Hundreds of years ago, the city you are currently living in was filled with trees, a natural habitat for thousands of animals. But due to the ever growing population of humans and the endless quest for space and territories, lots of wildlife and plant species have been lost to deforestation and poaching. Since the industrial revolution, the air has been highly polluted due to harmful greenhouse gas emission. The ocean as well is not spared as decades of bad practices and human induced pollution has led to sea acidification, oil spills, plastic litter and ghost gear in our waters.
We cannot have the world in the best possible form nature handed us anymore; however, we can take practical steps to making sure the environment is safe again. This is through finding alternatives to actions and practices that causes these damages to the environment. As part of our effort to achieve a greener, healthier environment, we have been carrying out outreach in coastal communities in Nigeria, Sensitizing them through workshops and seminars on the issues of ghost gears and how it can be curbed. Through our staff and community volunteers, we have held crafts workshops for women, teaching them how ghost gears can be turned to valuable items and sold for additional income.
On the 5th of June 2021, we joined the rest of the world to celebrate World Environment Day. As part of the activities for this year’s event, we hosted a creative contest tagged “Ghost Gear for Ecorestoration.” This was in line with the theme for this year which was Ecorestoration. The contest was aimed at engaging crafters from far and near to lend a creative hand to environmental restoration. It was officially launched on the 25th of May for individuals and groups and was open to submissions for about five days. Surprisingly, we received an array of incredible crafts from about 42 crafters, all made from ghost gears.
The contest had Inyene Johson and Ukemeotobasi Inyang ; our in-house craft consultant and trainer respectively, as adjudicators, as well Caroline Bond, an international craft artist from the United Kingdom. The basis for judgement was creativity, market value, finesse and durability and the contestants lived up to expectation. In a virtual ceremony to mark the World Environment Day as well as announce the winners, the Director of SOFER Initiative, Emmanuel Sofa noted that it was imperative for us to seek effective ways to offload the pile of ghost gears currently housed in our HubNets at different locations in the country. He further stated that a top fashion brand is already making plans to make fashion items strictly from ghost gear and as such the contest was a foot in the right direction.
Announcing the top three winners, the guest judge, Caroline Bond admitted to having a hard time picking the winners as there were so many outstanding crafts entered in the contest. Eventually, Bright Edet, who made Baskets, Cup and a Hat was declared the 3rd place winner, taking home the prize money of N20,000. Lawrence Alban, with a beautifully crafted home décor got the second place with the sum of N30,000 while Rosemary Peters who made a school bag and food pack emerged the overall best with the prize money of N50,000. The winners and the top ten contestants will be given exposure by SOFER Initiative through our website and social media handles. We will also help them sell most of the items.
Some of the awardees who attended the virtual event couldn’t hold back their excitement as they thanked the team for putting the contest together. We are also thankful for the massive participation and also extend our appreciation to our sponsor, staff, volunteers and everyone who contributed to making the event a success. We hope to continue with this; inspiring people to join the train of environment restoration. We also plan to make the craft contest even bigger when we celebrate another World Environment Day next year.