Adenike Oladosu (Ogbomosho, Nigeria, 1994) is a Nigerian climate activist and one of the driving forces behind the Fridays for Future movement in her country. She defines herself as an eco-feminist and eco-reporter; and currently she is one of the most powerful voices, along with Greta Thunberg, Helena Gualinga or Vanessa Nakate, in the fight against climate change. Since 2019, she has been working tirelessly to mobilize both Nigerian and African youth in raising awareness of what the climate emergency entails.
Graduated in agricultural economics, it was in 2019, reading the report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), when she realized the magnitude of what the climate crisis meant. It was then that she decided to start her activism. For Oladosu, who in December 2019 attended the COP 25 held in Madrid as a delegate of Nigerian youth, climate justice is a matter of responsibility that must be assumed by all countries, especially those that make up the North Global, those responsible for the current climate emergency situation. Oladosu is very critical about that: “We need the Loss and Damage Fund to be implemented [referring to one of the commitments of the Paris Agreement, in 2015]. If the leaders [del Nord Global] do not give the necessary funds that the countries of the South need, then we will not be able to adapt. And we cannot avoid their responsibility, because they are the ones who have contributed the most, with their emissions, to the warming of the planet. And we, those from the south, are the ones who suffer the most [el canvi climàtic]; therefore, we can talk about a situation of neo-colonialism”. Adenike Oladosu uses every opportunity he has to make a call to action and to point out those responsible “It is immoral that [els països del Nord Global] they do not fulfill their financial obligations; and if they don’t take responsibility, we will never have climate justice”, she concludes.
Adenike Oladosu is also behind the pan-African initiative ILeadClimate, which aims to boost climate activism and peacebuilding, especially in the Lake Chad region. She does this through awareness programs, workshops, courses, training and activities, among others, that have women at the center.
Lake Chad – one of the largest in the world – has shrunk by 90% in 60 years, as the United Nations and various environmental organizations have pointed out for years. This is mainly due to climate change, but also to the proliferation of irrigation systems, dams and population growth. Lake Chad, shared by Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon, supports some 42 million people and until recently was the Sahel’s main source of water. Faced with this situation, Adenike Oladosu and I LeadClimate work for the empowerment of the communities that live in the lake in order to avoid conflicts arising from food shortages. Conflicts between communities, displacement and territorial struggles, among others. “Supporting those affected by the shrinking of Lake Chad is based on a first-aid approach, but strengthening livelihood options becomes a long-term sustainable approach,” explains I LeadClimate.
Who has been able to take advantage of the situation of scarcity of resources is the Bokom Haram group, which operates in the area and which, thanks to the conflict, has attracted young people without resources. In this way, it is observed how climate change not only calls into question the survival of communities and ecosystems, but also encourages violent extremism and endangers the security of entire countries. Faced with this scenario, the need for a multi-sectoral and interdisciplinary approach that can deal with one of the most serious environmental crises facing the African continent, that of Lake Chad, seems obvious.
Climate change in Nigeria is no longer a threat, but a reality that conditions the daily lives of the inhabitants. Droughts that cause hunger, food insecurity and conflicts between communities, unexpected floods – those of 2022 caused almost a million people to be displaced -, rising sea levels and the consequent migration of the population or extreme desertification – the temperature in the country has risen considerably since the eighties—these are some of the effects that can already be observed in the African country. Nigeria, in addition to being the country with the largest population in Africa, with 218 million inhabitants, is one of those that are suffering the most from the attacks of the climate emergency.
However, the country is the largest oil producer on the African continent, with fossil fuels accounting for 60% of government revenue and 90% of foreign exchange earnings. While last August Nigeria launched its Energy Transition Plan to achieve the goal of net zero emissions by 2060—and in 2021 enacted a new Climate Change Act—the reality is that oil and gas still play a major role in the Nigerian economy. In fact, the Energy Transition Plan envisages significant actions from 2030 onwards. What’s more: the government has declared the period up to 2030 as the ‘Decade of Gas’ and actions are planned to attract investment, which will involve increased production of both gas and oil and market expansion. The current war between Russia and Ukraine and the resulting energy crisis could relaunch Nigeria in the ongoing reorganization of the world energy order.
How do you become a climate activist? At what point do you become aware of the seriousness of the issue?
I started being an activist before finishing university. By then I had already seen the impact of the climate crisis on my land: famines, droughts, floods, deforestation or rising sea levels, among others. I did some research on Lake Chad and heard a lot of stories. I talked to people from different regions. I think that if you are not aware of the problems, if they are not made known, you cannot act; so through my website I made the stories known. I also had and still have a Youtube channel. Activism allows me to make the stories known; I also prepare materials for my students. This is part of the solution.
You are the driving force behind ILeadClimate. What does this consist of?
