The women of Ogotun-Ekiti in Ekiti State are known for mat weaving. That has been their traditional vocation from time immemorial. But unfortunately due to lack of exposure and illiteracy, many of them like their male counterparts, who are farmers, could only produce on subsistence level.

But today, their story has changed for better, thanks to the students of Ekiti State University (EKSU), Ado-Ekiti, who taught them how to rebrand their mats by making them neater, more durable, money-spinning and more appealing.

Named “Eni-Iran,” the students came up with the life-changing project under the platform of the Entrepreneurship Action Us (Enactus) competition organised annually by the global non-governmental organisation for students of universities and polytechnics in the country. 35 schools, private and public alike, in all, participated in this year’s edition which was 12th in the series.

Making a power-point presentation of Eni- Iran at the competition’s finals in Lagos last weekend, the EKSU students showcased how they empowered no fewer than 15 women in the community with the project and taught them how to pass on the skill to their colleagues and those coming behind.

Now with Eni-Iran, according to the school’s team leader, Miss Dolapo Odupele, a 300-level of Banking and Finance student, some of the women are now enjoying improved patronage using huge proceeds from their sales to enhance their standards of living and that of their family members.

The students did not stop here. They equally formed Weavers Club in schools within the area and canvassed for the inclusion of mat weaving in their curricula.

With this project and two others, “Tech 4 rice” which introduced Moringa folia spray and pest control device for Igbemo-Ekiti and Babalawo Village rice farmers, as well as the “Easy click,” which is an equipment to recycle nylon trash to produce fashionable new nylon bags, the students emerged winner of the contest. Interestingly, it was their best outing so far in seven years of their participation.

“Our best appearance before now,” an extremely happy Odupele pointed out, “Was when we came third and that is why we are very happy this time around with our outstanding performance and we are grateful to God for the achievement.

It is not easy to become Enactus best team for the year.” This achievement however, has qualified EKSU team as Nigerian representative at this year’s World Enactus Competition which is taking place in Beijing, China this October. The last year’s winning team, Kaduna Polytechnic, Kaduna came second this year while Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria came third.

Other schools for the finals include Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijagun, Ogun State; Niger Delta University, Bayelsa and Federal University of Technology, Uyo.

Each of them also empowered scores of less privileged people in their host communities including mothers who are living with HIV, orphans, prisoners with various life changing skills that are now giving them new life, vision and hope. Surprisingly, out of the participating schools, no first generation universities and polytechnics let alone privately owned could make it to the final.

The list in the race especially the big names include, the University of Lagos, Akoka; Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife; University of Ilorin, University of Ibadan, University of Nigeria, University of Jos, Yaba College of Technology, Lagos and Federal Polytechnic, Oko to mention a few.

However, under the scheme, each school is at liberty to choose and develop projects to impact the society with year’s round while Enactus Nigeria secures sponsors to finance those projects as well as monitoring them. And schools with outstanding projects like EKSU and KADPOLY are rewarded with trophy, cash awards and other gifts.

The major sponsor of this year’s edition was the First City Monument Bank Limited while organisations like Verve International, Sahara Group, Bank of Industry, TY Danjuma Foundation, Eko Hotel and Suites and KPMG to mention a few were co-sponsors.

Enactus’ Country Director, Mrs. Adesuwa Ifedi told National Mirror that the scheme had so far yielded tremendous results by putting smiles on the faces of many hitherto indigent individuals in the society and also equips participating students with entrepreneurial skills that will make them self-employed upon graduation.

Culled from the National Mirror of Thursday, 24th July, 2014


‘Hidden fortunes’ in a local mat

It is just a mat, but through their dexterity, they have turned it into a money spinning venture. Eni Iran, a locally-woven mat, is a dying craftwork of the people of Ogotun-Ekiti, which students of the Ekiti State University (EKSU) revived and turned into wealth.

Before a group of business executives and professionals, the students explained how they used Eni Iran to produce phone pouches, hand bags, flower vases, laptop carriers and portable folders, among others.

By their feat, the students emerged champions of the Entrepreneurship National Challenge organised by Entrepreneurship Action in Us (Enactus), a non-profit organisation.

