Climate Advocacy is a Collective Venture - Environmentalist


Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari on September 23, 2019, at the United Nations Climate Action Summit and the 74th United Nations General Assembly in New York said: “we (his administration) will take concrete steps to harness climate innovative ideas by including youths in decision-making processes as part of our overall climate governance architecture.”

One of such youths interested in the United Nations' Sustainable Developmental Goals is Abibu Akeem, a graduate of Forestry and Wildlife Management from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.

 He recently coordinated the planting of 49 indigenous plants in Obada, Ogun State, Nigeria. 

In this interview, he shares the inspiration behind the idea and other thoughts about Climate Action with ALLI ABIOLA.


  ALLI ABIOLA of You are a graduate of Forestry and Wildlife Management. Have you always had this drive to advocate for the environment?

Akeem Olufemi (OLUFAIRME): I am a lover of Environment, that's why I took up Forestry course in the beginning, even though that wasn't the course I applied for. I have this desire to make people see the environment from my view (primarily conservative). But, you know, this advocacy isn't a one-man thing, a way to stay motivated is to get support from likely passionate minds and be in the right group.

How would you define Climate Change and what can we possibly do to address its impacts?

Climate change in its literal term is the alteration in climatic conditions caused not only by anthropogenic activities but some other science-explained phenomenon. However, the so much responsibility we humans placed on ourselves in response to climate change is because we are the major benefactor of its goods and bads, hence our existence solely relies on our actions or inactions.

Addressing climate change demands collaboration and diversification, in the sense that no single field can tackle climate menace, hence climate change is not the burden of only the scientist, all living actors from diverse fields must be engaged.

Tell us about your recent project where you planted 49 indigenous tree species in Obada, Ogun State.

The success of the project is primarily attributed to the willingness of the volunteers who found pleasure in the activity. The decision to plant 49 trees was ambitious and even more interesting because none of the volunteers had a science background, but were concerned and passionate about a sustainable environment.

You see, urban planning in this part of the world is poor, people build houses, erect structures, and so on with no proper planning. Often with little regards about cutting down trees, fragmenting habitats and altering a balanced ecosystem in the process. 

Many times, I want to get out of my room, walk a few meters or kilometers and enjoy nature, but you discover that the beautiful sites are fast disappearing, no thanks to unchecked urbanization and population growth. The ultimate goal of the project is to revive nature within the urban settlement via tree planting to make this environment sustainable again.

Most environmental advocates identify lack of commitment and interest by youths as a challenge. Did you encounter this and how did you get around?

Yes! I could have lost interest and commitment too because it was difficult convincing people around me. Understanding nature requires deep thought and perseverance but many out there are so obsessed with immediate and obvious results. Nature won't give you this two.

Thus the adoption of medium-long term objectives, solutions, achievements needs to be instilled in youths to promote their interest. Youths should have it in mind that true success lies in what you achieve with others, not what you achieve individually.

There seems to be no synergy between stakeholders involved in climate solution. How would you explain this?

Our government system has a role to play in this. Lack of synergy among Institutions, public parastatals, private enterprise, individuals impedes development. A lot of innovative projects lying in shelves of institutions, not translated into real-life situations. There really need to be a platform that strikes a balance among these major actors. With individual sentiment suppressed too!

Is there an existing database that profiles Forest statistics in Nigeria? How does the absence of data hinder economic growth?

If there is one, I'll love to access it. Sometimes we hear the forest status is 5%, <5%, 3% and so on, with no actual figure. One of the challenges we have in this country is that many forests exist or are protected only on paper, but are not available on the ground. In fact, I strongly suggest a forest resource assessment that cuts across all states of the federation to establish the true forest status.

Hence, a paucity of information on forest status will affect policy formulations, hinder the implementation of adequate developmental and Management measures.

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