Nigeria: Sawdust recycling creates jobs while cleaning up city

Sawdust piles from local timber factories in Lagos, Nigeria.
Sawdust piles from local timber factories in Lagos, Nigeria.

For environmentalist Leslie Adogame in Lagos, Nigeria, his daily commute past large sawdust piles from the local timber factories got him thinking - how to clean up the waste and create jobs at the same time?

“After brooding over it for a while, I decided that I had to do something to stop the burning of sawdust not just in Lagos metropolis alone, but possibly in the whole of Nigeria,” said Leslie.


  • 200 jobs have been created in the local community through the sawdust waste-to-wealth project.
  • 8,000 jobs estimated to be created within 5 years of the operation of the project.
  • 92% reduction in the amount of sawdust incinerated envisaged in five years, leading to significant reduction in environmental pollution.
  • UNDP GEF-Small Grants Programme has awarded a total sum of $1,425,625 to 52 grantees for small projects in poor communities in Nigeria within three years.

He conducted some research and a feasibility study on how to convert sawdust waste to briquettes, which are used as a cheap and efficient alternative to firewood for both domestic and commercial cooking, such as in bakeries.

With a grant from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – supported by Global Environmental Facility Small Grants Programme, Leslie ran a successful year-long pilot project, after which some 200 people in the local community are now working full time on making briquettes for sale.

The sawdust can also be used to make decorative items like flower vases and arts and craft products, which can also be sold for income.

As this innovative programme expands, it is expected to create 8,000 jobs in Lagos over the next five years, while reducing the amount of sawdust by 92 percent, helping to reduce environmental pollution and improve the health and livelihoods of vulnerable people living close to major sawmill operations. The project is also now being expanded to other states in the country.

For his part, Leslie was selected in March 2012 as one of the winners of the annual international UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) 2011 SEED Awards that recognise inspiring social and environmental entrepreneurs, whose sustainable grassroots businesses in developing countries can help address development challenges.

Over three years, the UNDP Global Environmental Facility Small Grants Programme has awarded USD1,425,625 to 52 grantees in Nigeria for projects implemented by, and focused on, poor and marginalized communities. The programme supports initiatives that build local capacity, improve livelihoods and safeguard the environment.