They will represent Nigeria in October at the World Cup Challenge in Beijing, China, where they will present the projects. They will be meeting their peers from over 60 countries including the United States (U.S.), Germany and the United Kingdom.

The EKSU team beat five other Enactus teams in the final of the yearly entrepreneurship contest held, last week, at the Zinnia Hall of the Eko Hotel and Suites on Victoria Island, Lagos.

Their projects enthralled the judges, who are top company managers . The judges evaluated the business values of the EKSU students’ projects and declared them the most lucrative.

Other institutions that got to the final are the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), Imo State; Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) in Zaria, Kaduna State; Niger Delta University (NDU), Bayelsa State; Kaduna State Polytechnic (KADPOLY), and Tai Solarin University (TASUED), Ogun State.

The event with the theme: See Possibilities, was sponsored by First City Monument Bank (FCMB), Sahara Group and Verve International. The teams came from over 35 higher institutions and brought quality projects.

After the first and second rounds, the six teams that presented the most beneficial projects moved to the final, which was graced by the U.S Consular-General to Nigeria, Mr Jeffery Hawkins.

The EKSU team, led by Dolapo Odupele, a 400-Level Banking and Finance student, made a mark with Eni Iran. The students discovered that many jobs could be created if Eni Iran is modernised.

The team partnered with Ekiti State Enterprise Development Agency (EEDA) to design fashionable items out of the local mat.

The market created from selling these products led to the increased production of Eni Iran created income for the craftsmen. The projects also restored the pride of the Ogotun people in mat weaving.

The EKSU team also presented Tech 4 Rice project, which is aimed at increasing productivity of farmers in Igbemo Ekiti through the introduction of cheap Moringa Folia Spray as alternative to highly-priced fertilisers. The students also devised pest control process for the farmers to reduce rodents’ sabotage.

The team’s last project was on pollution reduction, in which they partnered with Ekiti Waste Management Board (EKWMB) to convert waste nylons into packing materials. This created jobs for youths in the target communities.

The KADPOLY and ABU teams emerged first and second runners up.

Over 36 orphans, 66 women living with HIV and 107 jobless individuals were reintegrated into the society through Life Skill Approach of the KADPOLY team, which also trained staff of a distressed orphanage to boost its monthly income for the children’s upkeep.

The ABU team’s Saving the Planet Project developed a process, where bio-diesel and cheap fuel could be extracted from Jatropha plant seeds to generate energy for use for domestic cooking. The District head of Bomo Community in Zaria donated 1.7 hectare of land for the project.

The Bomo villagers were trained in how to extract the oil and sell for commercial use. The project generated income for several villagers and created job for Bomo youths.

The ABU team also empowered widows in Zaria through the production of Moringa Yagi, a cheap seasoning. Months after the training, the widows were able to cater for their daily need by generating N17,000 from the sales of the product.

Other finalists also presented projects, which included Making Entrepreneurs and Nourah projects (FUTO), Atelewo (my destiny in my hand) and New Gate (TASUED), Live an Impact for Eternity and Wealth on Water (NDU).

The judges praised the students for their “brilliant entrepreneurial skills”.

One of them, Ikechukwu Kalu, the group head of FCMB’s Marketing and Communication, said: “The performance of all the teams is fantastic, given that most of them are 100- and 200-Level students. For the FCMB, it is about just sponsoring the contest; we follow up by picking the projects from there and develop it, so that our youths get empowered and their lives get enhanced.”

The Country Director of Enactus, Mrs Adesuwa Ifedi, said the students saw possibilities where others saw challenges, stressing that entrepreneurship should not be preached as an isolation concept but as one that would transform people’s lives and the society.

She said: “In Enactus, we believe entrepreneurship has the power to change lives. This is why we are challenging our undergraduates because they cannot learn it in the classroom. The only way they can learn is when we challenge them and compete against one another; find challenges and turn it into possibilities, take effective action and enable progress. That is when they will see the power business has to change lives.”

Dolapo told reporters that her team was winning for the first time, having got to the final seven times.

She said: “We took up the challenge to modernise Eni Iran to turn around the lives of the Ogotun people because we found untapped fortunes in the craftwork.”