FWANGMUN OSCAR DANLADI leads a movement of young people in Nigeria who have found a way to turn the country’s huge problem of electronic waste into a thriving and sustainable business. In this episode he tells us his story, and shares tips if you would like to doing something similar. You can listen to the episode in full below, or scroll down and read the highlights.
As well as being a problem, waste can be an opportunity
Oscar, who leads a youth movement in Nigeria called the Jos Green Centre, explains that waste is a huge problem in his country. He says it is not because people do not care about the environment, but because they feel they have no option but to dump it. As well as polluting the environment, the mounds of waste have an impact on people’s health and well-being.
However, waste can also be viewed as an opportunity - a goldmine in fact! Oscar says, ‘We looked at the huge goldmine of electronic waste and we brought in the young people and said, “What can we do with this?” And we were amazed to discover that there were young people who could take this electronic waste and build an entire system of solar energy!’
Thinking in a circular way can result in both environmental and economic sustainability
Over the last few years the Jos Green Centre has become a hub for eco-entrepreneurship: businesses that aim to operate sustainably and help to solve environmental problems. A lot of their initiatives are based on a way of thinking called the ‘circular economy’.
We often consume resources in a linear way: we make or buy items, use them and then throw them away. At this end point all the energy, water and materials used in making the items are thrown away too. Oscar refers to this as a ‘buy, use and dump’ culture.
In contrast, the circular economy keeps resources in use for as long as possible. Many items such as computers, phones and other electrical goods can be repaired or the parts reused for something else when they break. This creates job opportunities and reduces
Oscar explains that this circular way of thinking fits well with the traditional Nigerian worldview. He says, ‘There is no word for waste in our indigenous languages. Rather, you consider something to be not usable now, or something to be kept for later use, or something to be given to someone who needs it. Resources are moved around different sectors and industries and in the long run you do not have anything called waste.’
At the Jos Green Centre many young people have now received training in how to make solar power systems from electronic waste. This is resulting in new opportunities for employment, as well as reducing waste and addressing local needs for affordable, sustainable energy.
The young people are motivated to get involved because of their desire to make a difference
‘The young people come from a place of faith, value and just wanting to make a difference,’ says Oscar. ‘The biblical resource, Live Justly, is a ten week course that encourages the participants to think deeply about ten critical areas of justice, including creation care. Every young person goes through the study in a group. They are then invited to a workshop that inspires them to think about the Nigeria they want to see.’
‘There is a predominant narrative that anything led by young people should not be considered serious and will crash,’ Oscar continues. ‘But the youth are the greatest resource that Africa has, and we are seeing amazing results. Lives are being changed and communities impacted by these young people. They are at the heart of volunteerism and they are helping their communities to flourish.
‘Young people have huge potential to think creatively, to innovate and to be problem solvers. We help them to reimagine Nigeria and see how their skills can be useful. We encourage them to be ready to go against the wind and just make a difference.’
Start by developing a vision for your community
Oscar explains that the best way to get started in this kind of initiative is to develop a vision. ‘How do you want your community to be in five or ten years time?’, he asks. If it is a broken community, see it as a flourishing community. Then walk together with others and help them to join the vision.
‘We can make a difference and it begins now - with passion and creativity. Believe in yourself and in what God wants you to do.’