WasteWatch Africa: Introducing the Urban Slums Empowerment Programme (EcoStories).

In this series of Eco-Stories, we introduce to you a young Nigerian who has invested time and effort into tackling the issue of waste in Nigeria, from a perspective highly driven by social media. WasteWatch Africa is a popular waste-management resource easily accessible on all internet platforms and the brain behind this initiative is Suhaib Arogundade.

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Suhaib Arogundade is a First Class graduate of Civil Engineering from the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta and matches his dual passion for the environment and entrepreneurship in the WasteWatch Africa (WWA) venture. He is the team lead of WWA and develops strategies to achieve the organization’s goal and also initiates projects/programs in line with the organization’s vision, mission, and objective. What’s perhaps most interesting about the social enterprise is how strategically placed in the grassroots the organization is and how they have been able to mobilize a mass of people in the online community.

image3WasteWatch Africa was founded more than 2 years ago and was formerly an advocacy organization called GreenDIAMOND Initiative. GreenDiamond Initiative became WWA and expanded the scope of activities to include consulting, general waste management service, and research & development. WWA was registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission in March of 2013.”We want to be recognized as the leading waste organization in Africa that promotes the environmental, social, and economic benefit of sustainable waste management through advocating, consulting, and employment generation”, says Suhaib on the mission of WWA. Eventually, WWA set out to utilize the waste management sector in promoting national and African development and sustainable living. Presently, their operations are in Nigeria but there are plans to spread across Africa providing waste management solutions to individuals, businesses and government.

According to Suhaib Arogundade:

“We chose waste management as our core not only because of the passion we have for a clean environment or because of only the environmental impact of improper management of waste but also because of its social and economic impact on women and youth. We are working to create employment for this category of people through different initiatives because we know that the waste management sector is broad and can generate thousands of jobs, which is what we need at this time in Africa.”

Waste Watch Africa was birthed from Suhaib’s discoveries during his final year project. The First Class graduate used waste materials to clean-up soil contaminated from oil-spills and became intrigued by the possibilities of waste being converted to resources in Nigeria. According to Suhaib, “[waste in Nigeria] has social, economic, and environmental impacts which if managed efficiently could affect the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit.”

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Especially fascinating is their new program, Urban Slums Empowerment Program (USEPro), which is set up to create chains of small-scale employment and promote the ‘REUSE’ aspect of waste management. The initiative works on 3 principles: collection of used/unused items, re-branding / refurbish, training of urban slums dwellers with no source of income on basic selling skills, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy after which they will be equipped to join the chain of traders. “We decided to start USEPro because we constantly look for ways to create employment through using the waste management hierarchy…a principle in which our organization is based upon”, says Suhaib.

[For more specific information on the Urban Slums Empowerment Program, visit here.]

On his favorite part of working as the team lead of WWA, Suhaib says, “I enjoy the whole process of trying to troubleshoot solutions which must have social, economic, and environmental impact. This is because for every solution we provide to our client, we endeavor that it must affect the triple bottom-line.”

On contributing to Sustainable Development, Suhaib says:

“Sustainable development is fulfilling present needs without compromising needs of future generations. At WasteWatch Africa we are committed to the R’s of waste management which are rethink, reduce, reuse, recycle, and recover. It is our believe that in achieving sustainable development, all these R’s have to be considered in our daily lives so as to conserve resources and elongate the life cycle of those resources already in use. We therefore, have this at the back of our mind every time we engage in activities either as an organization or when partnering with others. You will also discover that what we are doing at WasteWatch Africa is crafted around achieving the Millennium Development Goals and looking further into Sustainable Development Goals that the international community is focused on now. So we are already strategically positioned to be engaged with by various concerned partners in achieving these goals.”

He continues:

“We are currently assisting a community in Lagos to set-up recyclable material collection and people have also been reaching out to us to assist them with same. Also due to our work we’ve been able to attract passionate individuals who work with us and secure partnership with both local and international organizations. Our major project currently is the Urban Slums Empowerment Program and we hope that this project will start in Nigeria and spread across other African countries.”

Recently, WWA was nominated as one of the waste influencers by ‘Be Waste Wise’. Through their advocacy outreach, the organization has been able to educate hundreds of students on the need for proper handling of waste and the corresponding benefits. One interesting thing happened last year, where WWA sent out a tweet about improper waste disposal in two different locations in Lagos and within a week, these locations were attended to by the authority.

On whether the organization plans to work with the government:

“Capital YES. In fact, we are currently in talk with Lagos State Ministry of Environment on developing lasting solutions on waste and environmental issues in the State. We hope that other States in Nigeria and African countries follow suit. Working with the government is very paramount in achieving success in waste management and also in tackling the enormous challenges facing Nigeria especially in waste management.”

Suhaib highlights that “the government cannot solve waste management problem alone neither can we so there has to be a synergy between businesses, social enterprises like WasteWatch Africa and government to ensure we achieve a sounding success. It will be worthy of mention that, that is what the developed countries do in achieving their waste management goals. It is our hope that we can work hand in hand with the government on policy formation and implementation. This is because as I mentioned earlier, we are close to the grassroot and for the government to ensure successful implementation of policies, it has to be crafted with the people in mind.”

The youths are not left out on how they can benefit from WWA, as the social enterprise is highly committed to young people. As part of WWA’s programs and activities, there’s an event tagged “Youth Summit” which would constantly engage youths by sensitizing them on opportunities embedded in waste management as a profession, to challenge the idea that waste management is a profession for downtrodden members of society because it is not true. This portion of the organization’s activities is especially important to Arogundade as the one thing he wishes he did differently was start earlier. To other young visionaries, he admonishes that “any young person who wishes to realize a similar project should just do it because if you dare to wait, you will over-think things and begin to feel you are incapacitated. Generally, I would like to tell every young person to look around them, identify a challenge, internalise it, and start working on solutions.”

WWA is currently recruiting volunteers for their USEProgramme and you can learn more about us here.

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