The Commonwealth Youth Council met with Adeniyi Ayoola, a Young African Leaders Initiative alumni who loves to volunteer especially for SDG13. Adeniyi Ayoola is the founder of the Initiative for A Greener Africa, IGAfrica, a social entrepreneurship firm working to build the capacity of rural youth and women to become more productive, creating awareness on climate change and promoting gleaning services.
Q: So tell us what motivates you to work on SDG 13 and also look at sustainable consumption and production that was the theme for the International Youth Day?
A: Nigeria, the country with the largest black population in the world remains an import dependent nation, producing less and importing more. With an increasing food import bill running into billions of dollars annually, Nigeria’s local economy continues to suffer as the country continues to import foods with which, it has comparative advantage over. Nigeria though, has over 85 million uncultivated hectares of arable land for farming, the mass of its population particularly children and women, remain undernourished and vulnerable to malnutrition, hunger and food related diseases. Hunger and malnutrition, according to UN World Food Program (WFP) account for more deaths than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
The increasing aging gap of farmers is yet another challenge I am working to bring to a halt. Youths don’t consider farming “cool” enough compared to the scarce white-collar jobs. This is also responsible for the mass exodus of the youth from the rural areas to the congested cities in search of greener pastures. The lack of youths’ interest in sustainable food production and consumption is a big threat to this generation and the generations yet unborn. Over-dependency of Nigeria and Africa on food importation will continue to make other nations and continents flourish at the expense of its people and local economy.
According to the United Nations World Population Prospects, The 2015 Revision:, Nigeria’s population is expected to surpass the United States, to emerge as the 3rd country with the largest population in the world by 2050. Since the youth are not interested in farming, plus the challenges posed by global warming which is affecting sustainable food production and consumption across the world, collaborative efforts must be intensified to prevent the looming food crisis, which may ravage Nigeria and Africa, if it is not nipped in the bud.
In summary, due to the interconnectivity of the 17 SDGs, the continuous sustainable production and consumption by Nigeria and other countries of the world, will aid in reducing the impact of global warming, poverty, hunger and over-dependency of countries on foreign aids.
Q: What are the different initiatives you have in place?
A: School gardening fan club for high school pupils. This is to raise young farmers for the Africa’s future.
School for the underprivileged. This forms part of my contributions to the SDGs, particularly goal 4 (quality education). My focus is to bring quality education closer to the underprivileged children of widows, single mothers, and persons living with disability in rural communities.
Organic vegetable farming training and empowerment for transitioning school pupils, particularly, the girl child. Girls in rural areas have their dreams and aspirations of becoming professionals shattered, for lack of funding to proceed to tertiary institutions.
Tree planting and climate change awareness in 10 secondary and 5 primary schools.
Adopt a school child. This initiative allows an individual or group of people to take over the responsibility of paying for the tuition fee and other associated costs of at least a pupil of primary and or secondary school up to college level.
Fish hatchery and processing training for the youth, to reduce unemployment and over-dependency on unavailable white-collar jobs.
Q: What impact have you had thus far and what would you like to achieve in the next two years?
I have engaged and inspired over 1,000 high school pupils in Ghana and Nigeria through our school gardening fan club for young farmers.
I have used my online platform to reach out to over 10,000 youths directly, providing them with relevant information and opportunities in the agriculture sector.
Through my climate change advocacy and entrepreneurship training, I have reached out to over 2,000 youth directly and more than 30,000 youth indirectly across Nigeria.
As a climate change advocate, I have volunteered with the Beach Samaritans to clean Lagos beaches and participated in various sensitization activities to discourage indiscriminate dumping of refuse on our beaches.
In the next two years, we would have trained 100 fish farmers and 150 vegetable farmers. We would have concluded plans to admit our first set of underprivileged school pupils.
Q: What role do you think youth have to play in achieving the 2030 SDGs? What advice would you give young people.
Youths are the leaders of today and not tomorrow. The youth should understand that global warming or climate change is a result of past indiscriminate human activities, which are now fighting back at us. The responsibility of promoting sustainable development, safer environment, quality education and inclusiveness, for the future generations rests with the youth. My advice to the youth is for them to be socially and environmentally responsible. If they treat the environment shabbily, the environment will treat them with disdain. Youth must therefore be self-starters. They should identify social problems they can solve with their passions. Like the 17th goal of the SDGs (partnership for the goals) the youth must identify their strengths and improve on it through capacity building. Where weaknesses are identified, youths must collaborate with friends and colleagues with comparative advantages to get things done. Collaboration and partnerships are key to achieving the SDGs on or before 2030.