How a Nigerian ecofeminist grew a climate movement

After witnessing the violent impacts of warming, Oladosu Adenike started a national movement empowering young people to take action
<p>Oladosu Adenike collaborating with human rights organisation the Amos Trust to provide training on organic fertiliser use to Nigerian women farmers (Image: Oke Moses)</p>

Oladosu Adenike collaborating with human rights organisation the Amos Trust to provide training on organic fertiliser use to Nigerian women farmers (Image: Oke Moses)

Oladosu Adenike isn’t your typical revolutionary. While others might dream of toppling regimes by storming the barricades, this soft-spoken Nigerian with a fire in her eyes is leading a quieter revolution: a green one.

Her path to climate activism was not sparked by televised reports of environmental decline, but by witnessing the years-long conflict over land in Benue State, in Nigeria’s North Central region, while she was pursuing her undergraduate studies.

Clashes between farmers and cattle herders have become a grim reality exacerbated by climate change. The once-fertile land is succumbing to intense heat and flooding, displacing families and leaving a trail of loss and despair in its wake. Yet, amidst the violence and finger-pointing, Adenike saw a different narrative unfolding while she was a student.

“There were these terrible clashes and people on both sides were losing everything,” she recalls. “But what struck me most was how few people connected the dots. They saw the conflict as purely ethnic or religious. When in reality, it was the climate, this invisible hand, that was squeezing the life out of our land and pitting communities against each other.”

From witness to activist

The seed for her activism had been planted: “I saw that there was a need for me to take action. I began by asking myself what I could do differently. How could I champion climate action in my community and also involve more young people to begin to take action?”

Adenike began her new life as a climate activist with a passion for awakening similar zeal in young people across Nigeria and beyond. Her journey from an undergraduate witnessing the harrowing impacts of climate change in Benue to the founder of the ILeadClimate initiative is a story of resilience, determination, and a fierce commitment to empowering women in the fight against environmental degradation.

Under Adenike’s leadership, ILeadClimate has become a strong movement in Nigeria, instilling in youth a passion for environmental stewardship.

Adenike emphasises the urgency of the present and stresses the need to spread the gospel of climate action far and wide.

“The logic is simple,” she says. “If you don’t understand the problem, you can’t solve it. That’s why we’re laser-focused on climate education for young people. We’ve taken our message to schools, community gatherings and anywhere else we can find an ear.”

“It’s inspiring to see the growing number of people championing climate education in Nigeria and elsewhere,” she adds, a hint of pride in her voice.

“We succeeded in bringing more young people to the climate justice space. Now we have many young people who want to do something for their communities and countries as well.”

Oladosu Adenike standing in front of a board at COP28
Oladosu Adenike at COP28 (Image courtesy of Oladosu Adenike)

The agricultural economics graduate has carried her message onto the global stage, including the World Economic Forum. In December 2019, she attended the COP25 UN Climate Change Conference in Spain as a youth diplomat and delivered a speech that shone a light on the harsh impacts of climate change in Africa.

Closer to home, Adenike has nudged Nigerian policymakers towards more climate-conscious decisions.

“As my voice gained traction,” she says, “I found myself engaged in discussions surrounding Nigeria’s Nationally Determined Contributions” – referring to Nigeria’s climate action plan under the Paris Agreement, which is due for its next revision in 2025.

Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)

The Paris Agreement requires every signatory party to commit to emissions reductions and climate adaptation targets. Submitted every five years, a party’s NDCs are expected to become more ambitious over time.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and most populous country, but it also holds the grim distinction of leading the world in deforestation. In 2012, the government stated that Nigeria had the highest rate of deforestation in Africa, and the highest loss of primary forest globally.

In 2021, the country’s revised NDC included a projection of 2030 business-as-usual emissions that was half of what it projected in its first NDC submission of 2017.

This update did not materialise in a vacuum. It reflects the advocacy of climate activists like Adenike, whose efforts contributed to the passage of Nigeria’s Climate Change Bill, which was signed into law by the then-president Muhammadu Buhari in November 2021.

While the bill’s passage marks a victory, Adenike remains cautious: “The bill is now law, but we need to see more action from the government in terms of its implementation.”

Empowering women and protecting the environment

Adenike proudly identifies as an ecofeminist, recognising the intersection between climate activism and women’s rights. For her, the label carries the weight of Africa’s climate reality, where women bear the brunt of water scarcity. In 2014, the UN reported that women in Sub-Saharan Africa spent a staggering 40 billion hours annually fetching water. This was equivalent to one year’s worth of labour by the entire workforce of France.

This fact resonates deeply with Adenike. “I personally experienced this burden,” she reveals. “I know first-hand how it consumes our time, which is why I identify as an ecofeminist. The water crisis disproportionately impacts women, forcing them to trek for very long distances. This hinders our self-empowerment and steals opportunities.” 

Women have a lot to give – we cannot solve the climate crisis without women
Oladosu Adenike

Through her initiative, Adenike has equipped thousands of women with the tools to conserve their environment. She envisions a future where women, armed with their indigenous knowledge, are recognised as pivotal players in tackling food security, ecosystem restoration, and broader environmental challenges across the continent.

“We’ve equipped over 10,000 women with the necessary resources – organic fertilisers, indigenous seedlings, and tools – to become game-changers, channelling their traditional knowledge towards environmental conservation.”

“Women have a lot to give,” she adds. “We cannot solve the climate crisis without women.”

A message for aspiring changemakers

Reflecting on the challenges of being a woman climate activist, Adenike says she initially struggled to establish a platform. Undeterred, she created her own space and now dabbles as an environmental reporter, leveraging her blog ( and YouTube channel to amplify her voice.

Financial constraints and the need for broader outreach remain challenges, but Adenike is optimistic: “I believe that more and more people will wake up to the vital role of female climate activists.”

She wants young women entering the climate fray to know that persistence matters.

“Every action, however seemingly small, contributes to the whole,” she emphasises. “Start locally, find ways to raise your profile, and utilise social media to amplify your efforts. Remember, the real impact of your work is what truly resonates.

“Keep striving, keep dreaming. We are all working together towards a more sustainable, equitable future. The future we envision is within reach, and each action, each voice, is important. That is my message.”