Glory Chinenye Oguegbu, founder of Glow Initiative for Economic Empowerment, Climate Smart Nigeria, Winner of the Nigerian Energy Prize and 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow is a leading lady in the field of Renewable and Clean Energy. Recognized for her effort in the field by different organizations, latest of which is Environment Africa, Glory converses with Mary Ajayi, freelance writer and editor at Eco Nigeria, on climate change, renewable and clean energy, and the role of youth in achieving a sustainable world.
Mary Ajayi: What is the Glow Initiative about?
Glory Oguegbu: Glow Initiative for Economic Empowerment was set up to serve as a platform to harness the economic potentials of communities. It seeks to tackle economic problems such as unemployment, poverty and climate change by positively exploiting and utilizing raw talents and resources of communities/young people for a common good and through education to curb climate illiteracy. The goal is to boost the economic development of Nigeria by pioneering investments in SMEs training/creation, agriculture and renewable energy.
This initiative was birthed when as a corps member, I conducted a successful economic growth and empowerment program for 200 widows in a small community that had cassava in abundance. I had wondered why they were languishing in hunger and poverty in the midst of plenty cassava which is a staple food. I constructed a large scale cassava processing factory which enabled the women process large quantities of cassava for sale in bulk. I organized for nearby markets to purchase from them to sell in retail; I also contacted the state government and NYSC to purchase garri from them to feed the corps members who come to camp on a quarterly structure. The extreme success of the program made me realize how much economic impact can be achieved if a community is empowered using their own inherent resources and hence led to the beginning of Glow Initiative.
MA: In 2015, you were awarded the Mandela Washington Fellowship. What was this award in recognition of?
GO: I received the Mandela Washington fellowship award in 2015 in recognition of service done in economic development through our work in Glow Initiative for Economic Empowerment. As previously mentioned, we had empowered 200 widows and 24 orphans by constructing a large scale cassava processing factory which aided in the economic development of Shao community. It gave the women a source of livelihood and enabled them afford the fees of their children. All 24 orphans received new school uniforms, provisions, text books and school materials, their schools got new first aid boxes. The project received a recognition from the state government who mentioned that it will be replicated across the state of Kwara, Nigeria. It was a complete community makeover which had a ripple effect on the entire community of 2,500. I was recognized by the Wise Women’s Award UK, an Award of Excellence from NYSC and a State Honour Award from the State Government.
MA: Based on your work in the field of Renewable and Clean Energy, for example when you worked as the National Program Coordinator for InstaSolar Energy LLC, will you say there’s solution to Nigeria’s energy problems?
GO: I believe that the solution lies with us. Renewable/Clean energy is a great solution to the problem of electricity that we face because it’s abundant in nature and does not emit the dangerous CO2 which causes climate change.
The Renewable Energy (RE) industry in Nigeria is still a work in progress. Thankfully, there’s an increase in awareness about Climate Change by CSO’s and the word is slowly getting out there. Through our organization, we are educating members of the public on the importance of RE resources and how it can help them save money purchasing fuel. The government needs to do more in this aspect, like endorsing RE programs, partnering with local businesses to promote awareness. The government has actually done a lot to help but a majority of the progress that has been recorded in the RE sector has been made by individuals and businesses. I believe that if the government lends their full support to this cause, there will be notable change within the industry in a short time to come.
I believe there should also be an investment towards educating individuals on RE sources. Through our Climate Smart Nigeria Initiative via our Solar Up Nigeria Program, we plan to hold a training program for youths in Nigeria to train then on renewable energy technology. This is a step to build RE entrepreneurs who will design their own products instead of buying from China. This will go a long way to improve the economy and at the same time make RE technology more affordable.
MA: Recently, you were listed by Environment Africa as one of Nigeria’s foremost women in Renewable Energy. How does that make you feel?
GO: I feel honoured and once again, I express my heartfelt gratitude to Environment Africa Group and Environment Africa Magazine for the recognition and magazine feature. I understand that this is nothing but a call to work harder to attain a sustainable economy with access to electricity. It’s an encouragement that our impacts are being felt.
MA: What is Climate Smart Nigeria about?
GO: Climate Smart Nigeria (CSN) is an offspring of Glow Initiative for Economic Empowerment which is set up to combat environmental problems like Climate change and improve the nation’s power sector by spreading the awareness of Climate Change to curb climate illiteracy and promoting the intervention of renewable energy.
Our goal is to attain a Climate Smart Nigeria, and to do so, we are placing efforts on awareness creation on Climate Change and Renewable energy through the education sector and the new media, because people need to first KNOW about the menace before they can learn the solutions. When this is done, people will understand the reality of Climate Change and action steps to combat it.
MA: Youths are often projected as instrumental to solving most of the world’s pressing problems. Do you think young people have a role to play in mitigating the effect of climate change?
GO: Yes. Youth actually have the biggest role to play. Youth education represents one of the most effective tools to combat climate change and cultivate an international understanding among members of the next generation since battling climate change is a long-term process that will impact an infinite number of future generations.
Young people who are adept at spreading new habits and technologies are well placed to contribute to the fight against climate change. Youth are adaptable and can quickly make low-carbon lifestyles and career choices as a part of their daily lives. And it is the youth of the country who have to do this, as they are the ones who are going to suffer the most in the future from the consequences of global warming. It is paramount that the youth are trained and their capacities increased to be able to combat climate change. In the 21st Century, a majority of youth are active on social media; if they are well trained, this will be a big advantage and go a long way to reduce the impacts of climate change as they will provide and promote necessary information about it.
MA: What can government and NGOs do in ensuring people are climate literate?
GO: NGOs can collaborate with one another to help push the information across their areas of influence. The government can sponsor and endorse programs carried out by initiatives. It will go a long way to encourage NGOs like us. Like you may know, majority of Nigerians are indifferent about the issues of Climate Change so the government can come up with incentive based programmes to trigger the interest of people. They can explore issues such as carbon credit and find a way to integrate it into a project/program to educate people about it and how they can make money through carbon credit.
MA: Why are you passionate about environmental causes? What is your motivation?
GO: In November 2015, (four years after graduating), I came across an article that had an image of a disfigured, monster-like human tagged “Stop climate change before it changes you”. The writer opined that in some decades to come, humans will age faster, begin to look disfigured and uglier, due to global warming and the unclean air we breathe. This terrified me. At the time, I did not fully grasp the reality of global warming and climate change. The image was etched in my mind and drove me to research into the subject matter. When I read on the impact of climate change on humans, the environment and the economy, I was consumed by an urgent fear as I am passionate about the environment and economic growth. I then had the urge to do everything possible to reduce the negative impact and increase awareness so that individuals, government and businesses know what role they must play.
I believe that passion is key in this journey and so I have not let anything stand in my way to ensuring a sustainable environment, because I realized that no economic development will be sustainable if the environment in itself is not sustainable.