Read How Dr. Weyinmi and her NGO, CMADI are Solving the Challenges of the Niger Delta RegionIdes Ofune 24th July 2019 0 COMMENTS
Our Desert Bloomer for this week is Oritseweyinmi Erikowa-Orighoye working with CMADI (Coastal and Marine Areas Development Initiative), an NGO that promotes environmental sustainability and conservation for peace, unity and economic empowerment. As a fellow PhD student, I was deeply interested in her work as a researcher and what her NGO does in the Niger Delta region in Nigeria. Niger Delta holds a special place in my heart because I grew up there. I have a deep connection to that place and it is one of my desires to see the region develop. I was therefore excited to learn about the great work that this organisation does.
Please tell us more about yourself and your role in CMADI
My name is Oritseweyinmi Erikowa-Orighoye. I am a Pediatrician, I work with children and sometimes women with children. I am doing also doing a PhD in nutrition and diathesis at Leeds Becket University. My research focuses on how to build sustainable schools in terms of nutrition and exercise for children. Families need to be involved in building sustainable schools and communities. Aside that, I get to run an environment education project both in Lagos and other western regions in Nigeria. I enlighten young people between the ages of 8 – 18 on how the environment affects their lives. We visit schools and communities to reach these young people.
What motivated you to join CMADI and what do you aim to achieve with it?
I am the Director of Health Programmes of CMADI. CMADI started in 2007 with my father, Mr Henry Erikowa. Growing up in my family, I knew we were passionate about the Niger Delta region in Nigeria. We talk about the challenges in the Niger Delta such as oil spillage, water pollution, forestry, and Mangrove extinction in the coastal areas. Mangroves in particular because people are increasingly using them to build houses. In 2012 after graduating from Medical school whilst deciding on what next to do, I decided to get heavily involved in the health part of CMADI. When we started this NGO, we didn’t want to just tell people about the problems, we also wanted to be part of the solution providers. That’s why it’s called the Coastal and Maritime Areas Development Initiative because we are focused on the Niger Delta.
We started with the environment because the Niger Delta has a lot of environmental challenges. Firstly, we started with the Falcorp Mangrove Park, a facility where we conserve the mangroves in the Niger Delta. The land where this park is situated still has the two types of predominant mangroves in the area. We educated people about their importance, telling them not to cut them down to prevent their extinction which can lead to flooding, erosion, air pollution and oil spillage flowing down to the creeks directly into communities. Mangroves are also a source of carbon absorption. Apart from conservation, many people come there for rest, and we also organise leisure activities. From there, we started diversifying into different areas. Recently, we have started having people from universities come for research because the mangrove park contains all the ecosystems in Nigeria. For example there are different species of butterflies in Nigeria there.
For me, CMADI is a platform to grow, there is the entrepreneurship arm and another section focused on girls which I started. I started it because there are many girls who don’t know about sexual health for example. Given my background, it was easy to start up this initiative focused on mentoring girls in different areas. My motivation is to impart knowledge on girls because when they have that, they can take care of themselves better.
We also have projects on water and sanitation. We can’t talk about the Niger Delta without talking about water because of pollution. We got involved with Foundation for Partnership in the Niger Delta by providing portable water to villages who have no clean water – the riverine areas and far coastal areas through the bio sand and ceramic filter.
Tell us more about the filters
Providing filters is a very core part of we do. We provide two types: the hydrate filter which is foreign and the bio sand which is indigenous. The indigenous ones are cheaper because the materials can be locally sourced unlike the hydrate filters where the materials for production are quite expensive. We use granite and shaft sand which is the major material for the bio sand filter. We work with youth and community leaders teaching and demonstrating to them how to use these filters. During sensitization campaigns in these villages, we check if they have clean water and use these opportunities to tell them about these filters. We focus mainly on the oil riverine areas because that’s where we have oil spillage in rivers. We work with organisations, NGOs, mission groups who want us to provide these filters in large quantities to communities. The challenge with commercialisation in large quantities is that many people still don’t believe it works and also because sachet pure water is readily available.
From your experience working with CMADI, what has been the response to it?
The response has been mixed. We get a lot of appreciation from communities. An example was when we did breast cancer and cervical screening, the response was very exciting and overwhelming because many people really like us to continue. For the mangrove park, when we plant them in the nurseries and transplant them to the park, we get resistance from people telling us that this is not important and that they want food and money. Irrespective of the challenges, we have to do what we think is right for the environment and communities. We provide water, mentor girls, health campaigns and train youth for entrepreneurship so that while we are doing what we think is right, we also don’t ignore the needs of the communities. We don’t want to have failed projects that are not supported by communities.
Any particular success stories you would like to share?
We had a partnership with an environmental organisation because in our communities, we noticed that some of the girls were interested in entrepreneurship and handwork. We had a survey asking the girls what they wanted to learn. We then got volunteers to teach the girls different hand works. In one of our projects, “Art on the Go”, we asked the girls to pick any recyclable material and make art with it. At the end of six months, they were to showcase their artworks. Intermittently, we tracked what they were doing. During the showcase, we had wood work, skipping ropes, bags from used clothes etc. These were girls who were left behind in communities. There was a particular team who used egg shells to make scouring powder for pots. This project received commendation from teachers because according to them, it made the girls concentrate in class. They ended up selling this powder and making some money out of it. This project was very successful as parents and the girls were inspired. This kind of feedback gives you the feeling that you are doing something worthwhile.
How does CMADI deal with the funding challenge facing non for profit organisations?
We get funds and donations from people who are interested in what we do. We also key into SDG 17 – partnership for goals. We realised that we got more partners after doing that as some organisations have funds but no capacity. But we have capacity so we partner with such organisations to implement our projects. It’s been challenging but our passion makes us stand out. You know, it’s not easy writing proposals and not getting it. My advice is to have a very good team who can write proposals and sell your to donors.
What has been CMADI most challenging projects so far given that your work is in the Niger Delta area?
Our major challenge is people. We have to convince them that the project we are implementing is for their good. For example, we have to convince people to use the sand filters to clean out their water to prevent water borne diseases. However, once they are enlightened and we get their buy-in, then their full support is assured. You have to speak the language they understand that it’s not always about money but also about the environment.
I think projects we implement in this part of our world should be local and indigenous. We shouldn’t expect that what has worked in other places would work in our communities. Great things are happening within our communities and we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to these things.
Ides Ofune is currently a PhD Student at the University of Leeds. Her research focuses on civil society and accountability in improving the quality of education. She is the founder of Desert Bloom Initiative and editor of Desert Bloom Advisory. Ides is very passionate about education and creating an inclusive society. She speaks French and English fluently. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org