Only weeks after the launch of AUN Agricultural Entrepreneurship School, the University launched its sustainability initiative–another social entrepreneurship project.
It was on Saturday, September 22, when students, some women community leaders, and some University officials gathered at the recycling unit of the Works & Maintenance Department. The project is a recycling venture, designed to convert waste from the garbage heap into useful products.
The waste-to-wealth process began by turning empty plastic bottles into “ecobricks” by filling them with sand. These durable bricks can be used to build walls for properties and homes.
Present at the occasion was Chairman Ahmed Joda of the University’s Board of Trustees and President Margee Ensign, who noted that the waste recycle project is a community project which should not be mistaken for the University’s. AUN, she said, is only taking the initiative to bring this into existence.
“It is not just cleaning our environment but creating income for those without jobs. That is Social Entrepreneurship in practice.” The President had some words of motivation for the over 50 students who are involved in it. “In 10 years, people will turn back and say, “Who are the wonderful students who started this?”
Chairman Joda who joined in filling the recycled bottles to form ecobricks encouraged the women and gave some suggestions on what they could to improve the project, the need to incorporate women having pot-making skills from the community among others. He thanked those behind the initiative.
Earlier, Dr. Charles Reith, Director of Sustainability Initiatives, spoke on the significance of the project. He noted that ordinarily beverage bottles have just 15-minute service life but when they are re-used, last much longer. “Those bottles are non-bio-gradable and when filled with sand, are called ecobricks. These ecobricks can be used to make much more cost-effective houses and walls for their artistic flair as they form nice textures.”
On the environmental impact, he said when left under the sun, the containers will degenerate. “So the eco-bricks will be protected from sunlight by using attractive coatings and textures.” The ecobricks can then be used to build houses which can last 10–15 years. Students, he said, are already involved in product development, financial planning and marketing, not just for the ecobricks but for woven handbags and totes made out of recycled grocery bags and jewelry made out of shiny scraps and glass beads.
He revealed that the project is already saving some expenses for AUN. “The University is saving ₦600,000 monthly in waste disposal.” The first strategy for ecobricks is product showcasing; building a number of walls on campus to make the community aware and we hope other schools will start doing the same thing.
Dr. Hannah Mugambi was also present, with her students enrolled in her women development session of her first-year experience course, GEN 101. Other student groups present were those enrolled in the sustainability session of first-year experience course.
The community leaders at the occasion expressed excitement over the project. Mrs. Jumai R. Adi, a civil servant and leader of Victoria Women Association of Upper Benue River Basin, described it as good venture and welcome development for the Yola community. “Imagine bottles that are supposed to be trashed are used as raw materials to create other products. We are being taught now how to do it; after graduating, we hope to start our own eco-business. I am very happy to be part of those that start this project and hope to put in the whole of my heart in doing this.”
Mrs. Esther Emanuel Tsamdu, the assistant leader of the Women Development Centre, Yola South, also found the training and empowerment program very interesting. Ms. Shalom Otuene, one of the students involved in marketing the products and enrollee in the Entrepreneurship Course, described the course is an eye-opener into the world of environment. “It is only three weeks into the course now but I have recognized how important it is for investors to always consider the environment.”