Susty Person of The Week: Itunuoluwa Okusami
I am Okusami Itunuoluwa Enitan the Co-Founder of Jobaye Environmental Solutions an organization that’s building a legacy of adopting innovations and proffering pragmatic solutions to bring about sustainable growth and development to our country Nigeria.
I have spent the best part of my life trying to find solutions to the complex and dynamic issues threatening the country. My major focus has been on Environmental sustainability; How I can remediate the degrading environment, how I can use alternative energy in the form of renewable energy to alleviate poverty and how i can empower my people to start converting their waste to wealth, trash to treasure, rubbish to resource.
I studied Microbiology with a major in Environmental Microbiology from the University of Lagos. I am an activated member of the Nigerian Carbon Credit Network where I’m a fully-fledged green ambassador.
I have been opportune to facilitate various waste to energy workshops, seminars, training, conferences. I consult for two of the foremost environmental service providers in Lagos state – Midori Environmental Solutions and Mechris-Planet Environmental consult, I also currently consult for the Lagos state Government through the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA).
I have also been privileged enough to be under the tutelage of people like Dr Felix Obada the CEO of Global Biofuels Ltd and a captain of the Nigerian renewable energy industry.
My turning point came when Our Biogas initiative won us the best organic waste recycling initiative at the maiden edition of the waste and recycling awards.
Fantastic Profile above!!! Its another week to talk about our #StareDownOnPollution Campaign and this week, we look at biogas in Nigeria. Read, learn and get inspired with Itunu;s interview below:
So how exactly does Biogas Work?
Biogas is the gas that ensues from the anaerobic biodegradation of organic waste such as food leftovers, fruit waste, cow dung etc. In lay man terms, Biogas is produced from the breakdown of organic waste in the absence of oxygen.
Take a Coke bottle or a dispenser bottle, for instance, load it with a small proportion of cow dung mixed with water and make sure you seal the bottle tightly after loading. After let’s say about 2 weeks, you are going to get Biogas… It’s the same thing that happens inside the stomach of a cow, because of its anaerobic nature, it supports the production of Biogas. Do you know that if a cow farts, you can collect the gas in a balloon and use it to cook?
Biogas is rich in methane and has the potential to replace the conventional cooking gas used in our various homes. Biogas can also help in electricity generation just like the case in Germany where they generate about 8000Mw of electricity from Biogas alone.
Biofertilizer is also a by-product of the Biogas production process, this fertilizer is a very rich organic fertilizer and can help boost Agriculture in the land.
How did you start off this business, were your parents supportive?
I have always wanted to solve one major problem in this life regardless of whether it is Global or local. Globally, I unrealistically had the burning passion of finding the cure for HIV. When I discovered how tall that mountain was, I made a sharp U-turn to face the innumerable problems at home.
Back in university, I had a flair for Alternative energy.. If at all we are ever going to get out of this energy crisis, this country must start looking for alternative means of generating power. It doesn’t matter whether it is solar, wind, biogas or even nuclear, Alternative energy is the way to go! This has always been my mentality but I wasn’t fully convinced until I saw a fully operational Biogas plant during a visit to Abu Dhabi. That very visit was like my Eureka moment, that was the day I actually discovered my purpose in life.lol. I buzzed my partner David to tell him about what my eyes saw at the Emirate, we unanimously decided to embark on this green path.
It wasn’t easy starting out, it’s still not easy now but I mean, we thank God that we don’t look like what we have been through. Out first year most especially was quite challenging as we embarked on so many failed experiments, gruesome lab works and moribund projects. Nigeria being a country with little or no Biogas professionals, there was no “expert” to really supervise what we were doing. We “wasted” precious time and money carrying out projects that totally flopped just because we were like sheep without a shepherd. So basically our first couple of years was designated for trial and error.
Along the way, we got to meet fantastic people in the Biogas field which really relieved the heavy burden on us as we all rubbed minds and ideas together to get us to where we are today.
In all of this, my parents have been supportive. I am lucky to have an academic Dad who is also an environmentalist in his own right. Yorubas have a saying that what a child sees while standing, an adult can see from his seat. When I wanted to venture into this business, in my mind I was like how are my going to pitch this idea to this my father? Am I not going to do power point presentation like this? But immediately I just mentioned the word ”Biogas” to him, he knew where I was coming from and where I was going to. He threw his wealth of knowledge, experience and of course money behind me. During all those tragic days of trial and error, my dad was always there to troubleshoot with me. He is now a big time Biogas researcher, he has taken it to unimaginable heights, I’m really proud of him.
