My Interview with Jennifer Uchendu of SustyVibes – global sustainability
A view of global sustainability
The greatest impact of global sustainability on a personal level is generally experienced where one lives. While our individual behaviors affect the communities where people reside there is a greater impact on a global scale.
I had the opportunity to interview Jennifer Uchendu with SustyVibes based out of Nigeria since I was curious to understand how similar the challenges those who are seeking to implement sustainability overseas were to the ones I experienced where I live. As you will see the challenges of implementing sustainability in the community can be similar in different parts of the world.
The questions and their answers
1. When did you start SustyVibes?
SustyVibes was launched on the 22nd of April 2016 – We are less than one year! SustyVibes is a social enterprise engaged in promoting sustainability awareness among millennials in Nigeria and Africa at large. Through online and offline engagements, we are finding innovative ways to build a network of committed young people for the advancement of Sustainable Development in Africa.
2. How did you get your introduction to sustainability?
The first time I heard the word Sustainability was in 2010 – I was a biochemistry undergraduate researching on biotransformation processes in the health sector – I read about biofuels, biomimicry, renewable energy and I started looking for a concept that would link my passion for women development, achieving corruption free governments, environmental protection, Sustainability was just that that concept and I kept reading on the many articles on the subject matter online. I learnt more about Sustainability when I worked in Unilever Nigeria. They were just launching the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan and I was very much interested in being a part for it – It was there I learnt about waste management – paper use, energy efficiency etc.
3. How has Climate Change affected Nigeria and Africa in general?
Climate Change in Nigeria is glaring! From the desertification in Northern Nigeria, ravaging 11 states; the shrinkage of Lake Chad and the intense floods that we experience every now and then to the sea level rise along our 853km coastline all accompanied by a severe loss of biodiversity. We have also seen many violence attacks by herdsmen and farmers who go in search of green pastures for their Cows or Cattle because the fields are no longer green, things are changing quickly and we have to act fast. For Africa, this is a bigger picture and people don’t even know what the root cause of their problems is.
4. What would be the best way to manage population levels to ensure these keep track with the available resources?
In my opinion, population management is a big factor in achieving sustainable development and what we have seen in most under-developed and developing countries is that the slums, rural areas and socially isolated parts of the country are always filled with children because planned parenthood is non-existent, poverty has promoted idleness and frustration and the only activity readily available to them is making babies, they form a large part of the population and if government, CSO and industries do not find ways to create safety nets for them to keep busy, earn incomes and feed a moderate family size, we will continue to not only have increased population but a dependent population.
5. What is the renewable energy mix (wind, solar, hydro) in Africa and Nigeria?
Nigeria and Africa in general have more work around solar energy – which is understandable with the amount of sunshine we get in these parts and also because solar present a perfect option for people not connected to the grids to have access to power to power basic appliances in their homes or shops. We also have notable wind projects available in Katsina State – Northern Nigeria in Nigeria and in countries like South Africa, Egypt, Morocco and Kenya where there are available investments and political will to pursue them.
6. What do you think the relationship is between sustainability and equity?
For me, I see no prospect of sustainability without a conscious effort to pursue equity in short, medium and long terms– As farfetched as the concept may sound, everyone agrees that inequality is major determinant of achieving Sustainable Development, whether all people have similar rights, opportunities and access to all forms of community capital. Equity in sustainability has a lot to do with fairness between current and future members of a community.
7. Water contamination is a concern for all peoples for people in large cities who get their water from a public source; are there any contaminants which are causing problems? For instance, in the United States there has been issues with lead contamination.
Absolutely, the people in select parts of the Niger Delta have experienced contaminated water with oil!. Oil that found its way through the work of oil companies.
It is very unfortunate to know that these are the realities vulnerable people are facing for having oil in their soils.
8. If you were younger person interested in getting involved with sustainability what advice would you give them?
I’ll say be open to a lot of freelancing and volunteering; In Volunteering – you get to do a lot of ground work that introduces you to the basics of sustainability. It is also important to discover what part of sustainability you want to be really focused on, for me – it is eco-feminism and climate change and these have formed the background for my sustainability work.
9. What challenges unique to Africa do you foresee in regards to adopting sustainability in large scale?
Youth participation, political will and private sector involvement. We’ll need more young people on board with the sustainability agenda, they have to understand the concept, how to apply it to their daily lives and then come up with solutions and interventions to advance sustainable development. This of course will not be enough if we do not have political will and backing from our government to invest in Sustainability projects and green infrastructure. The private sector must also realize that business sustainability is the future and align their own strategies to adequately support the environment and societies they operate in. The good news is that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are able to form a guide for people, government and private sector – with these targets we are able to purposefully work towards solving one development issue at a time.
10. What is the biggest challenge Susty Vibes has with its clients in regards to meeting their sustainability goals?
We currently have to do a lot of groundwork in finding people and organisation involved in sustainability work whether as recycled waste collectors, local manufacturers etc. Though, I would not call this a challenge but rather an opportunity for us to do more work. We cannot point people to sustainability practices without showing them how to and where to. And as pioneers in our own approach to conceptualize sustainability as something that is hip, achievable and responsible, we constantly have to serve as a platform to showcase sustainability that come out of Africa.
We cannot make sustainability a reality on our own
I left my interview feeling a connection with those who mutually believe as I do that this planet is worth fighting for. However, we cannot make sustainability a reality on our own. We will need help all every corner of the earth. Will agree to help us?
I’d love to hear your sustainability story….
P.S. If you consider yourself a warrior for sustainability perhaps your story can be featured in a future blog post. I look forward to hearing from you.