By Chioma Obinna
Mere mention of Makoko, the first thing that comes to mind is usually the state of the environment. But this time, Makoko is in the news for good. Saturday, June 25, will remain ever green in the minds of 50 women and 20 youths of Makoko, a slum area of Lagos State.
Even in the midst of smoke which filled the air, their joy knew no bounds as the densely populated community rejoiced over a life-saving intervention brought to them. This was a day 70 members of the community, comprising women and youths, graduated from an entrepreneurship programme on solar energy installations courtesy of King’s Domain, a non-governmental organisation, NGO, in collaboration with Global Environmental Facility, GEF, with support from the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP.
It was a life-saver as beneficiaries were also equipped with tools needed to start off their businesses.
The youths and women were trained in solar installation and clean energy entrepreneurship respectively.
One unique thing about the day was that despite the rain that had messed up the environment, the people of the community trooped out in large numbers to witness the programme held at the popular Makoko Hot Spot.
On what prompted the NGO to select Makoko as beneficiary of the project, Chief Executive Officer of King’s Domain, Mr. Segun Adaju, said after the investigation, their findings revealed that there was a great need for energy in the community.
This reporter and others in Makoko for the first time could not but come to terms with the reality on ground. The thick smoke coming out from different shanties made the few hours spent in the area unbearable. Guests struggled to breathe and endure the stench coming out from the area. Open defecation was also the order of the day.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that the smoke was inevitable because the major occupation of the people was fishing, while many of the women roast the fish by the same river where they defecate before taking them to the markets.
“I am sure you can feel the smoke since you came here. They cook with firewood and the smoke is almost unbearable. At times we imagine how do they survive? Then we say let’s change the way they live, and do a lot of cooking with kerosene. They always use lamp, candles and a lot of fire incidences have happened here, Adaju said.
He explained that the clean energy introduced to the community including solar energy and clean cooking stove would definitely improve how the people live. “The best way to develop a man is to teach him how to fish instead of just giving him food to eat. Then for the youths, we trained them on how to be installers and technicians in solar as well as how to assemble clean stove,” he said.
“For the women, we have decided to raise small loans for them to start up as entrepreneurs selling these products. We have talked to our partners and some microfinance bank about the capital. We need small seed capital to let them start to trade”. He added that the grants for the training were from GEF, stressing that there is need for Nigerian government to support capacity building like this.