10 February 2018

Nigeria: 'Govt Should Employ Diplomacy, Not Law in Tackling Pollution '

interview

Abiodun Olaore is a renewable energy expert and the Country Director of Envirofit Nigeria, a subsidiary of U.S.-based Envirofit International that manufactures cooking stove. He Speaks with Omolabake Fasogbon on the challenges of pollution in Nigeria and how it can be tackled by securing the home front

The Nigerian Economy came out of recession in the third quarter of 2017, how do you think the country can consolidate on these gains?

I don't know how they have come to conclude that the country is out of recession when the dividends are yet to reflect in the life of a common man. Yes, reports confirmed so, but can the report be defended if we are to judge by the conditions of the masses? Saying we are out of recession is more or less half theoretical from the banking, monetary policy sides but not in reality.

Pollution, especially metropolitan pollution has been a major challenge, consuming a lot of economic resources. How do you think this can be managed?

Thanks for using the word 'Manage'. Yes, pollution can only be managed. A lot of people including the government have been talking about stopping pollution, yet, pollution cannot be stopped, but managed. Definitely, it will be difficult to stop what you have not reduced or managed, at the same time, it is very difficult to stop and it is not easier to manage. Pollution comes from different sources, including indoor, air out door, the waste, as well as environmental pollution. As a country, we need to decide which one is most important to us and see how we can manage. But the way it is, it is only in cites like Lagos that you see waste being managed and I mean house hold waste. When it comes to air pollution, Lagos is good as not managing at all yet, it contributes heavily to air pollution. From the vehicle we drive, power source and even from cooking. Having to live with these kinds of pollution just in one city could be disastrous. That is why ordinarily in the evening, when the weather is supposed to be cold, it gets a bit hot, because a lot of carbon has been distilled in the air and the mixture is no longer fit for human hence, we manage to survive.

However, some sources of pollution are inevitable, for example, the industrial and commercial pollution like the one emanating from trucks. Companies dealing in fast moving consumer goods for instance discharge both industrial and commercial pollution. For any economy, industry is very key, when industries produce, the emit carbon from their machinery and others and when they distribute, they also emit carbon.This kind of pollution is almost inevitable because it has to do with income generation. But some pollution sources are actually avoidable, these are the ones that come from the home which like lighting and cooking. They are quite avoidable because there are alternatives that can be used to reduce carbon emission from the home.But most often, this area is often neglected.The industrial pollution seems to be getting more attention. For example, the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency, LASEPA ,which duty is to protect the environment seems to have forgotten that pollution emanates from homes as they focus more on industries.There should be efforts to manage pollution from all sides,if one source can not be reduced, then ,let's consider other sources that are almost avoidable and can be reduced. For instance, a look into the industrialized countries , industries are allowed to emit carbon because of their activities, but they have to find a means to offset carbon being emitted,in doing so, they look for places where they can trade the carbon by looking for countries and communities that can be encouraged to embrace clean energy to reduce their carbon emission so they don't keep increasing from household and industries which is what is causing the problem of climate change.

In specifics, how can Nigeria get to balance industrial and house hold pollution?

As much as industrial pollution is almost inevitable, concentration should be on the home front most especially through cooking to save the country. You may be thinking how, there are other safe and cheap means we can adopt in doing our cooking ,thus reduce carbon emission. Even at home,we need to consider the implications of carbon emission,a lot of people have died as a result of indoor air pollution,unknown to many because most of such deaths are not recorded. This is why Envirofit has come up with a cooking stove that runs on wood,gas and charcoal. It uses lesser fuel (wood and charcoal) and does not emit smoke.It is such a simple innovation that not only saves money, time , life and forest but reduces carbon emission as well as fuel.The manufacturing companies can invest in this product by way of CSR and buy for their local communities to manage pollution at their ends and by so doing,have been able to offset what they are emitting.

How does an innovation that runs on wood and charcoal save forest? Don't you think this also encourages tree felling?

Like I said earlier, most times,we try to stop and not manage,the fact remains that many people across the urban and rural areas use charcoal and wood and felling trees almost everyday,and also carry out cooking with an unimproved technology like setting up 3 stones with wood closely arranged in all sides,and in the process,consumes more wood.About 80% of the fire and the heat generated from the fire is wasted. With this innovation, if someone is using one tree in one month before, we are saying that you will consume one tree in six months, this automatically reduces the rate at which trees are cut down. Our plan is to reduce wood usage first and later come up with more efficient way of cooking.You and I know that in the rural area, they don't buy wood, all they do is to cut branches or even tree from the farm and you are now telling the fellow who is cutting tree for free to buy LPG, No,they wont accept it.But what we are saying is that people should accept an innovation that would reduce tree felling, thus, encourage those who are planting trees.

Having harped on reducing pollution at the home front, don't you think government should also come up with a law enforcing pollution management at home?

I don't want to believe that law can solve the problem of pollution in Nigeria. Here, we are not short of laws. But, how do we implement policies and laws to fit into the lifestyles of our people and to make them bring about the needed change? This is because it is very difficult to change people from a particular way of life. Somethings are cultural and taking it away from people is like saying you are depriving them of a particular way of life. For me, i think diplomacy goes a long way in helping our people especially for those crop of people who are the rock bottom of the pyramid. With this strategy, you can get it done and influence a change. Meanwhile, if there are no better alternatives, there is no way you can cause people to change.

Why has Envirofit decided to bring this innovation to Nigeria?

Nigeria is ranked among the first three when it comes to cooking with biomass fuel in Africa and about 70% of Nigerian population falls into this category.Our mission is to make cooking safe and interesting for women having realised that the cooking method adopted by most of our women kills and age them fast.All we are saying that cooking should not kill our women, cooking has been killing our women unrecorded.

How affordable is the product?

It is quite affordable, just that the purchasing power of the target market is quite low. The target audience is basically those at the button of the pyramid both in the rural and urban area.The cheapest on the range is N5,500 and there are ones designed for homes and also commercial purpose.

What percentage of Nigeria's population are u targeting with the product?

We target about 70% of Nigeria population who depend heavily on biomass fuel.

What are its social and economic impacts?

Socially, it helps reduce the effect of indoor air pollution and its associated hazard on the lives of women and children and economically, it creates a huge savings from fuel consumption, which can be used for other family needs such as education and trading. The reduction in time spent cooking can also be used for other social and economic activities, which also support the family. The product has also helped in generating extra income for women entrepreneur who sells stoves to other women and households in their communities, most rural.

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