DAKATA, KANO: Alawiyya Baba Musa was concerned when she found out her community Dakata, in Kano state, used plastic debris as fuel for cooking.
The community members pick up plastic debris from either waste trash or plastic recycling plants around them. After collecting them, they now burn them and process them to use as fuel.
Learning about the activity, Musa carried out research to assess its impact, from which she learned that it was hazardous to their health and environment.
With a background in environmental science, the 34-year-old said she was going to end it, so in 2020, she started the Arewa Women Initiative For Climate Change Advocacy And Environmental Sustainability or AWIFCA, an organisation focused on empowering women and their communities to play their part in the fight against climate change.
“The burning of plastic emits a lot of toxic gases, which include the greenhouse gases that cause the warming of the earth, which then results in climate change. We started advocacy programs in Radio stations and taught the people about the dangers of what they are doing while also showing them ways on how they can stop it,” Musa told Prime Progress.
Apart from the initiative's efforts to educate local communities on the impacts of climate change, it has also engaged with community leaders and stakeholders from the Kano State Ministry of Environment, demanding they support the movement by putting policies and regulations that will promote environmental sustainability.
Africa has been at the receiving end of extreme weather conditions, including drought and desertification, increase in temperature, variable rainfall, and rise in sea level and flooding.
These factors also contribute to food insecurity, poverty, and displacement across the continent, according to the World Meteorological Organization or WMO 2021 report.
Through the women-led initiative, Musa works to ensure that local communities in Kano State are informed of the impacts of climate change and how they can make decisions that will help to protect their environment, particularly through clean cooking.
Research shows that 56% of Nigeria's population depends on wood as a source of fuel for cooking. The activity is one of the major causes of desertification in the country.
The UNDP rating also ranks Nigeria 10 in the world in terms of indoor pollution, as most rural households still use firewood for their cooking, especially in the Northern region where Musa lives.
Cooking with firewood contributes to smoke from open fires resulting in over 95,000 deaths annually in Nigeria, the biggest killer after Malaria and HIV/AIDS.
The AWIFCA targets women in local communities within Kano State who should be key players in promoting a sustainable environment and effective response to climate change. The initiative is working towards coming up with effective and low-carbon development strategies where women can adopt modern and clean cooking methods.
“We think such strategies will lead to improved health, women empowerment, reduce climate and environmental impacts, and improved livelihood,” said Musa.
Musa also feels that it's everyone's responsibility to put efforts into meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goal 7, which promotes access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all by 2030, which includes clean cooking.
A study in 2019 revealed that planting trees is the most effective strategy for mitigating climate change which is also seen as the easiest and cheapest one.
That was what led AWIFCA to organize tree planting campaigns where it planted more than 10,000 seedlings across Kano state, including schools, religious worship centres, and primary health care facilities.
As part of its activities, during the International Day of the Forest on March 21, 2022, AWIFCA organized a tree-planting campaign at GGSS Rimin Gata in Kano to commemorate the day and spread awareness on how individuals should improve forest management by shunning deforestation and investing in reforestation.
But Despite their work, Musa regrets that there is a lot of ignorance about climate change in the state and how it impacts on people's lives.
She added that the most challenging part of AWIFCA's work is making local communities understand what a climate crisis, the risks associated with it, and how they can all work together to mitigate it is.
That notwithstanding, AWIFCA has recorded successes with its advocacy campaigns, especially where it was also able to raise awareness on how trees can be effective in reducing the Earth's temperature.
“Whenever we carry out such projects, we find youth who also want to do similar things in their communities, especially planting trees,” Musa stressed.
The campaign has inspired young people to carry out sub-projects in their communities by planting seedlings of different varieties and nurturing them to grow.
Muhammad Garba is one of the youths who, in April 2023, formed a group that planted over 120 tree seedlings within Fagge in Kano State.
“I'm glad to have picked interest from what AWIFCA is doing. Here in Fagge, we were able to sow tree seedlings which we've been watering for the last three months even with the rainfall,” Garba told Prime Progress.