and coal making leads to loss of homes for animals which in turn harms the ecosystem. It also leads to land degradation and loss of biodiversity, affecting sustainability of the environment and food security.
This [wood harvesting for production of firewood and charcoal] practice is detrimental to their health and the environment in the face of climate change and heightened desertification as trees serve as storage for carbon and protection from global warming.
Aside from the environmental impacts, this livelihood practice also has health risks on the women as they trek long distances to harvest and sell their firewood, exposing them to harm a long the way. Also, the financial benefit of this practice is not sustainable, leaving many of the women unable to meet their financial obligations to their families.
During the planning, Glory and her team, accompanied by the women leader of the Gbagyi Women Association in Karu Abuja visited the Chief’s palace to inform the council members of the project and seek their support and endorsement of the project. The council comprised of district heads and chiefs of several communities received the project with much enthusiasm and prayed for its success.
Identification and selection of participating women was done through the Gbagyi Women Association.The chosen women participated in the planning of the training especially in making decisions about the venue, dates and time of training.
It is my belief that when these women complete the training, they would have mastered the art of converting waste materials into useful products that they could sell and earn income to support their families while promoting environmental sustainability. The project consists of two weeks of hands-on practical training where the women learn how to make useful interior décor products and furniture from scrap materials, plastics, old tyres, cartons, fabrics and beyond. This will be followed by business mentorship sessions and environmental advocacy training for a period of three months.