‘We want children to start thinking of how to proffer solutions to environmental challenges’

MfonOver the years, the Mfon Edet Educational Foundation has been in the forefront of promoting the culture of environmental conservation by educating the populace on the effects of improper waste management and wealth opportunities in waste. And to mark this year’s World Environmental Day (WED), the foundation hosted the third edition of the Youths for Green Economy event. Sponsored by leading retail shop giant SHOPRITE, the event attracted students from different schools in Lagos, who took part in the essay and art competition in accordance with the theme of this year’s environmental day, Go Wild For Life. In a chat with the Vice President of the foundation, Mfon Edet, she spoke on the significance of the project and why the organisation has resolved to get young people involved in the campaign.

What’s the significance of today’s event?
Actually, today is World Environmental Day, so, we are marking the day and the theme for this year is Go wild for life. Though this theme is a worldwide theme, here in Nigeria, we also have our own peculiar problems with environmental issues. Though we have wild lives that are endangered here in Nigeria, there are other immediate problems that are being faced the country such as flood, deforestation and even the inappropriate way of disposing refuse, which are affecting us. These are things we are trying to tackle with programme like this.

You decided to get children involved in this initiative, what’s your motive?
We believe in catching them young and it has been difficult to get the adults to start with. So, if we use the children by starting now to educate them and teaching them the importance of the gifts of nature, the act of keeping their environments clean, disposing their wastes properly and other benefits they can derive from nature, the better for us. We want to show them the possibility of creating wealth and jobs opportunities from waste managements.

A lot of people have talked about recycling, to what extent will that help improve the environment?
The benefit of recycling cannot be overemphasised because, there’s so much in waste in which people can harness the opportunity and create wealth. These are things we must make the children to understand and so, we have to start now and educate them to know this. That way, we can be sure that in future, we would have a better place to live; a better and safer environment.

By your own assessment, how many jobs can we create through recycling and how will that help the nation in general?
When you are recycling, a whole lot of jobs are created. We need people to collect these wastes from homes or wherever they are being deposited; we need people that will take them to where they are going to be sorted out. Then, these wastes are sent to companies where they are going to be recycled into something very useful and there, people are needed to work too. After these products have been manufactured, you are going to need people that would be marketing them. By so doing and through all these processes, they are creating more jobs and millions of people in the process will be gainfully employed.

What’s the role of government in ensuring this initiative yields expected result?
If we understand that these things are really causing problems not to the government directly, but to us as individual, then we don’t have to wait for government. They are trying their best, but I think we need total re-orientation. First of all, we need people to really understand the effect of dumping wastes indiscriminately. For how long will we continue blaming government? Government can only try their best, but we, as Nigerians, need to do something on our own to save the situation. The environment belongs to all of us.
The theme for this year’s World Environmental Day is Go Wild for Life, how would you relate that with Nigerian situation?
Go Wild for Life is about animals that have gone on extinct. So, it’s about going wild for wild life; going out for wild animals that are for now being exported or going on extinction due to illegal trade. We need to preserve them because, by the time we allow them to go into extinct further, the benefits we would have derived form these animals would have been lost completely and that will cause an imbalance in the ecosystem.

You organised an essay competition for the children, what’s the idea behind that?
The children wrote an essay competition where they wrote on some things they are passing through right now and what they can also benefits from the nature. They wrote on climate change, one of the biggest threats of the 21st century; pollution issues and all the things that are affecting us as humans. We want to get the children to start thinking of how to proffer solution to environmental challenges.

What’s you impression with the issues the children tackled in the essay?
It has been overwhelming what these children put down in their essay and thanks for our sponsors because, these children are going to go back with some gifts to show for their efforts. And it is not just about them writing the essay and winning a prize but it is a win – win venture, because it is going to bring back one very big culture that we have lost due to the effect of technology; getting children to sit down and write these things has helped them imbibe that culture of writing and reading.

It is very amazing what they hope for the future through what they wrote and if we do not start making effort right now to achieve their hopes and aspirations, in ten years from now, what they wrote may not be attainable; that will be very disappointing and discouraging for them. They are going to be given certificates and gifts from our sponsors. We also have plans to publish their essays for people to read far and wide; this is the children’s dreams and passion. This is the future they have in mind, which they have put in writing and if we don’t start now to take action, this dreams may not be realised.

What other initiatives do you have under this foundation?

Mfon Edet Educational Foundation has different initiatives that we carry out; this is just an aspect of it, which is an environmental initiative to mark the World Environmental Day. We also have other initiatives such as World Health Day, the International Women’s Day where we get to carter to women. We also have the initiative for capacity building and other initiates that we can also carry out for the benefit of humanity as a whole and not just for school children.

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