This Monday, 07th December 2020, a highly committed and motivated group of WAC-SRT students, the Climate and Sustainable Development Action Club (CSDAC), launches an innovative capacity building on “Enterpreneurship and Empowerement of Nigerien Youth in the face of Covid-19”. The project is one of 25 award-winning initiatives selected among more than 1300 applications from 14 countries where Plan International West and Central Africa operates. Strong commitment to enhancing local communities’ practices towards the SDGs and African Union Agenda 2063 –especially in regard to environmental protection, gender equality and climate change resilience, adaptation and mitigation– have been at the core of the activities of the CSDAC since its foundation in 2018.
2019 – Students from CSDAC make a nursery reusing plastic bags collected in previous environmental cleaning actions. Later, hundreds of trees are distributed in a rural village, within a CSDAC-community collaboration for desertification contention (SDG 2 and 13)
The student organization has also been active in social media in several awareness-raising campaigns before and especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, about which they also mobilized sharing information on prevention measures. Going beyond their climate-change related mandate, CSDAC students’ actions during the pandemic show once more their dedication to improving the lives of their communities, contributing to increase the social impact of their research and of the university in their surroundings. If you want to learn more about these students’ inspiring actions, have a look at the interview! It is also worth checking out their work in their Facebook and YouTube channels. We congratulate the CSDAC team, especially the team that put this award-winning proposal together, for their encouraging example: Mamane Bawa Sakina, Délano Thierry Odou, Segbedji Geraldo Favi, Amal Salla Mayaki and Lémonla Armel Otekpo. And we thank our soon-to-be graduated master student Segbedji Geraldo Favi for taking the time for this interview.
On the right: CSDA team meeting, Niamey, 2019
How did you come to know about the Plan International call, and how did you and your colleagues have the idea to submit a proposal?
From May 29 to June 7 2020, Plan International West and Central Africa launched the call for application for creative, innovative, local projects with a link to address one of the challenges posed by the COVID-19. This project is known as the “Youth Challenge Fund (YCF)” and aims to finance groups/associations of young girls, boys between the ages of 10 to 23, in the 14 countries of operation of the Organization.
Therefore, applying to the YCF requires a Commitment to Act, Learn, Inspire and Share with Youth and Communities in the region. The call for applications was published on several social media, especially on Facebook, where the information was seen by Armel Otekpo (Funds miner). More than 1.300 entries were submitted for the 1st edition of the Youth Challenge Fund, a competition aimed at supporting young committed leaders in the West and Central Africa region. But only 25 were selected including the CSDAC in the category “Youth empowerment and entrepreneurship”.
What exactly is your proposal, what do you envisage with this project?
The project is entitled: Entrepreneurship and Empowerment of Nigerian Youth in the face of Covid-19. It was inspired by two significant facts with which the youth in our environment were confronted:
• High unemployment rate, women being more impacted;
• Accentuation of economic vulnerability of the majority of the population, mostly young people, living on a daily basis, with the wake of COVID-19 and restriction measures
So, the project aims to strengthen the capacity and empower of young people, especially girls, through training on the installation and deployment of solar systems for irrigation in Niger, which allows them to be operational on the market.
And how does your proposal build on what you and your colleagues have been learning and discussing within the WAC-SRT master program?
Given the interdisciplinary nature of the WAC-SRT Program, we received various courses on Solar Energy, Irrigation and the nexus Water-Energy-Food (WEF), which on the first hand give us the foundation to understand the science behind this terminology and the expertise to apply and on the other hand to be aware of the challenges our communities are facing, and what solutions are out there to be implemented in a sustainable manner. Based on that, and with the wake of COVID-19, we have built around this to propose this Youth Capacity-building project to address a gap in the society, especially in Niger, and share with our peers the knowledge we got from this program. Moreover, the tips we learned from the Workshop organised at the centre on Proposal and Research writing really helped us a lot to write a winning proposal.
When have you prepared the submission? How has the pandemic affected your work, how have you managed to discuss, meet, and how did it affect the format/idea of your proposal?
This project was written during the COVID-19 period, and the main challenge was to organise meetings among members, since restrictions were imposed on public gatherings. However, thank to technology, we were able to organise regular online meetings using Zoom or Google Meet, and keep in touch through a WhatsApp group specifically created for this project. Due to the availability of everyone and academic-related aspects, we always meet online from 11:30 PM, until the fixed objective was achieved.
How many people will join your capacity building? How many applications did you receive and how was the selection process?
We had planned to select 30 youth aged from 18 to 24 years old, from Niger, with the target of having 20 ladies and 10 men. The call for applications was accessible to potential candidates from 15 September to 02 October 2020. In order to encourage and give more details to the candidates, we also made a video.
Call for applications
We received a total of 167 applications from six countries (Niger, Benin, Togo, Burkina-Faso, Cameroon and Chad), 135 male and 32 female candidates. After the work of the selection committee on 22 October 2020, we selected 30 laureates living in Niamey to take part in the training. CSDAC members from the 1st and 2nd Batch of the WAC-SRT program have participated in the selection.
Presentation of the score grid by the selection committee coordinator.
Exchange with the selection committee
What do you want to achieve through this capacity-building?
With this project, our goal is to create a new generation of proactive technicians with an entrepreneurial spirit, to reduce not only the unemployment rate of young people but also to provide technical support to the population in need of integrated solutions for water, energy and agriculture. At the end of the capacity-building project, they will receive a set of technical tools (Digital Electrical meter, screwdrivers, etc.) that will allow them to start to monetise what they have learned.
What would you tell other students in Tamale, in Wa, in Niamey or in other African Excellence Centers based on your experience?
What we can say to our colleagues is that we must always think about impacting our environment and give back to the community. It is the only way for us to be part of the change we want in our community and the continent as a whole. The main driver for our project was the sense of responsibility we developed in front of the situation the youth were facing during the early moment of the pandemic as a result of the different restriction measures put in place, that prevented youth from going out to work –since they are living on a daily basis, with informal business.
We would like to invite our colleagues to believe in themselves. Putting together their effort and expertise, they can achieve more than they can think of. They should also persevere and be ready for the sacrifice (in other words, nothing come easy). This is not the only project we submitted in that time. We have applied to three other fund challenges dedicated to COVID-19 ideas during that period, and we did not always succeed, but we kept pushing. It happened that we worked throughout the night till the morning without noticing, because what we wanted was to achieve our goal.