To mark World Environment Day 2017, Youth advocate, Radio Presenter and Environmentalist, Wonne Afronelly, organized a ‘#1000ManMarch #WithNature’ on Monday 5 June, 2017 in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. The event which brought together stakeholders around the country to commemorate World Environment Day was aimed at engaging the youths in environmental restoration efforts, celebrate earth and ‘connect with nature’. In this interview with ALLI ABIOLA, Afronelly talks on her motivation, the challenges and the aftermath of the event. Excerpts below:
How were you able to convince yourself that organizing the recently concluded #1000ManMarch was the right way to connect with nature to mark World Environment Day 2017?
Defacing the environment is becoming a norm in the society especially when those you would easily classify as the elite and educated see nothing wrong in flipping trash from their beautiful expensive vehicle windows; the people approach to littering and indiscriminate disposal of refuse was gradually going from bad to worse.
Having knowledge about a 2008 online publication that revealed Port Harcourt placed Nigeria 25th position on the World list of most dirty cities gave the conviction to start all afresh with the basics – Awareness and Advocacy . It wasn’t difficult convincing the team of young advocates and we decided to take the radio advocacy program off air to the streets!.
You had so much support to pull this through. Knowing that sourcing funds and/or getting sponsorship for events like this is difficult. How did you get around this?
Lol, o yes we had moral support especially from our young advocates in primary schools who kept reminding us of the big day, determination and passion from members of the team “My Environment, My Wealth” BUT in reality NO funding (from Government, Corporate bodies or United Nations) as many had presumed and accused. The #1000ManMarch #withnature was NOT sponsored.
Our sincere appreciation goes to our supporters and they include: Divine Angels School, Titare Academy, G-Asabuja Entertainment, Mr Nigeria UK- Teedum Nke-ee, Amaris House- Tina Awuse, Teggy Concepts photography, Face of Port Harcourt City, management and staff of Radio Rivers 99.1FM, Director of Admin RIWAMA, The Team (Prince, Echika Wonne, Joy Ogbonna, Ibe Horisson Joe, Adah Andrew, Chris Biebele, Wejinya Michael, Koote Destiny, Seyi Adebote, Alli Abiola and others) family, friends and the public.
Share with us some of the unforeseen that could have ruined the #1000ManMarch and how you managed them
On some occasions the #1000ManMarch would have been cancelled.
First after the event had been registered on UNEP site May 8, another event was registered days later using the state ministry of environment as a partner convener. However we pushed on because we had our unique strategies and target audience different from the proposed conference. In the long run that program did not hold for lack of funds as confirmed by the convener who was seeking partnership from the ministry.
Secondly, most youths we invited for the campaign were more eager to know how much mobilization fee would be given. We even approached a top Nollywood celebrity who mentioned that mobilizing youths to come out en masse would be very easy as long as we are paying. This wasn’t enough to discourage us since our target was to reach out to those who have common sense to be responsible for their environment.
Thirdly, few days to June 5, NDDC embarked on a street carnival, this would have discouraged us but then we didn’t feel the kind of impact we had planned so we were even more determined.
Finally on the big day June 5, the procession was to take off at 8am, suddenly the rains came, the downpour was so fierce, it seemed like the Environment was angry and crying out for help. Some participants suggested we reschedule to the next day, about 3 schools could not get to the venue; it rained 3 hours non stop. We eventually started 3 hours behind schedule and reckoned a huge success.
What are your favorite nature apps?
The Ripple app introduced by Ocean Conservancy in 2012.
Technology is often seen as anti-environmental in many climes. What are your thoughts on this and how can the environmental and technological industry agree with each other? If possible
Without technology, there would be no built or social environment. What man needs to do is engage in more environmental friendly practices that promote anthropocentric values and easily allows for natural replenishment of the environment by itself.
Judging by the influence of civilization especially in urban areas. How relevant are game reserves, natural sanctuary, national parks and other protected areas in this part of the world?
Relevance comes with understanding. When people are not aware what reserves, parks and the likes are, they would not know their importance. All humans are after in this part of the world are ways to stay away from poverty and hunger. Even the educated persons would tell you food first before reserves; in essence we can consume everything as long as we don’t stay hungry.
Then we can say there is a huge difference between Education and SDG #4 Quality Education (Green Education). These issues top the UN list of Sustainable Development Goals and developing countries need to find lasting solutions as soon as possible.
2017’s World Environment Day has come and gone, so as #1000ManMarch. Do you think their objectives are justified? What else should we know to keep us on track?
2017 WED may have come and gone, but the impact of the #1000ManMarch is a huge foundation as far as regaining Green Gardencity is concerned, as well as support and awareness for United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Like I mentioned earlier, despite the unforseen, we pushed on because of our target audience – the procession took off from the Rivers State Waste Management Agency (RIWAMA) to Rivers state University to mile 3 market, up to mile 1 market connecting Rivers state House of Assembly down to Radio Rivers FM. We had to concentrate on these routes because of the markets mentioned, they are very popular in trades as well as defacing the environment; the market users and those living around who always use the road medians as dump sites.
We were able to sensitize the marketers and road users in various dialects (Pidgin, Ikwerre, Ogoni, Igbo, Akwa ibom) on proper waste disposal and management,
– Another objective was to get across to all stakeholders of the environment and interestingly we were able to indulge the Entertainment Industry (music artists, actors, comedians, dancers) and get them committed to environment advocacy. We also had Pageantry kings and queens, models from various platforms join the team.
We are now in partnership with some of them to work on Green Projects
– Every House a Tree was one of our campaigns. Haven sensitized the public on the importance of tree planting as a way to connect to nature; the next phase is to ensure people start making nurseries and planting trees. We intend to start with our partner schools and ensure the students do it themselves.
Other community cleanups and projects have been lined up. Connecting to nature should be a daily activity and not once a year event.