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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Sustainable tourism: Nene-Uwa, TVP partnership raises hope for beaches

Nigeria, the most populous black nation with so much tourism potentials, seems to be blinded by petrodollars; hence it abandoned tourism, which, experts say, could earn more foreign exchange than the dwindling black gold. The beaches, which abound in the coastal areas, are among the tourist sites. But they are in a sorry state; hence some non-profit organisations are taking it upon themselves to give them a facelift.

Oyatogun Fakoya-Smith
Funmi Oyatogun (left) and Nnenna Fakoya-Smith

It started with some groups like Beach Samaritans who clean the beaches around Lagos. They did not mind that some individuals are living off the proceeds from the beaches.

Now, a partnership between Nene-Uwa Hub Limited and TVP Adventures seems to be upping the ante. They not only clean the beach; they plant more coconuts to replace the ageing ones.

Nnenna Fakoya-Smith, a tourism promoter, founded Nene-Uwa Hub Limited, while Funmi Oyatogun, a tourist and environmentalist, founded TVP Adventures a year ago. The two young ladies found a common ground in tourism.

So, as part of activities to mark the World Tourism Day (WTD), marked globally on September 27, the two organisations, through the social media, selected volunteers to help give one of the popular beaches in Lagos a facelift. The Badagry Beach that hosted the Point Of No Return – from where slaves were ferried to the “New World” many centuries ago – was the destination.

A youngster planting a tree by the beach

The journey started from the National stadium in Surulere, where the volunteers gathered, before they were transported in two coaster buses to Badagry. The trip was somewhat interesting. The volunteers did a bit of trekking and travelled in the notorious Lagos traffic gridlock. Imagine leaving Badagry by 4pm and getting to Surulere about 8.30pm. The distance from the Lagoon to the Point Of No Return had to be trekked. However, it was like a picnic; lots of fun for both the organisers and the volunteers.

With spades, rakes, waste bags, latex gloves and nose masks, the group made up of tourists and even under-10 children stormed the beach, which was in a sorry hygienic state. Within one hour, there was a transformation; the debris had been gathered in about 10 waste bags.

Not done, with the help of the tour guide identified simply as “Cornerstone” and his partner identified as “Stone”, they planted 40 coconut trees bought from a nursery. Even as the holy books promised reward in paradise for those who do good, the volunteers got some reward from within when a Red Cross member bought one coconut fruit for each participant. The water was rejuvenating.

Oyatogun, who had her first degree in Environmental Studies from a United States university, told EnviroNews that the project got her interest because of its environmental and tourism significance.

The essence of the campaign, she added, is for awareness creation on the need to keep the beaches clean.

“I want to create awareness. After this exercise, none of the volunteers or even their family members will ever litter the beach,” she said.

The tourist disclosed that she was partnering Nene-Uwa for the beach clean-up.

Fakoya-Smith, on her part, told EnviroNews that she was practically going the project alone, wishing that government and public-spirited individuals could buy into the project and lend a helping hand.

She seems not to be aware of Beach Samaritans who also sanitise beaches, but she would be glad to partner with them.

Her aim of embarking on the project is for sustainable tourism, which she believes would replace oil, an exhaustible resource.

She was also creating awareness for cleaner beaches, trying to reach as many people as possible.

By Innocent Onwuji

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