Anyone who says progress in Africa is a slow process has yet to fully grasp the growth that has occurred within the last 10 years especially within the areas of sustainable living. Sustainable living and growth within Africa isn’t a new concept. Our forebears recognised the importance of Mother Nature; from the early days of bush burning and fallowing to renew the farms lost minerals, fertilizer generation from recycling waste, preservation of foods using drying methods when electricity was non-existent and the list goes on.
Modern day concepts for sustainable living describe it as a lifestyle which attempts to reduce our use of the earth’s natural resources as well as renew any used-up resources. They do this by creatively considering alternatives for transportation, preservation and energy consumption that reduces their carbon footprint. Sustainable living aims to ensure that we don’t leave the earth’s resources depleted with no consideration for the future generation.
Since the early days of industrialization in Africa, resource consumption has grown exponentially becoming a significant hindrance to sustainable development. In Nigeria, our dependence on imported products matched with our high population and poor maintenance culture resulted in significant damage to our environment. For example, 80% of our waste products, both biological and material are dumped consistently. The outcome is an increased environmental hazard which ultimately damages the air quality and acceptable living conditions of people.
Recently there has been an increased focus by both the Government and private individuals on promoting the benefits of sustainable living. The opportunities for income generation, health protection as well as job creation are just some of the recognised benefits. It therefore encouraged increased funding for projects and companies who have at their focus sustainable development. From recycling plants to electric cars, sustainable living and development is predicted to introduce the next golden age in Nigeria’s economic growth.
I recently experienced first-hand one of these innovations on a construction site where I had the opportunity to act in the capacity of a project manager. The project itself was simple; install a sewage system for a block of flats. During our research, we came across a company that claimed it could recycle waste on site with reusable water and biogas as by-products. We were amazed because such creative focus on sustainability had prior to now been the sole preserve of more advanced countries. We decided to invite a representative of the company to sell us on their product. After explaining the recycling process, we realised that the process was no different from how our elders created fertilizer from compost or the concept of the pit latrine.
What the company did was to creatively take these concepts to design a compact waste recycling process suitable for residential and commercial complexes. We were excited about the possibilities this would create; from eliminating waste overflow and evacuation, generating biogas for cooking to utilising the recycled waste water (colourless and odourless to boot!!) for green areas. Though initially expensive, the benefits for sustainability are so numerous that it is becoming more of a liability to continue to hedge on the side of its cost impact alone. Although challenges remain in Nigeria over its adoption, those who have seen the light at the end of the tunnel have realised long term gains in the form of waste reduction and energy efficiency.