Most of us would look at an old tire or some old scraps of plastic and only see garbage. But Sani Amina Issa Ado, the founder of Fortitude Agence in Niger, sees the potential to give items like these a new life as colourful, stylish furniture and home décor. With support from USAID’s Youth, Advocacy, Women, Work and Alliances (YAWWA) project, Amina’s eye for recycling items that others regard as trash has bloomed into a thriving business, which has gone a long way in reducing the amount of trash that ends up in Niger’s landfills, and has even created jobs for her fellow youth.

Amina has been an activist and community organiser since she was in middle school. Growing up in her home country of Niger, she was involved in Niger’s scouting organisation and a member of Niger’s Youth Volunteers for the Environment (JVE) association. Her involvement in these organisations instilled Amina with a passion for protecting the environment and supporting youth activism. As a young adult Amina is using that passion, her creativity, and entrepreneurial drive to make a positive impact on the environment in a profitable way, and employ youth who have passions just like hers.

Not too long ago, Amina worked as a caterer offering organic meals at events and conferences around Niamey, Niger’s capital. But when she saw how much waste was produced from these events, Amina thought there must be a way for the items that normally end up in landfills to once again have value. Amina used that experience as inspiration to found Fortitude Agence, and began recycling items otherwise destined for landfills into benches, ottomans, dustbins, wall décor, and more.

Recently Fortitude Agence received a grant and support from YAWWA to scale up its operations. YAWWA was implemented by SNV in Niger from October, 2014 to October, 2017 to connect young change-makers like Amina with the knowledge, tools, and resources they needed to transform their localised civic activities into socially beneficial enterprises that could be expanded and replicated. YAWWA also worked to build culture of entrepreneurship throughout Niger by connecting these young entrepreneurs to share ideas.

In addition to financial support, YAWWA provided Amina with financial management, communication, and leadership trainings. Amina also went on exchange visits to share techniques and learn new skills from fellow social entrepreneurs, and participated in YAWWA’s annual social innovations fair and media activities. This networking has also helped Amina promote and market Fortitude Agence’s products.

Sani Amina Issa Ado, founder of Fortitude Agence

With YAWWA’s support Fortitude Agence now has more than $525 in sales. The company has also saved more than 200 plastic containers and tires from ending up in landfills. Amina predicts that Fortitude Agence’s sales, and its ability to help protect the environment, will only go up.

Although Fortitude Agence has significantly reduced the amount of waste that will end up in landfills, equally important to Amina is creating opportunities for Niger’s youth. After engaging with YAWWA, Fortitude Agence has grown to employ four young people and three interns. Through employing her fellow youth, Amina specifically hopes to tap into their creativity and harness the power of innovation.

YAWWA also supported Fortitude Agence to begin training young people in youth activism, recycling, environmental protection, and community organising in partnership with Niger’s Youth Volunteers for the Environment (JVE) association and the Country’s scouting organisation. To date the company has taken on several contracts to conduct youth trainings.

With YAWWA’s support, Amina has been able to follow her passions of protecting the environment and supporting youth activism, while building a profitable business that can employ her fellow young people. With the creative drive and devotion to making a positive social impact that Amina and her staff share, Fortitude Agence is well positioned to grow and expand over the years to come.

Youth transforming plastic waste into recycled home goods