Ilead Climate is a pan-African movement that aims to call for climate action on issues affecting the African continent. We work in four directions. First of all, we work for the recovery and awareness about the problems of Lake Chad. Secondly, we promote democracy and environmental education among young people. Third, we develop climate action based on ecofeminism, and finally, we offer solutions. So far, we have been able to educate different communities and hundreds of people about the impacts of the climate crisis. We are also working on the empowerment of these communities, especially women. Our goal is to strengthen access to resources and give them the necessary tools for development.
What kind of work or projects do you carry out with women?
Some of our programs focus on empowering women through resources. For example, we provide them with organic fertilizers or native plants for them to grow. In sub-Saharan Africa, women have no control over land ownership; and this means that they do not have access to a number of necessary resources. Through our programs we seek to close existing gaps while fighting climate change, building resilience, achieving gender equality and strengthening the food system. In sub-Saharan Africa, women contribute almost 80% of the food produced there; and giving them access to resources is fundamental to empowering them. We also organize courses and workshops related to climate change and the environment.
Where do you get the funding from?
Sometimes from scholarships, sometimes from international organizations. We also work in collaboration with organizations. We are currently developing a curriculum for an online course on feminism and ecofeminism.
You define yourself as an ecofeminist and the work you do with Ilead Climate puts this concept at the center. Why is it so important that climate change activism goes hand in hand with feminism?
Because women are at the center of climate change and because historically we have been left out. Environmental instability affects women and girls more than men; and they are the first affected by the climate crisis. This dynamic can be seen very clearly in Nigeria. For example, as the environment degrades, we lose plant cover and available water is reduced. In my country, women are responsible for having water in the house, so they are the ones who have to go out to get water for cooking. There are women who walk up to 20 kilometers to get it. This situation disempowers women. For example, it causes girls to drop out of school to carry out this task. We will not have gender equality until there is climate justice.
In countries like Nigeria, climate change is no longer a threat, but has become a reality. Widespread desertification, floods, cities threatened by rising sea levels, displacement of people…
The reality of the climate crisis, both in Nigeria and in the rest of the world, is not one, but multiple. None of these crises is greater than another, and in most cases, they overlap. The lack of water, especially in the north of the country, means that the herds do not have to eat. This creates hunger, food insecurity and conflict between communities.
Are Nigerian citizens concerned about the climate emergency? Recently, there have been parliamentary elections, is this a priority matter for the new government?
In Nigeria, as in other countries, more awareness is needed. Tools are needed to make people resilient, as well as peace. We expect a lot from the new administration, in terms of climate change. On the part of the activists, the work is being done: channels are being created, social networks are being used for the cause, etc. As for me, I continue to write articles and my work focuses mainly on the street. I go to schools and try to create awareness in young people and communities. We must be aware of the crisis we are living. And yes, I see improvements: more and more people are involved and there is more awareness than when we started.
One of Ilead Climate’s missions is to work for a green economy. For some time there has been a debate between whether governments should bet on degrowth or to embrace a new green capitalism. How do you see it?
I am betting on degrowth and an ‘economic cleansing’, because the current system is not sustainable. Nor is it sustainable to keep growing; moreover, it is being done from the destruction of countries. Just look at the situation in Fiji.
Ilead also adovcates for a green democracy. What does this consist of?
Green Democracy means trying to achieve a world in which we do not only include human rights. Democracy is not understood if it is not related to environmental rights, because human rights are directly related to it. They go together. No matter how we try to protect human rights: if we don’t give the environment a voice or we don’t have environmental rights, we won’t have human rights.
You were one of the participants in the COP 25 that was held in Madrid in 2019. And you are one of the people most critical of these meetings, specifically with regard to theLoss and Damage Fund. You usually say that in addition to little commitment of the states, that point is not concrete enough. Regarding this, what do you expect from COP 28?
COP 28 is where a step forward will finally have to be taken with respect to the Fund for Losses and Damages. Either it becomes reality, or they should let it go. At the next COP I would like to see more action, and the fossil fuel companies out. There is no adaptation to climate change with them involved. We have to choose. On the other hand, I hope they stop manipulating the conclusions. People must be prioritized before financial benefits, and work must be done to ensure that all goals are met. We want more investment in innovation, sustainability and alternative energy resources. We have many demands and many responsibilities for the next COP.
What is the role of the media in the call to action against the climate emergency?
The media plays a very important role, but if fossil fuel companies invest in it, then we will have a partial message. The media know that they have a very important role in the issue of climate justice; but many times the reality they show is not the correct one. They should be independent, and sometimes they are not. In any case, they remain important because they have many readers and followers and communicating about climate issues could have a lot of power, since they reach a lot of people. If they wanted, they could be the primary allies of climate justice activism.