Have you ever seen our foot soldiers? You may be wondering, “what is Oga Trash Monger talking about this time around.” well, think deeply. If your mind is trying to picture a tall, built, and sturdy fellow in a uniform carrying a machine gun, I will save you the stress. Just follow my description.

Think about an 18 year old lad from Zamfara. He is probably the first boy of a family of eight, growing up to know only about subsistence farming that will provide just enough to take care of the family (food and shelter). He has no formal education and probably doesn’t even have the Arabic education some of his peers had access to. Now, I know you probably think that this description is anything but that of a soldier.

Well, you are right, but not entirely so. Now, bring back the image of the young boy to mind, and imagine that the young boy I just described removes an average of 1000kg of plastics from the environment monthly. Multiply this number by 500 young boys doing the same thing, and there you have our foot soldiers. I know I have talked a lot about boys. Yes, women also are part of this vast network of foot soldiers, many of whom support their families by collecting waste.

Our foot soldiers don’t carry guns; they carry sacks. They don’t steal, rather they earn a decent living that enables them to carter for their immediate families and, in many cases, their extended families. Our foot soldiers have dreams and aspirations, maybe not to become teachers or lawyers, but they aspire to grow through the ranks to become employers of labour creating opportunities from waste.

I am optimistic that we can find a way to formalise the activities of these guys to get optimum benefits from their activities. So, the next time you see the so-called “baban bola”, remember they are the foot soldiers of environmental sustainability in Nigeria.

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