Pelu Awofeso and one of the volunteers
Pelu Awofeso is an award winning travel writer, journalist and tourism lover based in Lagos, Nigeria. When he’s not on the road documenting Nigeria, he may be publishing his online travel magazine Waka-About or organizing tours in group. Recently he added a social work to his busy life; cleaning up Nigeria Beaches.
This idea has grown from just a little thought to a social team of over a hundred volunteers heeding the call to ensure the oceans are healthy and clean, they are concerned about improving the sanitary conditions of Nigeria’s beaches and who organize cleanup campaigns periodically to achieve this. They are called Beach Samaritans.
Bimbola Segun-Amao had a chat with Pelu Awofeso on this project.
How did you come up with the idea of cleaning beaches? What inspired it?
The idea of Beach Samaritans formed fully sometime in the second half of 2014. But I had been thinking of something along that line since 2012. I take regular excursions to Badagry, and I always ended up with the tourists at Gberefu Beach. On every occasion, we met a dirty and deserted beach.
I was concerned that a vastly beautiful natural resource, a potential tourist magnet for that matter, should be left so desolate, when it should a source of regular income to the immediate community as happens in other countries in the world.
So I discussed with the Founder of Children And The Environment (CATE), Sola Alamutu, and we both decided we should organise a cleanup of the beach in 2012. We prepared proposals and sent it to the Badagry LGA, so that it is a partnership. Long and short, the LGA folks frustrated our efforts, because they couldn’t see any way to make money off the project.
I continued with my tours/excursions. Two years on, the beach remained as it was in 2012–dirty, desolate. Zero tourist activity. So IS discussed with Ms. Alamutu again and we decided to re-activate the initiative, but this time to go it alone, seeking volunteers and sponsors. We fixed the first cleanup at Okun Alfa (popularly called Alpha Beach) for October 2014. And we did it–with 120 passionate volunteers!
How often do you want to visit each beach?
We have since cleaned four (4) Beaches since then–Tarkwa Bay (Dec. 2014); Ibeshe Beach (Feb 2015); Ilashe Beach (April 2015). We are prepping for the fifth outing, come June 2015. The cleanups are held bi-monthly.
Are you targeting Lagos Beaches alone?
The Beach cleanups is for every state in Nigeria with a coastline/beachfront. Essentially states in the Southern region–we have only focused on Lagos because of scarce resources. With more sponsorship, we will take the campaign further afield. We already have people showing interest in Port Harcourt.
Can you sustain it? Do you see it transform into something bigger?
Our plan is to have 10,000 volunteers across Nigeria, so that as the demands and scope get bigger, we have enough humam resources to tackle them. The bigger picture is to have BeachSamaritans transform to a Corps like FRSC, NSCDC or LASTMA, and appointed the sole responsibility of cleaning Nigeria’s beaches
Okay. So while the transformation is ongoing, would you be revisiting the beaches you’ve cleaned and how soon?
We do plan to revisit beaches we have already cleaned in the near future, particularly to set up a base in those places, where we hope to wotk with the communities leaders to engage some youths to manage the cleanups. In Tarkwa Bay and Ibeshe, for instance, we have been asked to come back. We will heed the call asap, But for now we are focused on places we have not touched at all.
You can join the Beach Samaritans on their Facebook page here