Education is Key to Achieving Sustainable Development – Mayokun Iyaomolere

Hailing from Ilaje Local Government Area (LGA) of Ondo State, there are two distinct features of my origin. I bear long names with deep meanings, typified by my last name, Iyaomolere (labouring over a child is profitable). Another unique thing that typifies us is our constant battle for survival with the Atlantic Ocean as Ilaje is a shoreline community boasting the longest coastline in Nigeria and arguably West Africa. 

These geographic positioning amidst ongoing oil exploration efforts predisposes us to sea level rise-induced coastal flooding, an aftermath of the changing climate. Over the years, the Atlantic Ocean has gradually advanced, taking up land previously kilometres away. During periods of high tides, the ocean launches sudden attacks. It inundates Ilaje communities, swallowing millions worth of properties and sometimes lives, leading to mass displacement of Ilaje people and placing them in difficult economic situations due to the loss of their homes and businesses. 

This environmental challenge in my LGA inspired me to venture into the environment field in 2016 when I took a Master’s programme in Environmental Control and Management. I carried out research to place Ilaje communities into classes of vulnerability to coastal flooding, identifying zones with emergency responses, salvaging the remains of the physical environment and mitigating socio-economic impacts of the coastal disasters.

During my studies, I learned that the world was in a collective environmental crisis that needed all hands on deck. I also learnt about the Sustainable Development Goals and how they were built on the foundations of People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnerships. Those revelations at the time inspired me to always volunteer for environmental and sustainability-themed initiatives.


By and by, I started an organization, Plogging Nigeria Club, in 2018 on the Obafemi Awolowo University Campus. Plogging is a relatively new English word of Swedish origin. It means jogging and picking litter. It is a fun way to clean the environment and keep the body fit simultaneously. The club has further established a base in 22 other Nigerian campuses and four local communities with a mandate of promoting a culture of responsible waste handling and physical fitness. 

The club’s core activities include plogging, green switch academy (an eco-literacy school), upcycling and recycling. Plogging has been a great way to engage the campus and local communities on environmental sustainability and SDGs actualization, especially from the lens of waste management. Working in different parts of the country has challenges peculiar to each location. Among them is the low level of knowledge about the agenda to transform the world by 2030 – the SDGs. It has been appalling to find that many lecturers and students on campuses and residents of local communities do not know about the SDGs or see them as alien concepts meant to be discussed by the government and more developed countries. 

Through our Green Switch Academy, we have trained more than 1,000 Nigerians about the SDGs and how to localize them in their respective communities. Another challenge for us in the quest to promote environmental sustainability and the SDGs has also been difficulty in teaching the SDGs in local languages. We eventually found some direct translations of the SDGs to Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa, but more work still needs to be done to explain these goals in local languages.

Though it has not been an easy path, we have been kept alive in our mandate of localizing the SDGs through plogging with the outputs, outcomes and impacts from our activities. As an organization, we have hosted over 365 plogging events, ridding the environment of more than 13,000 bags of waste and recovering 150,000+ indiscriminately disposed of PET bottles. Our engagements in campuses and communities have helped us gradually build an army of Ploggas (our volunteers) from 17 on our first plogging event to more than 1,300 young persons who steadily influence people around them on the need for responsible waste management and promote the SDGs. 

The SDGs can only be actualized if everyone everywhere gets on board, leading efforts in their corners.

My work with Plogging Nigeria Club has made me see the need for everyone to be enlightened and involved in the quest for sustainability. The SDGs can only be actualized if everyone everywhere gets on board, leading efforts in their corners. Though a global agreement, local commitments are the drivers for its fulfilment. I hope people of all ages, nations and class-leading efforts to localize the SDGs do not relent and that others who are yet to get into the fold come on board as we have an opportunity to transform our world for our benefit and generations after us. One action counts! Imagine all 8 billion people around the Planet taking one step at a time. The onus lies on each one of us to take the message of the SDGs to the rest of the 8 billion.

Mayokun Iyaomolere is an SDGs advocate and the founder of Plogging Nigeria