Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria | Zero Waste Management Model in Nigeria
By Ubrei-Joe Maimoni
Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has focused its efforts on promoting our zero-waste model more vigorously. The model has great appeal and enables the potential for a shift from plastic utilization and a move towards separation at source, composting, recycling, and waste reduction mechanisms in communities where the model is situated.
The initial process was initiated in 2021 in Edo and Akwa Ibom States, Nigeria. As a result of our work with our Zero Waste Ambassadors in 2022, we are excited that plans have been put in place to start similar schemes in four additional states, these include Delta, Lagos, Bayelsa, and Plateau. This will bring the total number of states we are working in, to six.
The project has successfully created three critical structures; it includes the Zero Waste Ambassadors; the Waste Parliament, which is an informal structure but the decision-making organ of the project; and the Zero Waste Academy, which is the platform for strategic capacity building.
Our organization introduced participatory decision-making in the waste management sector as part of this project. This recognizes the rights of impacted host communities to waste dump sites, and it also recognizes waste pickers. Participatory decision-making is enabled through an effective waste policy option, which is done by collaborating with a coalition of Zero Waste Ambassadors.
Zero Waste Ambassadors:
In 2022, the Zero Waste Ambassadors were trained by a Waste Parliament (WAP) before they were deployed as an alliance-building group that connects grassroots movement-building to a global coalition. Their presence is a critical strategy for strengthening waste management advocacy, and they demonstrate the need to adopt and practice zero waste to communities and relevant government agencies. So far, the Zero Waste Ambassadors have been in touch with some very important communities that are hosts to waste dumpsites including Akpayak and Otofure in Akwa Ibom and Edo states, respectively. The communities in Akwa Ibom and Edo States, especially those hosting the dumpsites for the waste generated in urban areas of the project states, are very vital to driving the solutions that our project aimed to bring to the table.
Working with key communities:
Identified communities in this project reside close to waste dump sites. They face a lot of challenges, such as disease outbreaks, ground and surface water pollution, air pollution, and pathogen invasions. We facilitated community dialogues, which gave members of these communities the opportunity to contribute to achieving zero waste.
Four community dialogue sessions were held during the entire duration of the project. On the 9th and 17th of September, two community dialogues were held at Otofure and Akpayak communities in Edo and Akwa Ibom States, respectively, which represented phase one of the community dialogue sessions held. Before then, an advocacy visit was paid to the clan heads of both communities by the project team members to inform them about our project and the activities in the communities. These visits were made to obtain their buy-in (consent) for the project. The second phase of the community dialogues was also held in Otofure and Akpayak communities on February 16th and 8th, 2022.
Zero Waste Academy:
During this project, four sessions of our Zero Waste Academy were held every quarter of the year in Benin City and Uyo, with a total of 91 stakeholders. Through the academy, ERA/FoEN trained and graduated many stakeholders from diverse sectors, including industries, government, CSOs, academic, religious, and community-based organizations.
Our Waste Parliament brought government stakeholders to sit in the same room with the community, waste pickers, church, and non-church actors to discuss and develop strategies for the effective implementation of zero waste plans. The parliament further evaluated the progress made in the waste management sectors in both states. Four parliaments were organized, two parliaments per state, with the initial target of reaching out and engaging with eighty people. One of the high points of this activity was using the parliament to unite the GAIA Nigeria team and impact policy change in the waste sector, which was achieved.
We successfully integrated informal workers into the zero waste advocacy actions as a way to effectively engage with policymakers. ERA/FoEN contributed to waste management policies in Edo and Akwa Ibom States through the development of zero-waste advocacy materials, which were distributed to relevant government stakeholders to assist them in waste management decision-making.
The ERA/FoEN team also visited the relevant government actors and opened the channel of communication to the members of the Zero Waste Ambassadors, who now engage with policymakers in both states. The formation of the Zero Waste Ambassadors and the Waste Parliament has proved essential in carrying the message of zero waste to the grassroots. Members of these networks have started step-down training on achieving a zero waste community. We have noticed changes in governments’ efforts to respond to and address the waste management crisis. For example, the Edo State government has declared a state of emergency in the waste management sector. The Akwa Ibom state government has equally taken some positive steps to decommission the dumpsite located at the Akpayak community village road, which had created a lot of tension in the state capital. We have seen the relevance, effectiveness, and efficiency of various strategies used on the project in establishing key relationships and changing the attitudes of target beneficiaries. These have been achieved through the bottom-up, people-to-people zero waste attainment approach, which focused on supporting local-level cohesion with government and community-owned waste management and disposal mechanisms and linking communities with government and other actors where necessary.
Despite the impacts the project has had, we have observed that zero waste is a gradual process that needs time due to environmental and socio-economic factors. We also learned that diversity and inclusivity across divides, especially among marginalized groups, present opportunities for the voices and opinions of all groups to be incorporated into zero waste attainment. In 2023, we intend to incorporate these learnings into our plan. We will prioritize advocating for the implementation of the zero waste guidelines to support the reduction of single-use plastic packaging reduction efforts, plastic withdrawal from the environment using the expanded producer responsibility tools, and the banning of open dumping and incineration.
We look forward to more support for our work from the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), including the regional and local chapters as well as the Break Free from Plastic (BFFP) that we worked with very well in the year under focus.