‘When I saw the tag on my Facebook, I was ecstatic. I felt great and I am determined to do more.’- Eyitayo Oyelowo, 2nd Prize Winner, Earthplus Green People Challenge
Three young Africans have shown their commitment to making the world a better place and ensuring the fulfilment of the SDG’s. These three people emerged winners in the just concluded World Environment Day Green People’s Challenge organized by Earthplus Africa, a non-profit committed to environmental sustainability in Africa.
Dickson Agbaji, the grand prize winner is a 22 year old Nigerian and a graduate of the University of Calabar where he was the best graduating student in his class. Dickson’s video, which won the competition, had outlined clearly what he will do individually to connect people with nature, in line with the theme of this year’s World Environment Day. Among others, he had indicated he would create nature clubs in schools in his neighborhood. The clubs, he said, will lead the drive to connect pupils, students, and teachers to nature through the planting of new flowers and the maintenance of existing ones, and the organization of debates, quizzes, poems, and essay writing competitions on nature and at intervals, excursions will be scheduled for the children to natural environments.
He also would write about it and get it published on various platforms. His video was shot on a small farm where he said he had grown up and even cut his finger while working, and for him, it was a natural environment that held many fond memories.
Eyitayo Oyelowo, the 2nd prize winner is a Nigerian journalist and climate justice advocate who has since 2015 been sensitizing members of her community to keep the environment clean. She was among 10 finalists of a global video competition organized by Television for Environment (TVE), which was part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Action for Climate Empowerment and Momentum for Change initiatives that culminated in a high-profile award ceremony at COP 22 Marrakech in 2016.
Aaron Acuda, the 3rd prize winner from Uganda is a student of Environmental Science at Makerere University in Kampala and had always been concerned with the environment as a child. Aaron’s story is peculiar because he is an example of a leader who sees a problem, as he saw in his community in Uganda, and takes action to solve it in the best way he could.
On International Youth Day, I spoke with the winners. When asked why she entered the competition, 1st runner up, Oyelowo Eyitayo enthused ‘The environment as we know it, isn't as green and luscious as it should be. There are steel monsters that block out the sun, huffing out dangerous smoke, and leaking out poisonous chemicals into rivers and streams, vehicles pumping out harmful fumes, people disposing off waste in a way that isn't safe and all other kinds of sources that ruin the planet.’ Eyitayo said that as a young climate justice advocate, she was on a journey that started over a year ago, to improve her social impact. She said that when she saw the call for entries, she saw it as a veritable platform for me to reach out to a larger audience and share her climate actions with them.
Aaron, the young Ugandan also said he wanted to create more awareness through video to people about environment conservation, especially during the world environment day and that for him, he used it as a platform to share his thoughts, inspirations, actions such that people, particularly youth can learn from it.
When asked about the challenge to environmental sustainability in Uganda, Aaron quipped ‘The challenges to environmental sustainability in Uganda are population increase, lack of awareness and climate change.’ He promised to continue to increase awareness and come up with more innovative solutions to such problems. Eyitayo, on the other hand, sees waste, especially non bio-degradable waste as Nigeria’s main environmental challenge and when asked, she proposed a solution ‘The country should adopt recycling as a lifestyle. Recycling will not only help combat climate change but boost the economy and provide employment to the teeming number of unemployed youth.’
When Dickson was asked about how he felt when he was announced the Grand Prize winner, he said ‘The suspense and anxiety to see the results was intense. But fun-filled excitement overtook my heart when I was announced the winner. I was very happy. I cannot thank Earthplus and God enough for the opportunity and success.’
Dickson was named an Earthplus International Ambassador as part of the Grand Prize for the competition, in addition to the monetary prize awarded. He will begin his tenure in September and represent the organization in carrying out community projects, at events and high level deliberations. All the winners will also be featured in a forthcoming climate poetry video to be screened at a side event at COP 23 in Bonn later this year.
The competition was also supported by Care About Climate a UNFCCC-accredited organization in the USA who handed out consolation prizes to the runners up.