My mother on the other hand, had paranoia written all over her face when I told her about my Biogas dream. A typical Nigerian mother wants her child to go to school, graduate, get a good job and start making plenty money… (No Time!)
It was not until we installed a Biogas plant at home (which basically takes care of her food waste and turns it to gas that she now uses to cook Amala and Ewedu for her husband) that she signed up to my cause. She has been my chief marketer ever since, her prayers and words of encouragement have kept me going.
How are you able to integrate SDGs advocacy into your work?
I am working on publishing an article on how Biogas can help achieve all seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. I did it with the MDGs, I hope God gives me wisdom, knowledge and understanding to do it with the SDGs.
Biogas itself has a direct relationship with both the 7th goal – Affordable and Clean Energy and the 13th goal – Climate action. During my routine SDG sensitization programs, Biogas has served as a weapon of mass conviction.
Now, I can confidently tell a village woman that with a Biogas plant in her backyard, she doesn’t need to suffer the drudgery of firewood collection, tending the fire, cleaning soot on her cooking pots, hence promoting Gender Equality (Goal 5) or with a central Biogas plant in her community, SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) can be achieved.
A major reason the Millennium Development Goals did not particularly work out was the non-practical approach used in its marketing and publicity. Biogas can help bring the SDG to limelight as its realizable, feasible and doable. The bottom line is that during SDG advocacy, I don’t need to talk too much, Biogas does all the talking.
Why is this sector heavily under-explored?
It’s not just Biogas, Renewable energy generally has been under-explored. The reason can be traced to the stereotypical system our country runs on. Nigeria is running a monolithic economy where almost all our earnings have been in “crude-cash”. So also is our Energy sector, we are heavily dependent on our abundant gas in driving the National Grid. It is now that we have one challenge or the other with the “abundant gas” that we are thinking of diversifying to other sources of energy. We now pray for rain to fall during dry season so that our dams can give us electricity. Solar panels are no more luxury goods; it’s now a necessity for every home.
Personally, what has been the biggest challenge since starting up this venture?
My biggest challenge so far is not having any guideline or a manual to follow in the industry. Like you said, the sector has been heavily under-explored, it’s a virgin industry still waiting to be deflowered. Assuming there was a sort of template to copy or somebody to look up to in the industry, the errors in my trials would have been minimized. I take solace in the fact that those coming after me won’t have to make the same mistakes I made.
What are your favorite SDG’s?
I find all the goals quite fascinating and exciting, but because of my line of business, I have a bias for Goal 7 (Affordable and clean energy) and Goal 13 (climate action).
How can young people start off a career in Biogas?
I have had this Biogas idea since I was 17 but it didn’t take me until about 6 or 7 years later (when I saw a functioning Biogas plant) that I decided to incubate the idea. We have decided to take the technology down to secondary schools where we teach the pupils about the Biogas technology and how it can make them energy independent.
We also routinely organize workshops, seminars and training mostly for youths on how Biogas can make them self-reliant and captains of their own fate. Biogas is basically DIY (Do It Yourself), any young or old person serious about venturing into the business can capitalize on our various training programs.
What are some of the exciting projects you are working on?
We have this product we are about to launch in secondary schools which will make use of Biogas to promote Biotechnology and the sustainable development goals. We are also cooking something with the Lagos state government through the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) on the effective management of poultry waste in one Agricultural settlement in the state.
What is it about you that a lot of people do not know?
Some people actually think I am one Innovative person or mad scientist, but the actual truth of the matter is that I am actually a slow person.lol
I am very bad at multi-tasking, I was a sports blogger before with well over 100 published sports articles. But ever since I got married to Biogas, I had to divorce anything related to sports journalism. My friends repeatedly told me to combine the two that I don’t know the one that is going to blow, but I couldn’t because I am a slow learner. I need 100% focus to really grab something. Someone like me can’t build a conglomerate like Dangote.
How can people contact you or know more about your work?
We are very active on social media;
Instagram – @Jobayeenv
Twitter – @Jobayeenv
Facebook – @Jobaye Environmentals
Nairaland – @Jobaye1
YouTube – @Jobaye Environmentals
Linkedin – @Jobaye Environmentals
Pinterest – @Jobaye Environmentals
Blogspot – Jobaye.blogspot.com.ng
E-mails – Jobayeenv@yahoo.com, Jobayeenv@gmail.com
Website – Jobaye.com.ng
Whatsapp – 08166300011
Hotline – 07056860969