Sustainable Development Goal 11 calls for the development of sustainable cities and communities to create safe, affordable and sustainable living conditions. Ways of achieving this goal include strengthening national and regional development planning and utilising local building materials.

In Nigeria, local and small medium enterprises (SMEs) working in construction are facing significant economic challenges due to the rising cost of cement. Recycled plastics have the potential to replace traditional, expensive and environmentally unfriendly construction materials, such as cement, and help companies adopt more sustainable approaches. These changes, alongside the adoption of sustainable household energy solutions, can also support more climate change conscious lifestyles.

In January 2024, through a week-long series of activities, Commonwealth Alumnus Olusegun Micheal Akanmu sought to raise awareness of climate change and promote sustainable energy solutions and alternative construction materials in Ayedire, Osun State, Nigeria.


Olusegun Akanmu headshot

Olusegun Micheal Akanmu

Olusegun is currently a trainee Teacher at Cowley Academy in Donington, UK.

The activity promotes the 2023/24 ACEF theme: Clean Energy, Air and Oceans.

Raising awareness on climate-friendly saltwater lamps

Olusegun’s first activity was a two-day workshop for 30 students and teachers at 5 local secondary schools to learn about climate change and ways they can introduce climate-friendly energy solutions in their homes through the construction of saltwater powered lamps. The workshop was designed to address the lack of reliable electricity in the Ayedire Local Government area, which has led to prevalent use of generators powered by expensive and polluting fuels.

At the start of the two days, students completed a questionnaire to assess their knowledge of climate change and saltwater lamps. Based on responses, there was limited to no knowledge of these things amongst participants.

The first day of the workshop therefore provided comprehensive education on climate change, its impacts, and the various human activities contributing to it. Olusegun utilised presentations and YouTube videos to illustrate the effects of climate change on aquatic life, vegetation, ecosystems, and urban areas.

On the second day, students consolidated their learning by constructing climate-friendly saltwater lamps using DIY kits and readily available household materials. The practical session aimed to promote affordable and sustainable energy solutions which would help reduce reliance on polluting and unsafe kerosene lamps typically used in their homes, as well as generators.

Olusegun’s workshop received positive feedback from students and teachers. Some teachers described it as ‘life-saving’ as it met an immediate community need and empowered students with new skills and knowledge. Following the workshop, students have actively sought ways to scale-up the production of saltwater lamps in their communities by sharing information with others.

Promoting sustainable construction practices

Attendees examining blocks made during the activity

Attendees examining blocks made during the activity

Following this successful start to his week of activities, Olusegun shifted his focus to supporting 10 local SME construction businesses through a two-day workshop titled, ‘Demonstration of Practical Recycling Techniques for Pavement Blocks and Interlocks Using Nylon and Plastic Wastes’. The workshop aimed to raise awareness about the climate impact of conventional building materials and empower SMEs to adopt cost effective, eco-friendly construction practices and sustainable materials.

During the first day, Olusegun shared how plastic and nylon wastes can be recycled and used in pavement block production. He explained how utilising waste for construction can contribute to improved waste management, address rising construction materials costs and economic challenges for SMEs, and promote sustainable business practices. On day two, Olusegun provided a practical demonstration on how to use these alternative materials in constructing block paving, enabling participants to handle these materials and put their learning into practice.

Olusegun is pleased to share the workshop yielded positive outcomes. At the start of day one, 90% of participants were unfamiliar with using recycled plastics and nylon for block production. By the end of day two, 95% felt confident in adopting these building techniques to revive their businesses and adopt sustainable practices.

Through further follow-up, some participants have adopted and are scale-uping this practice through their business. Additionally, the initiative has triggered a positive shift in waste management practices within the wider community through increased awareness and active participation in collecting plastic and nylon wastes for block-making industries.

“This workshop opened my eyes to new possibilities. We can make stronger blocks without harming the environment.” Participant

Advocating for change within the wider community

The final activity of the week was an interactive radio programme on ‘Climate Change, Clean Energy and Ocean Protection’.

The radio programme enabled Olusegun to share information on crucial environmental issues at the wider community level and address knowledge gaps. Through the programme, Olusegun encouraged listeners to make behavioural changes and accept responsibility for and commitment to environmental sustainability.

Looking to the future, Olusegun plans to scale up these activities. This includes collaborating with more educational institutions, exploring partnerships with local media to improve the reach of educational activities, and establishing a framework for continuous engagement to follow-up on the long-term impact of his activities.

Olusegun Micheal Akanmu is a 2022 Commonwealth Professional Fellow from Nigeria. He completed his Fellowship at Lifegate Outreach Centre UK.