As a member of the Nigerian Youth Climate Coalition, a national chapter of a wider African initiative on climate change that brings together young campaigners from across the continent, I am very much aware of how climate change is affecting our landscape and lifestyles.
I come from Minna, the capital of Niger State in west central Nigeria. Here, the majority of the population makes its living from agriculture, growing primarily cotton, guinea corn, ginger and yams. For farmers, a predictable and stable climate is essential—they must know, for example, when the rains are coming so they can plant. We have seen in recent years many bad droughts across Africa, most recently in Niger and East Africa, and in general our weather seems to be growing more unpredictable. In the case of Minna, is has a savannah climate and is surrounded by large bodies of water. The city faces enormous challenges in sanitation, drainage and flooding from monsoon rains—too much rain can be as dangerous as too little.
I study Geography and Meteorology at the Federal University of Technology in Minna and I am also a leader of the National Association of Geography students. I believe everybody should use their specific skills to bring change, and this is why I have focused on promoting and disseminating a weather forecasting application to fill a gap by providing farmers and the general public with the crucial information they need to better plan their agricultural activities.
A team of students started designing Weather Forecast Application v1.0 in 2011 and launched it in January 2012. As so many people in Nigeria get online through mobile phones, the application is compatible with operating systems like Java, Symbian, Blackberry and Android OS. Data usage is relatively cheap and, of course, the application is free. Over 500 people are using the application, and we are trying to meet the state governor to gain support for getting this application into the hands of many more farmers.
With funding commitment, we hope to improve on the interface and service delivery and widen the coverage to take in more cities. The project will eventually reach millions across the country and, hopefully, help mitigate the challenges presented by unfavourable weather conditions.
What gives me most hope for the future is that we are not alone in addressing such challenges in Nigeria. Our youth are proactive and strongly believe in being the change they want to see in the world.
Looking to the future, I would like to see this sort of youthful energy, vibrancy and creativity harnessed and applied to the Sustainable Development Goals. In Nigeria, the Millennium Development Goals could have been better monitored, as many government officials showed no zeal in implementing them. This is a situation we should strive hard to avoid with the SDGs. The youth are showing the way; it’s now up to the leaders to follow our example.