Ignorance Of The People: The Biggest Challenge Of The Environment — Wonne Afronelly

By Alli Sheriffdeen Abiola

The International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) is a global event initiated by Ocean Conservancy (OC) since 1986. The aim is to engage citizens to remove trash and debris from beaches and waterways all around the world, identify the sources of debris, and change the behavioral patterns that contribute to pollution.

“My Environment My Wealth”, a Port Harcourt based environmental group held their 2nd Port Harcourt Beach cleanup event in a glamorous way on the 30th of September 2017. The team leader Wonne Afronelly maximized the day to engage young people in the Cleanup of Port Harcourt Tourist Beach and later celebrated her birthday with the participants, mostly secondary school students.

In this interview with Alli Abiola, Afronelly shares insights on Coastal Cleanup, Environmental advocacy, and youth engagements.

You just had the 2nd Port Harcourt Beach Cleanup. What is your review of the event?

This year’s cleanup had 3 primary schools and individuals from other schools plus adult volunteers. The event was successful especially with respect to kid’s participation as most look forward to another fulfilled cleanup exercise.

With the help of the team members of “My Environment, My Wealth”, we held the 2nd Port Harcourt beach cleanup; I facilitated thefirst few years ago for Clean Coast Nigeria, a subsidiary of Ocean Conservancy.

Port Harcourt Beach Cleanup is not your first, take us memory lane – how you started and what it’s been like.

In 2012, I was the team lead for Clean Coast Nigeria: International coastal cleanup – Lagos bar beach cleanup. The event held in mid-October 2012, organized by Kofi Renner. This was the birth of a strongly Environment Advocacy for me. Afterwards, I introduced cleanup exercises to 2 new states; Rivers in 2013 and Oyo in 2014 for Clean Coast Nigeria.

Furthermore, in a bid to ensure consistency, sustainability, and passion to keep making a continual impact. Despite Kofi Reener’s absence (he was studying in the UK) I was not discouraged as to put activities on hold; I decided in 2016 after my NYSC, to start off an indigenous group that talks about all aspects of environmental education and protection.

You have been very involved in Environmental advocacy – particularly using your radio platform: My Environment, My Wealth. What level of impact would you say has been made?

It has been fun, demanding, challenging, motivating and inspiring! The media environment advocacy program is not just a radio program.

From the interactive session with schools in Port Harcourt, December 2016 to World Environmental Education Day Sensitization January 2017; World Water Day Campaign March 2017, World Environment Day #1000ManMarch #withnature June 2017. We can say – wow, it is right!

My team and I are working on ways to measure our impact – although, it may not be easy or precise, we can say apart from family and friends and get very conscious about littering around us, among many schools we have reached out to, we have captured 10 schools to engage students in good environmental practices. There are still lots of work to be done as we intend to cover up to 50 secondary schools, then move on to tertiary institutions.

There were other options for you to have marked your birthday, why did you devote the day to Port Harcourt Beach Cleanup?

I love the way a team member, Ose Egbie, captures his thoughts: “On the 30th day of September a child (Afronelly) was born and the burden of the environment was gonna be on her shoulders”…. in Merlin’s voice.

When one realizes the purpose for life on earth, it’s best you start living the life already.  Point is – I made up my mind to impact as many lives to equal the number of days I have lived on earth almost 11000 days.

So, having this as a priority, it just made sense to mark my birthday in a way that focused on making an impact. Well, a better option – with available cash at hand, would have been a weekend with nature at the Obudu Cattle Ranch.

Beyond a one-off beach cleanup in Ibadan, Lagos, and Port Harcourt, what is the bigger picture?

We are strongly resolute to take the beach cleanup to other coastal regions across Nigeria – Delta, Cross-river, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Edo; then extend our impact to non-coastal regions.

Our waterways are daily flooded with trash; my team and I look forward to a day when there’ll be no (or least) influx of trash from thepoint of generation. Then we can say – OK.

What are some of the biggest challenges you see people facing when reducing waste from the environment?

They are obvious! Poor waste management system or structure takes the lead. To be fair, ignorance on the part of residence takes a large portion in addressing the challenges too. While some communities and neighborhoods have appropriate temporary dump sites, most of the lack appropriate locations – hence, they dump indiscriminately.

In addition, a very poor, (in some cases total absence) of laws and policies to drive proper waste management makes the list ofchallenges in reducing/managing waste.

Imagine the resulting chaos when a state government is bent on single-handedly controlling and managing the entire structure for waste management, ignoring the efficiency of employing Private Partnership. Political bureaucracy!

Can you list some innovative brands positively influencing the environment?

There are a number of them, my top two picks are Waste Revalued and GoGREENwithAfronelly.

Waste Revalued – a group I met at the Port Harcourt environment summit, they convert plastic to interlocking stones, usually mixed with sand.

GoGREENwithAfronelly – An environment club newly introduced to schools to work on projects that convert waste to usefulness withor without recycling.

As a female environmentalist, how do you juggle work and family?

Smiles, I am fortunate to have the best understanding and most supportive family. It is very important for me to have a clear working schedule, it helps a lot. Thankfully, Dad still uses food timetable in the kitchen, so it’s an easy method to adopt. Don’t get it wrong, sometimes house chores suffer because I have to work.

On a final note, What is the favourite way to start your day and what defines a fulfilled day for you?

Favourite way to start my day! – With music (singing), recap previous day, score myself sincerely then add a new schedule for the day to activities. Fulfilled day: when I can count how many lives I impacted in a day, it’s fulfilling, when I can’t count, it is more of a wish I lose track daily.

Posted by on 27/11/2017. Filed under Enivironment, Interview. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Please Leave a Reply