I have just returned from a fantastic trip to Nigeria where I spent a really busy, exciting week meeting with amazing Climate Reality Leaders based in Nigeria, and I was privileged to experience Nigerian culture and hospitality…
This was my first trip to meet with the African Climate Reality Project’s volunteers who live and work outside of South Africa and I was filled with conflicting emotions when I climbed on the plane – excitement, a bit of trepidation, and concern: I was using fossil fuels, increasing carbon emissions, to travel to a country that relies on fossil fuels, especially oil, for its income and yet this is the very thing that worries me most. It didn’t help that I had been reading Naomi Klein’s book that talks about the execution of Nigerian poet Ken Saro-Wira and eight other activists who had protested against environmental degradation, human rights atrocities and oil spills in Ogoniland in the 1990s.
I landed in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, early on Sunday afternoon. Abuja was quiet and peaceful but the weather was HOT and the air was hazy. I quickly learnt that the haze wasn’t from pollution like in South Africa but was due to the Harmattan – a dry and dusty wind which blows from the Sahara Desert over West Africa into the Gulf of Guinea.
On Sunday night we had an informal meeting with several Climate Reality Leaders based in Abuja and some of their colleagues. I was treated to Jelof Rice, chicken pepper soup and moi-moi. Monday started slowly with a formal meeting and some press interviews and quickly escalated into one of the highlights of my week: a meeting with the Nigerian Minister of Environment followed by a meeting with the Director of Climate Change. And the irony was not lost on me: in these important government buildings where people are working to combat climate change and despite the availability of all the oil in the world, we had frequent power failures. Tuesday was a really special day where I was honoured to attend the launch of the Global Initiative For Food Security and Ecosystem Preservation (GIFSEP) Eco Club at the Government secondary school Garki, Abuja. GIFSEP’s founder and Climate Reality Leader Michael David Terungwa has secured funding through the UN small grants programme to establish eco clubs and teach children about the impacts of climate change, motivating them to protect the earth.