As the climate crisis intensifies in Africa, Nigerians continue to feel its effects firsthand. Just in the past month, the country has experienced its worst flooding since 2012, which has left more than 600 people dead and displaced over 1.4 million others, while leaving more than 45,000 homes in disrepair. Vast areas of farmland have also been destroyed, inflaming fears of food insecurity.
Local government and civil society in the flooded regions have asked the federal government to declare a national emergency; according to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, the flooding has hit 33 of Nigeria’s 36 states. Despite widespread agreement among scientists on the devastating impacts of climate change, efforts to deal with these consequences are still rudimentary and ineffectively coordinated in Nigeria. There is a lack of in-depth reporting on the climate crisis, too, and how it has affected different communities.
Human activity, including the emission of greenhouse gases from vehicles, the burning of hydrocarbon products, industrial emissions, and deforestation, is a major contributor to the climate crisis. A lack of information available on the topic remains a challenge, as many in Nigeria do not believe that these human-created carbon emissions are responsible for the ongoing crisis.
Determined to make more information about the climate crisis available, Ripples Nigeria founded the country’s first geo-journalism platform to elevate the stories of those directly affected by climate change.
Nigeria’s first geo-journalism outlet
Upon receiving a grant from the Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge, Ripples Nigeria founded Eco-Nai+ in 2021. Eco-Nai+ is designed to host environmental data on droughts, rainfall and erosion, while carefully monitoring natural disasters to help track the progression of climate change.
“We wanted to create a platform with the buy-in of the people so that user-generated data can be sourced for effective geo-journalism intervention,” said Chidi. “Since the launch [of Eco-Nai+], we have been filling the information gap on climate and environment-related issues in Nigeria.”
How it works
Eco-Nai+ relies on three main sources of data: user-generated data, authoritative sources and scientific data. The user-generated data allows those most impacted by environmental changes, like farmers and other rural workers, to tell their own stories.
The platform relies on data from Google Earth, meteorological agencies and open sources, in addition to figures gathered by researchers and journalists. It also uses findings by scientists — on carbon levels, ice levels in the Arctic, ocean and heat data, and topography.
Eco-Nai+ operates through a set of five tools. Among them are Uvreign, which allows for user-generated content; Geo-Viz+, which visualizes data; and Ecober, which creates a multimedia-based chat room used for crowdsourcing ideas and crowdfunding projects.
“We have maintained daily coverage of climate and environment-related stories, and built strategic partnerships with key stakeholders,” said Chidi. “The platform allows users to feed in data which gets processed and can be visualized and exported.”
Expansion and technical limitations are two of the major challenges Eco-Nai+ faces, as it supplies daily coverage on the climate crisis.
“There is still the resistance to technology in rural areas and reluctance to pay for new technology,” he said. “Technical limitations include the cost of acquiring drones, and GPS-surveying equipment needed for advanced field work.”
Eco-Nai+ aspires to become Africa’s leading innovative media platform driving efforts on combating climate change and protecting the environment, while connecting far-flung communities through active collaboration, explained Executive Director Samuel Ibemere.
“We are looking at the creation of a far-reaching geo-journalism ecosystem for Africa that will feature an Africa-focused geo-journalism hub where journalists can access tools, training and resources,” he said.
In the near future, the platform also plans to release an application that readers can download to easily access information and tools on its website. For Chidi, this application will empower journalists across Africa to be geo-journalists in practice and contribute collectively to more accurate, responsible reporting on the environment.
“The climate crisis demands a sense of urgency and sustained meaningful action, not just by some, but by all of us. This is why Eco-Nai+ is mobilizing an army of stakeholders for this great cause,” said Chidi. “From rural community dwellers, to researchers and journalists scattered across the continent, we’re helping to unite diverse groups for the singular purpose of saving the planet.”