Tony Joy, founder of M.A.D Initiative is our #SheLeadsGreen lady for this month. Joy defines herself as a ‘waste to solutions expert’ and advocates for a ‘green and clean’ environment and one where nothing is wasted. Read her conversation with Mary Ajayi, content strategist and editor at Eco Nigeria.
Mary Ajayi: You described yourself as a ‘waste to solution expert’, can you share a bit about your work in turning waste to ‘solutions’?
Tony Joy: I run a social enterprise called M.A.D Initiative; it is one that sees a future where there is nothing called ‘waste’. To achieve this, the organization trains, engages and equips women, girls, and youth within rural and marginalized communities to create solutions out of waste while making an income and keeping their environment clean. With this model, the beneficiaries are given opportunities to explore and create amazing solutions from waste, with support from the team.
For me, there is nothing called ‘waste’ because in every waste lies taste and value. The most important thing is to take out time to see the value within the waste and not just the waste. This is a process I find very interesting and engaging, that is why I call myself a ‘waste to solutions expert’. I think about solutions from waste because it is more than just waste.
MA: What is MAD Kraft about and what inspired it?
TJ: M.A.D Kraft is the Craft arm of M.A.D Initiative where we create crafts and other solutions from waste.
It was inspired by waste. We have so much waste around us and that is also equivalent to so many solutions. If we can harness the power of our waste and use it to create some value, we will be solving a lot of problems. For example, apart from some of the products which we have made such as back packs, table mats, foot mats, jewelries and organic fertilizer, we are also building our craft center which we call our “Craft Village” from waste.
We believe there is a close link between waste and social problems which might be education, health, gender inequality, housing and lots more. Hence, in linking these together, we create long lasting solutions from what is referred to as useless. It is possible to combat poverty and take people who are homeless off the streets for example, if low cost houses can be built out of waste. It is also possible to create an income scheme, which will help tackle poverty, health challenges, hunger and being voiceless; all from waste.
MA: Did you share the M.A.D Kraft idea with people who are not environmentalist, before you started? If yes, what was their response to the idea?
TJ: Yes, I shared the idea with few people and while some said, “It won’t work,” and “You are MAD,” others said, “Let’s see what will come out it,” and a few joined, to support and see the idea grow. However, the blend of all of these answers has helped in building the initiative into what it is now.
MA: What is the progress of the M.A.D Craft Village so far?
TJ: The Craft Village is a building made out of waste which will serve as a training center, a hub for waste to solution ideas, and an office space for women and girls within Imafon, Akure, Ondo State, who work with the M.A.D Initiative team. The building is made out plastic bottles and tires.
So far, we are half way gone in the construction process, yet, we have a longer way ahead. We are on a short break now on the building process, because of the need to raise more funds to finish the building. We really look forward to getting more support as we take this amazing and outstanding step towards make a difference.
MA: Is there an income opportunity for people as well as employment opportunities?
TJ: Yes, there are loads of income opportunities from waste collection to sorting and making products out of the waste. There is also an open opportunity to make income from sales of the products made at the center. We however have a special interest in working with marginalized groups.
MA: Was it your initial intention to tackle unemployment with this initiative?
TJ: One of the most important things we want to achieve through our unique intervention strategy in social change is giving a voice and a source of income to people who are marginalized based on so many factors. So yes, because we are looking at using waste in creating solutions, tackling unemployment is one of our key interests.
MA: Tell us a bit about your journey to becoming an environmentalist. Have you always been passionate about the environment?
TJ: The journey towards being an environmentalist for me was quite unconscious. I never knew the term to be ‘environmentalist’, all I knew was I had a soft spot for being orderly and getting things done in the right way. Having waste properly managed as well as using the dust-bin was one of the things I defined as order. Hence, as I grew older to understand how interests can grow into passion and from there to a career, I started evolving into an environmentalist with keen interest on seeing a clean environment for all where waste is properly channeled into creating solutions. Now, I can say I am a die-hard fan of the environment and I advocate thus: “Let’s keep her green and clean. Remember, it is more than just waste.”