Mrs Ladi Anthony, a dry season farmer in Mazah community located in Jos North Local Government of Plateau State in Nigeria, has been experiencing low yield in her tomato farm over the years. She noted that the waste dumped into the community’s river from Jos city has polluted its water and infected the crop with diseases.
She says her tomato becomes rotten and infested with worms as a result of the situation whilst irrigation farmers also experience obstruction in pumping water to their crops, as the waste particularly in plastics form blocks the water channels.
The mother of five further explained that residents who live close to the river battle with malaria disease resulting from stagnant water from the river, a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
With the myriad of problems associated with the river, Anthony is happy that an organisation, Centre For Earth Works (CFEW) recently conducted a clean-up exercise to help in addressing the challenges.
She says: “The clean-up exercise recently has made the water in the river clean and we are happy about it. We hope to harvest more tomatoes and other crops as the water would flow without blockage.“
Similarly, Mr Filibus Arin, a member of Mazah community who volunteered with CFEW in conducting the intervention, said fishermen are excited that their livelihood would experience a leap because, prior to it, the water gets very dirty and fishes struggle to survive there.
Mazah, an agrarian community located about five kilometres from Jos city, is known for its famous Mazah River which extends to Lake Chad.
The members of the community who are mostly farmers practice dry season farming using the river as a source of water supply for irrigation. They also engage in fishing as a source of livelihood because the river has birthed many natural ponds for fishing activities.
However, in the past years, the river has been made a dumping ground for waste from the metropolis which is threatening aquatic life, dry season farming and those whose livelihood depend on it.
Clean up intervention
Following the significance of River Mazah in the community and the efforts of CFEW to eradicate plastic waste in Plateau, for the first time a clean-up intervention was conducted in the community with 33 participants in partnership with volunteers from the host community, Better Earth Foundation and “Yan Kwalabe” (informal waste pickers) association in the state.
The intervention was conducted to evacuate waste from the river and reduce the impact of plastic pollution in the community. Reports indicate that it takes more than four centuries for plastic to decay completely from the environment.
According to a study, 2.5 million tons of plastic wastes are generated annually in Nigeria with 88 per cent not recycled which end up in water bodies.
While stakeholders have called for concerted efforts to address the menace through proper waste management, the House of Representatives in 2019 considered a bill banning the manufacture and use of plastic bags to address waste management and protect the environment. Unfortunately, the bill is still pending and plastic waste is still disposed indiscriminately.
The Team Lead of CFEW, Mr Benson Fasanya, said that the organisation is focused on addressing issues affecting the environment through giving it more spotlight to propel concerted efforts for appropriate action.
“We had few or no organisation talking about environmental issues during the period CFEW was established in 2017. It was usually HIV, women and children and empowerment,” he said.
He explained that plastic pollution is detrimental to health and environment, as there are toxins in plastic which can be consumed by fishes, through which can get to the human body.
He said the intervention was also conducted to bring succour to the community members through destroying breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other disease-causing vectors, while also addressing the blockage of drainages, which is a major cause of flooding.
“If we reduce plastic pollutions, we can also stem the tide of malaria and other vector carrying diseases.
“We should encourage recycling and say no to using plastic containers because of the danger to health and to our climate,” he said.
He said that they intend to sustain the clean-up intervention in the state which is very crucial and also a strategy for data collection to hold corporate polluters accountable for plastic waste through its plastic brand audit. This is because the organisation is also research-driven and passionate on securing the earth through empowering communities in knowledge.
At the end of the Plastic Brand Audit in Mazah, 28,000 plastic wastes were collected and audited.
The team lead said that the organisation had conducted similar clean-up exercises in 2019 at the Jos Wild Life Park where a total sum of 4,952 waste items were picked and 420 plastic wastes at Old Nitel building located at Old Airport Road at its clean up exercise in 2022 shortly before the intervention at Mazah community. It has also partnered with some agencies for clean-up exercises in Angwan Rukuba and Kabong communities.
“Part of our community engagement activity is the clean-up exercise which we do on a regular basis every year and also during the World Clean-up Day.
“The key message is the need for people to sort their waste and to stem the tide or reduce the impact of plastic pollution because it takes more than four centuries for it to decay completely from the environment,”`he said.
The clean-up intervention is spurring up leaders of Mazah community to begin mobilisation of its members to advocate for designated waste collection centres in the city centre or else face the threat of being a continuous dumping ground for waste.
The Chairman of Anaguta Development Association in Mazah, Mr Yakubu Kaiwa, said that the waste from the city has been a burden to the community and appealed for more collaboration with NGOs and government to educate Jos residents on the ills of indiscriminate dumping of refuse while also providing them with alternative outlets.
For Arin, he was inspired while being a volunteer during the exercise to engage his fellow youths in the community on charting ways of sustaining the intervention through collaboration with CFEW and other NGOs.
He also urged government to organise stakeholders meeting for sensitisation against indiscriminate waste disposal.
CFEW says it is hopeful that its partnerships with informal waste pickers and engagement with youths on social media through its “Youths for land Campaign” would yield positive result in advocating for the sustenance of nature and restoration of degraded lands resulting from improper waste management.
“Through our school projects we have been able to reach out to 1,200 secondary students and our online campaigns have been able to reach out to 10,000 youths online in various countries,” says the Team Lead.
Even though the organisation engages volunteers and scavengers in the state, its activities are limited because of shortage in manpower and funding.
The organisation hopes to conduct more sensitisation programmes on proper waste disposal, influence policies on environment and has a long-term plan of establishing a material recovery facility for organisations, where informal waste pickers would be engaged to earn their livelihood and waste sorted accordingly with the projection of being processed to organic fertiliser.
By Martha Agas