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2020 end of year message to EBAFOSA Innovative Volunteerism actors
“It is crooked wood that shows the best sculptor”.
This African proverb aptly describes what you, the Innovative Volunteerism actors across the continent, have done in an otherwise unprecedented year. The socioeconomic disruption that has come upon humanity in 2020, because of the compounding effects of the COVID-19 emergency, has been equated, to that of the second world war that ended over 75 years ago. This disruption has exceeded the devastation of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis by a whooping 60%. And the fact that we did not go astray, is testament of your willingness and readiness to use what you have, and selflessly engage towards a climate resilient and socioeconomically competitive Africa. In 2020, you have proven to be the best sculptors.
Amidst all this, one critical fact is that climate change did not stop for COVID. Despite the shrinking economies, the job losses, with up to 50% of all jobs lost, increased inflation including in the most critical food systems, with price hikes of up to 300% experienced in some places, the burden and threat of climate change did not budge. Africa, like the rest of the globe, still faces the herculean task, of increasing climate action ambition by up to 5-fold, to prevent run-away climate change risk. It is amidst such difficulty, that you, Innovative Volunteerism actors, have stood out. Your actions have shown that the fight against climate change, cannot be stopped by emergencies, but rather, it can offer solutions to both. And this has been because of the foundational premise of climate action in Africa, which is, that it is largely socioeconomic. And Innovative Volunteerism responds in kind. It is about willingly and voluntarily volunteering yourself and retooling your skills to devise climate action solutions and apply these innovative climate action solutions that ensure there is food on every table;. enhanced health for everyone; more money in more pockets as well as unlock multiple enterprise opportunities and drive bottom line economic growth through actions of the informal sector that comprise 80% of economic activity on the continent.
As Innovative Volunteerism actors, you have been at the centre of this solutions paradigm. And you have done so in style, by continuing to refine one of the most important values for success in any venture. This is a value, that underpins Innovative Volunteerism, and I am talking about selflessness.
In 2020, I have seen structured selflessness increasingly take root. Teams of Innovative Volunteerism actors across countries, have gone the extra mile to mutually train and equip each other, in deploying Innovative Environmental and climate action solutions in some of the most critical need areas on the continent. We have seen actors, mentor each other to get into new areas like sustainable fashion, through recycling plastic waste into fashionable apparel. This has been a solution to not only beating plastic pollution, but also reducing the carbon footprint associated with conventional fashion. It has been as source of alternative income opportunities in an over $30billion a year industry, that is second only to agriculture in terms of offering livelihoods in Africa.
We have seen actors’ mentor each other to develop much more improved solar dryers, that are much more effective in dehydrating produce to levels that are below the threshold needed to prevent growth of aflatoxins and molds. The use of these dryers is ensuring a 30times increase among food traders who for the first time, are having a hygienic and affordable way to increase shelf life of their produce.
All these are in addition to actors mentoring each other in other areas of innovative environmental solutions – including waste to clean cooking fuel briquettes. These are not only mitigating against indoor pollution, that causes up to 600,000 deaths each year in Africa but tapping a $20billion a year industry. We are seeing actors’ mentor each other in waste to biofertilizer with recorded profitability of up to 560%. We are seeing actors mentor each other in plastic waste recovery into paving tiles that are up to 40% cheaper with 20times more load resistance than conventional blocks. By this tap the growing construction sector in Africa.
But even more exciting has been the selflessness demonstrated in leveraging communal cooperatives as the structure for delivering these innovative climate action solutions that touch many lives. With up to 90% of Africa’s population outside of formal financial systems, communal cooperatives have played the role of saving and investing among most of the population. Through leveraging the framework of EBAFOSA Innovative Volunteerism, different non-state actors, including youth, women agro-value chain actors, among others have been engaged and, are leveraging on the spirit of cooperatives, to finance Innovative Environmental climate action Solutions. But these cooperatives are taking on a very innovative angle because cooperatives are not just buildings and money alone as we are sometimes made to understand. Rather than convene actors around money, actors are now convened around Innovative Environmental and climate action Solutions, that are critical to enabling value addition to unlock more opportunities to scale up the solutions. What we call “co-operating for Innovative Environmental and climate action Solutions”. For example, the menace of high postharvest losses, is providing an opportunity for agro-value chain actors to be clustered and work communally in accessing a value addition solution – such as a communal solar dryer. Through this communal solar dryer, they are able to cut their post-harvest losses and increase their savings and with these savings they can use them for their other needs as they wish.
Dear Innovative Volunteerism actors, as we bid farewell to 2020, and trust almighty God for an even greater, impactful 2021, the following is what we need to do building in what was done in 2020:
First, learn and perfect skilling in offering solutions in an area of need in the community. The areas of focus such as waste are Accessible, non-capital-intensive areas that everyone regardless of age or area of training can engage in are many- whether you are talking of agro-waste recovery to fuel briquettes will serve to reverse indoor pollution that is killing
Second, deliver this solution by working directly with community. Markets are people. And you unlock these markets with your solution, it will earn the trust and ownership of the people. And you will earn this trust rapidly by co-creating the solutions with the communities, so they own it.
Third, save and invest in a cooperative . This logic is driven through perfecting the perpetual cycle of saving and investing through the low risk, affordable structure of cooperatives. In this case, this will be two-fold. First, ensure to get a team of willing youth you work with in developing these solutions and these will be a cooperative of solutions. And second, the entire team should be saving whatever earnings you make by trading with the community in the cooperative.
Fourth, you cannot work alone and succeed. The biggest individual action is collective action. Work as a team with the willing and engage the community as co-creators of your solutions to enhance ownership.
Do not be left out. Let us tap into these many opportunities as we move into 2021 to drive a truly climate resilient Africa.
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