Nigeria is a popular destination for volunteers of all types. The UN Development Agency for Nigeria runs 36 projects alone in the country, with other agencies and NGOs operating hundreds of their own. A growing subset of these volunteering projects relate to environmental volunteering, largely in response to the growing climate emergency developing across the world; indeed, the UNDP contribute over $2 million of their budget to these goals. The collective impact of these volunteering projects creates huge benefits for the wider Nigerian economy and will help to prime for future prosperity.
Volunteering is often given value by its social impacts. Volunteers providing primary healthcare will often immediately alleviate poverty in an area, and development volunteers installing infrastructure will help to lift communities out of trouble. What is less well recorded but just as important is the significant economic value attached to most volunteering. A study conducted by UN Volunteers in Kenya found that the money spent and jobs created by volunteers gave an impetus equivalent to 3.66% of the national GDP, a huge growth figure. When tied to environmentally-guided volunteering, more immediate benefits are felt from the impact of installing measures designed towards mitigating climate change and enhancing conservation.
How development aids
While some of the projects associated with climate change prevention, such as solar panels and water recycling, are perceived as high tech and inaccessible to low income countries, they actually represent an excellent vehicle through which to reduce poverty. Looking at an energy supply is an effective way to assess this. According to Trading Economics, Nigeria experiences up to 32 power outages per month, on average. Putting environmentally geared infrastructure in place, like the solar panel mini grids reported on by the New York Times, kills two birds with one stone. It reduces reliance on fossil fuels in the power grid and provides a reliable and sustainable source of energy for smaller communities that would be disproportionately impacted by power outages.
Looking towards sustainability and environmental protection as a priority will become critical for Nigerians. According to This Day, businesses have been slow on the uptake of sustainable measures. Dr Eugene Kongnyuy, a UN representative, stated that Nigerian businesses see sustainability as a “dispensable philanthropic option” when they should see it as a non-negotiable process. Crucially, Dr Kongnyuy saw sustainability as crucial for the ongoing health of the economy.
With businesses likely slow to put in sustainable measures, the slack will increasingly need to be picked up by volunteers and the NGOs they are attached to. As a result, environmental volunteering will continue to be of critical importance to helping the Nigerian economy to keep growing.
Environmental volunteering isn’t just a way to improve social conditions and combat climate change. It should be of interest to the authorities in Nigeria that there’s a huge economic impact, too. Tackling climate change should be seen as non negotiable – economy included – and, for now, volunteers are the people perceiving it as such and getting the job done.
By Cassandra Ally