We caught up with Tolu Taiwo, the assistant project co-ordinator for Liter of Light Nigeria. This project looks to create a sustainable solar lighting to help impoverished areas of Nigeria.
In our current day and age, climate change and global warming, however much some people deny it is a global issue. This charity project seeks to involve volunteers and crowd funding to help create a better future for those in underprivileged areas. Liter of Light Nigeria signifies the number of ways we can help our communities and improve the lives of the disadvantaged whilst creating a sustainable future.
What was the initial moment, which sparked this idea?
The initial moment and ‘idea spark’ has to be owed 100% to my friend, colleague and Project Leader, Victor Udeozor. He met the founder of the Liter of Light organisation Illac Diaz at a UN conference in 2016. Liter of light is already an established global organisation, which aims to bring sustainable solar lighting to impoverished communities all over the world. The organisation has a strong foothold in Europe and Asia but there hadn’t been many successful attempts to bring it to countries in West Africa. Victor inspired by what he saw brought the idea back to the ‘Nigerian student’s society’ at the University of Nottingham. We then assembled a team driven to successfully implement this project in Nigeria and here we are, few months on gearing up to deliver on our plans.
Who is involved in running it?
As fore mentioned the driving force behind Liter of Light Nigeria is the ‘Nigerian student’s society’ based at the University of Nottingham. We are a team of 12 members with a broad range of skills and networks, using them effectively to run this project. In regards to myself, I have provided offerings from both my engineering and entrepreneurship background to the project. Ensuring the project can be delivered with as much impact as possible. We are also offering up the volunteering to people outside of the society and even the University, to form up a team of recruited volunteers interested in a unique project; both in its sustainable deliverables and the location.
The Nigerian Society is involved in this project, how important is a collective in the project management?
The collective is so important to the project. Every single one of our current 12-member team has been instrumental in the project milestones we have been able to attain so far. Our ethos at Liter of Light Nigeria is ‘respect’ and ‘professionalism’. Respect-because it’s important to respect each other in a team and honour all contributions. Professionalism –we were keen to conduct this project with the upmost professionalism, so our mission is taken seriously.
I think crowd funding has fast become a viable and effective way to generate funds for a project or cause
Has the university helped in promoting the project?
The University of Nottingham has fully supported the project; Right from the conception of the idea: they brought on board world-class academics who were keen to work on developing our prototype and project plan. They have also been able to support the project financially by allowing us access to the university’s own grant programme. They have been a massive help in getting this project off the ground.
How important are crowd-funding platforms for developing ideas in today’s age?
I think crowd funding has fast become a viable and effective way to generate funds for a project or cause. The popularity of such platforms I believe have been birthed out of the social media age we are currently in. It is now easy to communicate one’s project to the masses and direct them to where they can actively support from just a simple linked post on social media. I also think support from a crowd-funding platform goes further than just seeking funds sought from a solo source, like a venture capitalist or angel investor. Crowd funding is a way to highlight, which projects are deserving of creative and innovative merit. It is almost like an extra evidence of success if your crowd funding is successful as it is clear to see people BELIEVE in your project. So far we had a lot of support, which we are grateful for but we still need more donations so we can fully run all aspects of our project.
As students from Nigeria, how important is it to bring back the skills learned in England to impoverished areas in Nigeria?
So important! And not only students from Nigeria but also British born/raised Nigerians who somewhat feel a connection to their cultural heritage. I feel there is a potentially powerful sub-culture forming of both Young Nigerians who have studied in the UK and British born/raised Nigerians. We really have the potential to have a positive influence in Nigeria and other areas of the continent. Amidst criticism that proposing massive changes in Nigeria is not feasible… I believe it’s the incremental changes that help can change the unproductive mentality and help our country see the bigger picture. One idea a lot of Nigerians struggle with is ‘charity’ and being a ‘cheerful giver’. I find this so surprising because the country has a religious majority, which is supposedly meant to be in support of these actions. Liter of Light Nigeria aims to not only deliver our sustainable solar light systems to the poor but also promote the idea of charity at grass root level.
The project will also involve a group of volunteers going to Nigeria; what areas will they be visiting?
We have received an overwhelming amount of responses from people and different organisation highlighting communities who will benefit from this technology. One area we have made plans to visit is a marginalised area of Lagos called Makoko. We are also hoping to visit some areas in Ogun and Oyo state but we are still trying to work on the logistics for that to happen.
The UN recently declared that many of these areas are on the brink of a widespread famine with more 4.8 million people in need of food assistance.
What problems do many of these places face?
We are targeting many of these areas because they are either off the grid (receive no electricity at all) or they receive a limited electricity supply and struggle with the costs to financially run a generator to provide light. It is difficult for many of these people to find a way to make ends meet, as there is no such thing as a governmental welfare plan to help them. Part of our plans is to teach the local residents how to make the sustainable Liter of Light lamps, which can be made out of a recyclable plastic bottle and an easily assembled solar powered torch. Creating a micro economy in these areas giving people a way to make money and help their communities in the long term.
What are your feelings on the political situation and especially famine in Northern Nigeria?
I think what is happening currently in Northern Nigeria is really bad. Our society last year ran a charity drive to raise funds to support victims of this crisis that are currently in internally displaced people’s camps. These are basically camps that have been set up in troubled areas of Northern Nigeria to house people who have been displaced by the Boko Haram terror regime. Many of these areas are in extreme poverty as people are unable to farm the lands to produce food from the displacement. The UN recently declared that many of these areas are on the brink of a widespread famine with more 4.8 million people in need of food assistance.
I think what makes the situation even worse is the limited awareness of what is happening. It’s been nearly 3 years since the Chibok kidnapping #bringbackourgirls scandal which hit the mainstream news and launched the huge global campaign. Since then atrocities have continued to happen without it even breaking the surface of western media. We recently very proudly appeared on ITV news central on a news item which brought awareness to the famine crisis in Northern Nigeria and other parts of Africa. We were keen to feature to highlight efforts made by our society to help, in hopes to inspire individuals and charity initiatives to take action.
The team of Liter of Light Nigeria
Black Lives Matter activists recently protested in London City Airport in regards to issues on climate, what are your feelings on climate change?
My research field deals with aspects climate change and ways we can use science and technology to circumvent the issue. My views are that climate change is real; it’s happening… there are many pieces of evidence can show the changes in the Earth’s climate through history. What we need to do as sentient beings and inhabitants of this world is to make steps to combat this and create an environmental friendly world, which we can all happily live in. I also feel that there are many climate change deniers who believe people who ‘go on’ about climate change are just ‘tree hugging nutters’. As a person keen to spread awareness on this I think it is important to be aware of our conduct when trying to raise awareness on climate change in order to be taken seriously. Many governments have taken steps to tackle the issue but I believe even more can be done.
What makes this project environmentally friendly?
This project offers a renewable solar energy alternative instead of using of finite fossil fuels supplies, to power generators commonly used in Nigeria. This project also makes solar power accessible to all social classes in Nigeria and no longer a commodity only available to the rich and the multinational industries in the country.
Finally, where can we donate?
You can donate at https://jumpstart.hubbub.net/p/lol-nigeria/pitch/
Any amount will be gratefully received. The University of Nottingham Cascade grant has also agreed to match fund, which means any amount donated will be automatically doubled. Just a £7 donation will become £14, which is the cost of one Liter of Light solar lamp.
If you are unable to donate you can also sign up as a ‘helper’, which means when you share the link on any social media platform the number of ‘clicks’ you generated, can be tracked. We encourage any visitors to the page to do so! It will be much appreciated!
Liter of Light Nigeria