This project was implemented with seed funding from with SEED FUNDING FROM GLOBAL DIVERSITY FOUNDATION, UK.

Executive Summary

Development Impact Pathfinders Initiative (Devimpath) is a development organization whose mission is to positively impact the lives of people, improve development pathways for marginalized populations, build resilient communities, and contribute to accelerating progress towards a more equitable and sustainable society. Amongst other things, Devimpath builds citizen’s awareness of environmental changes and empower them with knowledge and important skills to take action that promote environmental sustainability and contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation. It also works with partners and sponsors to initiate and implement programmes that benefit vulnerable population especially women, girls and young people.

In March 2023, the Executive Director of Devimpath was awarded the GEN Seed Project funding of the Global Diversity Foundation (GDF). GDF is a UK based charity organization that works with changemakers to help communities & environments flourish by offering changemakers the resources they need to achieve solutions to complex challenges. The 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.

 With global warming and climate change having devasting impacts on lives, livelihoods, infrastructure and development across the world, conserving the natural environment and protecting our ecosystems can no longer be overemphasized. Sadly, the chunk of waste especially plastic wastes and other solid waste that are deposited into the environment are exacerbating the impacts of climate induced disasters such as flooding and erosion. In addition to these, human activities such as deforestation and land degradation are creating avenues for biodiversity loss, livelihoods loss, displacements and escalation of disaster risks. Addressing the climate change crisis require urgent actions that are intentional, people and environment oriented and sustainable. It is in this light that Devimpath initiated the waste upcycle training and business mentorship program.

This report presents the waste upcycle and mentorship training for Gbagyi women in Nigeria’s capital territory delivered over a period of 3 months period from May 2023 to August 2023.

 About the Program

The Waste Upcycle and Business Mentorship Program was conceived to empower women and girls including young boys with alternative income skills and opportunities to create wealth from waste, conserve the environment and contribute to mitigating climate change. The focus on waste upcycling is based on the fact that waste upcycling contributes to reducing plastic pollution and protecting the environment. It also creates aesthetic values and can be a source of livelihood and income opportunities for vulnerable population. It is also important to note that waste upcycling is a more sustainable and less technical form of waste recycling as the methods are mechanical and materials can easily be sourced within the immediate environment.

The target of the program is to train 1000 women and girls in the first two years of this program and support them with tools and incentives to thrive within the circular economy and sustainability space. The Program will also include establishing School Upcycle Clubs to get school children and students to learn in a fun way, how to convert solid waste materials and plastics into fanciful materials they can use to beautify their classrooms, school and homes while also contributing to environmental sustainability.

The Waste Upcycle Training and Mentorship for Gbagyi Women in FCT, Nigeria

 The pilot of the Waste Upcycle and Business Mentorship Program started in May 2023 with waste upcycle training and business mentorship for 25 Gbagi women in Nigeria’s FCT. The training was funded with the GEN Seed Project funding from Global Diversity Foundation, UK.  The Gbagyi women selected for the training are indigenous people who are predominantly firewood sellers and farmers.

The Gbagyi tribe in FCT constitute majority of the people who cut down trees to make firwood and charcoal for sale as a source of livelihoods within the FCT.  The practice of cutting down trees for firewood is detrimental to the environment in the face of climate change and heightened desertification. This livelihood practice also has health risks on Gbagyi women as they trek long distances to harvest and sell their firewood, exposing them to harm along the way. The financial benefits are equally not sustainable, leaving many of the women unable to meet their financial obligations to their families. With alternative livelihood skills such as waste upcycling, the women can be better able to conserve forest resources within their communities instead of depending solely on them for livelihoods. They can also be able to earn income to support their families, which improves their dignity and economic status in the home.

Components of the Program

The training consisted of information sessions, hands-on practical sessions and business mentorship sessions.

  1. Information sessions

During the information sessions, the participants were introduced to the basics of waste upcycling, the theoretical knowledge of waste management and environmental conservation. We also built the capacity of women on environmental conservation and advocacy and empowered them to become green ambassadors for the conservation of trees and natural resources in their communities.

  1. Practical sessions

Upcycling breathes new life into the discarded and turns it into something beautiful and useful. However, it is not just about transforming discarded materials; it’s about transforming our mindset towards waste. During the practical sessions, the women were trained to transform used tyres, glass/plastic bottles, fabrics, cartons etc into interior décor products, furniture, flower vases, and other useful products which they can sell to earn income to support their families or beautify their homes. Each practical sessions comes with demonstrations from the facilitators, then women are divided into five groups of five women each. Each group were inspired to put their creative thinking to use and come up with their own personal designs. They were also given take home assignments and projects.

  1. Business mentorship sessions

In the mentorship sessions, the women were trained to develop business plans, marketing strategy and mentored on how to run a waste upcycling cooperative society to ensure sustainability and wealth co-creation.

Program Outcome

During the program:

  • 100 old glass and plastic bottles were converted to flower vases and other interior décor materials.
  • 10 old car tyres were upcycled into tables, baby seaters and planters.
  • Several cereal cartons, tissue paper boxes, and beverage cans were also upcycled to fanciful décor materials and gift bags.
  • A substantial quantity of waste fabrics were reused to beautiful upcycled materials and damaged shoes were revamped to fashionable shoes.

These waste and discarded materials could have found their way into drainage systems and landfills, constituting pollution and environmental hazards that are detrimental to human and ecosystem health. So, aside the skills that the program helped the women to acquire, it also created environmental awareness among the women and their community and promoted waste upcycling and recycling as solution to plastic pollution and sustainable waste management. According to research, 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 are dumped indiscriminately into the environment or burned in landfills, contributing to pollution and health hazards. Among these are plastic pollution which seems to be more threating 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 in a way that they end up in water bodies.

 Livelihood impacts of the Program

  • 24 women and 1 man acquired new skills in upcycling of different waste materials
  • The training provided a fun way for the women to learn and acquire sustainability skills that enhances their capacity to adapt to climate change impacts.
  • The women learnt to work in groups and learn from each other
  • They also gained business skills with potentials of running and managing a small business
  • The participants developed a plan to launch a waste upcycle cooperative society.

Conclusion

The Waste Upcycle Training and Business Mentorship Program has shown that waste can be transformed into useful and usable materials and that people especially women and youths can acquire these skills to earn income and protect the environment. However, it is important that those trained are given incentives to set up their workshop to start their business. More people have also indicated interest of needing this type of skills to enable then actively participate in addressing both environmental and economic challenges within their communities. Therefore, we are seeking collaboration and partnerships in terms of finance and technical expertise in scaling up and expanding the Waste Upcycle and Business Mentorship Program.