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USING ASSETs TO SOLVE SOCIAL PROBLEMS IN GRASSROOTS COMMUNITIES IN NIGERIA

Whenever you visit a community in Nigeria, you will immediately find that the residents are very active. Without being asked, they will inform you about the problems, the challenges and what is wrong about the community.

The same scenario occurred in July, 2016, in Afon, Asa Local Government, Kwara State Nigeria for Prikkle Educational Initiative (Prikkle Academy). It is a youth-led organization that focuses on inspiring and igniting young change-makers to solve social problems by using asset-based community development approach (ABCD). This approach brings a new idea, which does not see community as deficient of resources, but having unique resource and capacity. It identifies and mobilizes individuals and community assets, skills, and passions, and enables community residents to meet their needs and make improvements to their community.

During the organization’s first visit to Afon community, many problems were itemized without even asking, first in the bus, then in the market, then in the house. Despite the negative picture portrayed by the community, Prikkle Academy discovered an asset, a community based organization that dedicated to empowering young minds and improving livelihood for the community. Its name is Afon Volunteers Initiative (AVI) and it later became the partner of Prikkle Academy.

AVI aims to respond to community problems with sustainable solutions. They have championed series of projects: tackling illiteracy, reducing the rate of school dropout, and building the first ever water closet public toilet in Afon to prevent open defecation, which inspires people to include toilet in their house plan. They organized free health counseling for people to prevent disease outbreak, educated primary school children on child abuse, personal and environmental hygiene. They also organized free ICT training for secondary school students in Afon to make learning easier for them.

AVI used to focused on what is missing in their community instead of what they have before Prikkle Academy arrived. Prikkle Academy started a collaborative community development project, which helped 30 youth in Afon community to discover the gift of their hands, head, heart, and voices by looking at what they have done with these gifts and what more can be done. The project led to a change in the narrative of Afon from seeing the community as full of garbage and problems to a self-sufficient community.

Participants using newspapers symbols to identify the asset and resources within their community.

Through the project, these youths were astonished to learn what they have done with their gifts and talents and were highly motivated to use them again, which led to development of three new projects.

One participant, Adam Abdulraheem, discovered that despite the level of hunger in his community, people still waste food. The wasted food became his discovered assets, which help solve another problem: the community has a large population of farmers and most of them spend much on chemical fertilizer that degrades the land and threatens the health of the people. By converting food waste into organic fertilizer with low price for farmers, the community produces safe food with higher yield, while protecting the ecosystem.

Adam Abdulraheem getting food waste.

Following the trend, another participant Balogun Abubakar saw that, in spite of the high spirit of education among the adults and the children of Afon community, there was a problem of insufficient classroom furniture for school children (as some of them sit on the floor). He also saw the problem of huge wastage of tin which often goes to garbage and flooded to block the drainage whenever there is heavy down pure. In addition, there is large quantity of used tires within Afon community which is initially used for burning cows during ceremonies and festivals. The burning poses a great threat to the atmosphere. He saw the connection between the two problems, and started to use tires and tin to create chairs and tables.

Abubakar Balogun sitting comfortably on tire chair and tin table.

The belief that there is enough assets in every community drives Prikkle Academy to kick start another project in Afon community. They know that grassroots children have creative minds and are ready to build with any available material around them.Therefore, they designed a project named “Innovative Classroom” which was intended to empower, encourage, and promote the creativity of school children. The organization’s crew visited grassroots primary schools in and around Afon community with materials that can be transformed into innovative kid’s projects which are both fun and can be adopted for easy learning tools.

School child showcasing his standing fan made from local materials.

Assets based community development approach was invented by Prof. John L. McKnight and Prof. John P. Kretzmann in 1993 at Northwestern University in the U.S. Now the approach is widely used on community development projects.

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