By Job Osazuwa
Echoes of joy rang out recently from Makoko, a densely populated slum in Yaba Local Government Area of Lagos State, as a non-governmental organisation gave the dwellers life-changing projects.
The projects were promoted by King’s Domain, working with the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Several youths and women in the area were trained in solar installation and clean-energy entrepreneurship, after which they were given clean-cooking stoves and solar energy installation tools.
Residents of the community converged on Makoko Hot Spot in the area for the event, singing and praising their benefactors.
Chief Executive Officer of King’s Domain, Mr. Segun Adaju, told the reporter that his organisation had noticed that the community had energy challenges, hence the need for the empowerment initiative. He recalled that it took him weeks to believe that human beings actually lived in such a pitiable environment.
Till date, residents of the community use firewood, which often emit thick smoke, to cook. A large number of women in the area also roast fish in their homes, a practice that often causes fire outbreaks.
Mr. Adaju informed on the occasion: “The energy we introduced to them includes solar energy and clean-cooking stove. The best way to develop a man is to teach him to fish instead of giving him food to eat.
“For the youths, we trained them to be technicians and installers of solar and to assemble clean stoves.”
On how the participants were selected, he said the organisation conducted a baseline survey. Findings from the community led the team to discover that the number of people, who had access to power through the national grid was very low. It was gathered that the rate was between 15 and 20 per cent while the rest had to rely absolutely on firewood, kerosene, candle and local lanterns for different purposes.
He said he was shocked to note that the awareness of clean energy was as low as one per cent among the people who were interviewed. They had not heard about solar energy or clean stove before, he informed.
Adaju stated that he also discovered that majority of the kids were not doing very well in their studies because there was no electricity for them to read at night. They were using torchlight to study.
“Again, most of the women are not doing anything because their husbands just wanted to keep them at home. It is only their children that roast fish and they use firewood to do it,” Adaju said.
The reporter learnt that through Adaju’s solar energy company, Consistent Energy, 20 youths were trained as technicians. They would be integrated into the company for more practical knowledge, the reporter was told.
“Interestingly, there are two girls among them. We are going to create job opportunities for them. When we are going for installations, we will take them along so that they will learn on the job. Many of them promised to make a career in it.”
He assured that the women, who would be trained as young, clean-energy entrepreneurs, would benefit from small loans from the foundation so that they could start selling the products.
According to him: “The GEF and UNDP have provided more funds for 500 women, who were trained on how to assemble these cooking stoves. We will provide materials for them and they will assemble, sell and make profits.”
Adaju charged Nigerian government to support such initiatives, pointing out that Makoko’s problems were too diverse for an individual to solve.
He equally tasked governments at all levels to find a way of providing social housing schemes for the residents, suggesting that they could pay by installment, as obtainable abroad.
“These people are not happy living here but what can they do? They don’t have money to pay rent. If we don’t do this we might not know the type of people we are raising here. Then, tomorrow they will become a nuisance to the society.”
Adaju, who expressed gratitude to GEF, told Daily Sun that the Makoko empowerment package was not the first time King’s Domain was strengthening the downtrodden. He asserted that more 10, 000 had been positively affected through similar packages.
One of the young solar technicians, James Sarah, 23, who had just completed her secondary education, said she was proud to be a lady engineer.
“The experience is wonderful. If I receive the tools they promised to give us, I should be able to connect panels. I can work more than the men.”
She expressed readiness to deepen her knowledge of the trade by undertaking it as a course in the higher institution.
Another beneficiary, Emmanuel John, from Abia State, said he heard about the training from a relative and quickly grabbed the opportunity.
He commended the foundation and its partners for the skill he acquired as a solar energy entrepreneur.