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Ecobarter trains Internally Displaced Women to curb environmental pollution

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British High Commission’s Climate Change Policy Adviser, Adesuwa Obasuyi and Rita Idehai, Managing Director of Realri Integrated Development Limited, presenting the certificate of completion to beneficiaries

Every hour, over 200, 000 plastic bags are disposed across Nigeria which has resulted to extreme environmental pollution. To this end, Ecobarter, a social enterprise on a mission to build a culture of responsible consumption and production, has trained 20 Internally Displaced women on transforming wastes into market products.

The project is a Waste to Resource Empowerment Programme, sponsored by the British High Commission under the Nigeria for Nature Project as part of its commitment to mainstreaming Nature Based solutions to Climate Change ahead of COP26.

Under the supervision of Ecobarter, also known as Realri Integrated Development, the 20 internally displaced women from Apo-Waru-Kabusa community, recovered over 10,000 waste single-use plastic bags and transformed them into fabrics, which was then sewn into new, durable and reusable shopping bags.

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Although notorious for littering the environment, clogging waterways, soil and polluting water bodies, single-use plastic bags (popularly called nylons or leathers) are not collected by existing recycling collection companies, says Managing Director of Ecobarter, Rita Idehai.

“With disposed plastic bags littering our environment on a daily basis, one can only imagine the extent of pollution caused. When burnt, plastic bags emit harmful toxins into the environment further contributing to the imploding climate crisis.”

Some of the reusable shopping bags produced by the internally displaced women

Idehai noted that the programme sort to train women in cleaning the environment while improving the earning potentials of the internally displaced women who turn these wastes into new markets products.

“Insecurity, unemployment, poverty and pollution/environmental degradation are the major challenges we are battling, so it was just about designing a solution that addresses our core problems targeted at the most vulnerable”

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At the end of the three months long training, the beneficiaries made 500 shopping bags and expressed their gratitude and desire to continue engaging in weaving of waste plastics to fabrics as a source of income.

Representative of the British High Commission during the Graduation and Exhibition ceremony expressed commitment to build adaptive capacities of women in Nigeria to climate change while leveraging nature based solutions and strategies that local communities are familiar with.

The women who informally stay at an uncompleted housing community in Malaysian Gardens Estate between Kabusa and Waru are majorly from Borno (displaced by Boko Haram). “We selected them because we were particular about working with Internally Displaced women. They were hit hard by the pandemic, as they have no form of social security or even jobs, so it was important to provide empowerment for them.

“Also, they had relevant vocational skills such as embroidery and knitting which they groomed as a cultural expectation and these skills are relevant in the waste to fabric process.”

On the future of the project, Idehai added, “we are looking to install a proper waste to resource workshop, where the women can have a decent and safe space to work. But in the meantime, Ecobarter will leverage its existing online store to sell the final products made from the fabrics. While proceeds from the sales of the products will be ploughed back to sustain the initiative as we welcome more support from well meaning organisations.”

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