In Nigeria, youth unemployment is a huge problem. Half of the country’s population is under the age of 30, and the public sector cannot absorb all those in need of work.
In Tearfund’s Nigeria office we wanted to find a way to address this issue. As part of our discussions around climate change, we decided to look at ways of turning garbage waste into jobs. Nigeria’s urban centers are full of garbage, especially plastic waste.
Inspiring young people
In 2015, we started working with a group of young people. The great thing about young people is that they aren't set in their ways like adults.
They’re able to explore and innovate, and are not afraid to fail.
Together, we set up the Jos Green Centre, and eco-entrepreneurship business based on eco issues, such as renewable energy or anything that is environmentally friendly.
Seventy people are now part of Jos Green Centre, and we have started similar centers in each geopolitical zone of Nigeria.
When the young people come, we do not just send them to work – first, we take them through a resource called Live Justly. This introduces them to the biblical basis for what they are doing and the importance of advocacy and justice. It helps shape their values. Because it’s not just about jobs; we want to have value-driven youths who enable society to function the way it should.
Even before they finish the Live Justly course, the young people are inspired. They say their eyes are opened. I have seen it happen again and again, and I get so excited. They are able to engage creatively with environmental and other issues.
We held some initial exhibitions where young people displayed the products they made from garbage. This showed people what was possible. We took the products to workshops and events – the bangles, in particular, were incredibly popular. Next, we plan to train the young people in project cycle management and proposal writing so they can start their own enterprises.
Inspiring those in power
At one point, the young people went to ask the local government for permission to collect used flex banners from the streets and make them into plastic shopping bags. When they showed the officials the products they’d already made, they were given permission immediately. The officials were really impressed – they even offered to give the young people space in their office.
People are amazed at how a group of young people can come together and do something with what looks like nothing. We’ve told the government we plan to set up what we call a Climate Innovation Hub. This will be a place where young people can work on green issues and create products. The government has agreed to give us land and 1.5 million naira (about 4,800 USD) for this.
In the words of the youth, the process so far has been a “wow!” experience. They are surprised – but beyond that, they believe they can do something for themselves now. They can be independent and have a voice.
Visit livejust.ly to get the Live Justly book.
Ben Osawe is Tearfund’s Advocacy Manager for Nigeria.