PIMA BULLETIN NO 49
Part Two: A pluriverse of personal stories
Women, resilience, waste management, and technology
Setting the scene
The formal sector in many of the cities in Nigeria has failed miserably hence the pile-up of debris, refuse, and assorted waste in the streets and at the roadsides along intercity roadways. Thirty years ago, roadside waste included metal, rubber, glass, plastic, and more, from abandoned motor vehicles wrecked in road accidents. The demand for metallic scrap by local processing factories and for exportation to recycling plants outside the country has changed the face and character of the roadside waste. As metallic waste is removed for sale as scrap the threat to the environment remains (Zhang & Wang, 2010).
Literally, tons of waste made up of debris, refuse and household rejects line up the streets and roadsides in the towns and cities with the potential to cause flooding by obstructing the torrents of water in heavy rainfall. Poor infrastructure and a general absence of public water supply has led to the sale of potable water in sachets labelled “pure water” since the 1990s. The sachets abandoned by the customers bought from “pure water” hawkers, constitute a new environmental threat. The empty sachets of water litter everywhere and are an eyesore. Some women entrepreneurs have innovative ideas for tackling this menace. They are producing tiles and bricks from this plastic waste (Oyegoke, 2022). The production of building materials in commercial quantities from discarded plastic material lessens the volume of atmospheric pollution through the burning of plastic waste. Like plastic waste, discarded old motor vehicle tires on the side of the road are being recycled or exported, so are no longer burnt in the open. More women are coming forward to build enterprises that source waste for raw materials in production plants to meet societal needs and clean up the environment.
My study of environmental awareness among working women in a southwestern location in Nigeria, regarding household waste, led to a few interesting findings. A central aspect of the research was to evaluate the connection between household practices and the impact on the environment, including climate change. I found out that the group selected for study represented women who were hard working, diligent, and dedicated. They worked as civil servants; they supplemented their income by keeping home gardens to grow food crops or rearing livestock; they were committed to the general upkeep of community and family welfare.
My question was - how might the existing resources in the community be galvanized to solve the problem of waste at the household and community levels? The model outlined in the l Community Resilience Manual (2000) has been used successfully in Canada over the years. Can it be adopted and adapted to the Nigerian terrain? The women in the study were willing to learn more about the environmental implications of their individual and collective decisions and household practices. So, how could the resilience model be used to disseminate knowledge more widely about the connection between waste and climate crises? The women in the study were strategically located as civil servants and had influence. The women were also active participants in community life through their involvement with church, mosque, the open market, and so on.
The Community Resilience Manual (2000) identified four core components of the community. These are: (i) people; (ii) organisations; (iii) resources; (iv) community process. The first three dimensions describe the nature and variety of resources available to the community for development. The fourth component describes the approaches and structures available to a community for organizing and using these resources in a productive way.
The resources in Nigeria include the meeting places where traditional rulers communicate with the people. These embrace religious and social centers, marketplaces, etc. Resilience can be demonstrated at the level of leadership in various locations. For example, I witnessed leadership at the marketplace whilst growing up as I followed my mother to the open markets. She was one time the leader of kolanuts sellers in the community. I watched with keen interest how decisions on pricing a particular size basket full of kolanuts would sell on that day depending on the quantity of kolanuts available for sale that market day.
The same applies to other structures within communities. Community members are involved in decision making through the existing structures. These structures can be effectively used to engage people in participatory learning on the causes of climate change, how human practices can alter climatic patterns, the urgency of the situation, the danger and vulnerability, the options and mitigation strategies, how individual action adds to collective threats to humans and more-than-human life. Perceptions and attitudes are targeted at such levels as food preparation, waste management, farming, etc. If the people are well informed, mitigation and adaptation plans can also flow into the community structures.
It follows then that the general understanding is that climate action involves both personal and social change. Knowledge accruing from such community-based climate change education is likely to produce the right action for climate justice. The resilience model as described above seems capable of bridging the gap between positive attitude and action (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002).
About the Author
Dr Bolatumi Oyegoke is the Dean of Education at BAISAGO University, Gaborone, Botswana. She has lived and studied in three countries in Africa: Nigeria, her nationality, eSwatini and Botswana. Her research interests include: Community Development, Environmental Education, Eco-Feminism, Quality Assurance in Education, Teaching methodologies; Vocational Education and Training. Her educational background in the field of science is helpful in the field of Environmental Education where she has published a number of articles.
Centre for Community Enterprise (2000). The Community Resilience Manual. A Resource for Rural Recovery and Renewal. CCE Publications: Port Alberni, Canada. University Press.
Kollmuss, A. & Agyeman, J. (2002). Mind the gap: Why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behavior? Environmental Education Research, 8(3), 239-260.
Oyegoke, B. O. (2022). Feminist Ecology, Despoliation and Resilience in Environmental Education. Special Issue in Honour of Prof. Moteane John Melamu. Botswana Notes and Records, Vol. 54, BNR Online ISSN: 2709-7374
Zhang, Y. & Wang, Y. (2010). Impact of environmental pollution. In A. El Nemr (Ed.), Impact, monitoring, and management of environmental pollution. Alexandria, Egypt: Nova Science Publishers.