By Aya Chebbi - 02 March 2015
Nkiruka Nnaemego has over fifteen years of experience working directly with children and youth focusing on green entrepreneurship, policy advocacy, research and training on volunteerism, peer mentoring and community development. Nkiru is a lawyer, an agricultural and livelihood, environmental activist, customer service and development practitioner who has passion for Volunteerism and Mentoring. In 2008, she founded and currently runs a youth organization – Fresh & Young Brains Development Initiative. She also founded Alexijan Consults in 2013 as a Consulting Firm aimed to promote social, green and business entrepreneurship among youth and professionals. Through her leadership and commitment, Nigeria currently has the National Youth Manifesto on Agriculture, Youth Advocacy Toolkit on increased investments in Small Scale Agriculture, Handbook for children on Clean Energy, Sustainable Agriculture and Peak Oil, Green Entrepreneurship Workbook for youth and community volunteers, among others.
As the CEO and founder of Fresh & Young Brains Development initiative, what is your main mission and how did you end up advocating for environmental responsibility?
I founded Fresh & Young Brains Development Initiative (FBIN) on November 27, 2008 as a non-political, non-profit and non-governmental organization that aims to stimulate positive change, promote social responsibility, environmental sustainability and spirit of volunteerism in our society as well as facilitate intergenerational relationships.
Our mission is to advance attitudes, policies and actions that promote justice, social inclusion, social responsibility and meaningful participation for children and young people in Nigeria and beyond, and encourages a more positive children/youth/adult exchange.
I got actively involved in environmental sustainability campaigns in 2004 during my study of Environmental Law at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus. I read about the work of the late Prof. Wangari Mathai and was really motivated to join the environmental campaign. Also, my lecturer, Mrs Ilegbune was a great mentor to me. These great women got me interested in environmental conservation. From my study of environmental law and with my background in Civil Society, I started conducting research and advocacy on climate change to the point that I was invited to join and lead various youth networks on climate change across Nigeria and Africa. I joined the Youth Working Group of NigeriaCAN which later became the NigeriaYouthCAN. I was the projects coordinator. From there, I got involved with African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC) when there was crisis in the National Leadership. As a result of my role in resolving the crisis and re-activating the National chapter of AYICC, the Continental Leadership encouraged me to contest elections as the regional coordinator. I contested with nine other youth across West Africa and emerged the winner. To date, I am still the West African Regional Coordinator of AYICC and hope to hand over soon. The experience in climate change advocacy has been exciting. I have been actively involved in climate change advocacy across the globe. In 2012, during COP 19 in Durban, I hosted a youth side event under our organization - Fresh & Young Brains Development Initiative with support from AYICC. I am also a member of the Global Young Greens - a movement of youth across the globe that promotes the green principles of gender, equity and environmental conservation.
Why is there a need for a new concept like green economy? And how can Africa actually benefit from it in an inclusive and equitable fashion, while taking into account Africa’s specific conditions?
Green economy is an economy that results in the improved well-being of human beings and their social equity while reducing their risks and vulnerabilities. I support green economy because it focuses on transforming economic activities and economies. Green economy is very important for us as a developing nation because it helps us to think of creative ways to promote inclusive growth without degrading our natural environment. We need to imbibe the principles of green economy so that we can successfully manage our ecosystems in a sustainable manner; reduce our vulnerabilities to climate change and increase our adaptive capacities. For Africa to benefit from green economy, there is a need to understand our peculiar needs and aspirations as a continent; review our country level National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAS); and promote a low-carbon based economic growth and social justice. For countries who are reliant on oil and fossil fuels, we need to adopt renewable and alternative sources of energy; stop gas flaring; promote biodiversity through Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+); and promote green entrepreneurship especially for youth and actors in the informal sector3.
What are the major impediments in Africa to date in mobilizing and accessing financial and other resources for sustainable development at the national, regional and global level, including for green growth?
Our cultural and religious diversities play a key role in Africa's mobilization of resources. Also, clarity on the definition and importance of green economy affects Africa. The concept of green growth has been a major source of debate among researchers and policy makers in Africa. Until the concept of green economy is well defined and adapted to suit Africa's peculiar needs, many countries may find it difficult to promote its principles, especially on the premise that we do not emit like the Annex 1 Countries. Thus, the issue of climate justice needs to be addressed and easy access to the Green Fund should be encouraged.
Can building a green economy enable countries to close the implementation gap on commitments made in Agenda 21, and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation? What are the opportunities for the continent?
Yes, it can. Africa has huge potentials for inclusive growth if the principles of green economy are promoted. For instance, in the Agricultural Sector, value addition can be introduced through the use of simple recycling and agro-waste management. We have great natural resources that can be used as alternative sources of energy (hydro and solar power) for electricity generation.
Tell us about the impact of your work and your future initiatives and actions towards green growth in Nigeria and Africa at large.
My organization has been at the forefront of climate change and green entrepreneurship initiatives across Africa. We conduct green entrepreneurship and agribusiness boot camps which we hope to further expand across Africa. We are currently working on establishing a Youth Farm (YFarm) Incubation Centre for African Youth in Agribusiness to provide a training centre (online/onsite trainings on green entrepreneurship and agribusiness), an integrated farm and agro-processing plant that adopts sustainable agricultural and environmental practices). We have a seed grant approval from the African Union Commission, UNDP and Federal Ministry of Agriculture (under her YEAP Grant) to start the Centre in Abuja.
You are a fierce advocate of youth participation in decision-making, what is your message to young Africans in order to engage in promoting green economy?
I encourage African youth to join AYICC and Global Young Greens to actively engage with our leaders in promoting green entrepreneurship in order to address employment and environmental conservation issues. I also encourage everyone to adopt my GDP - God, Determination to make a positive change, and Passion to succeed.
An award winning Tunisian blogger and activist.
Read her personal blog Proudly Tunisian at http://aya-chebbi.blogspot.com