Forest Conservation: The NGOCE Way
Recent statistics from the Food and Agricultural Organization(FAO) revealed that Nigeria’s forest resources in the last 3 decades have been severely depleted, the country’s forest cover has reduced to about 6 percent, as against the 25 percent global minimum recommended (FAO, 2005). On the average, Nigeria is said to be losing about 3.5 percent of its forest annually, which is between 350,000 and 400,000 hectares of forestland (Jurgen, 2015; FAO, 2015).
The data from FAO also strengthens the position of environment experts who posit that hardly would a day pass, without a rural community losing a good portion of its forest cover. Knowing that rural communities in Nigeria depend solely on the forest for their livelihoods, this trend will continue to increase.
Despite these frightening statistics, the indiscriminate and unsustainable exploitation of the nation’s forest resources for commercial and households use, have gone on unabated.
Over half of the country’s remaining forest is located in Cross River State. For instance, the Cross River National Park (Amazon of Nigeria) is the largest area of undisturbed tropical rainforest in the country, it is split into two parts, the Oban division and the Okwangwo division (that also includes part of the Obudu plateau). The parks cover approximately 4,000km.
As long as communities exist around these forest, preserving these forest will be only theoretical. That is why there is the need to come up with strategies that will enhance sustainable use and management of forest resources. This should involve relevant stakeholders like communities, government, private organizations, and civil society.
NGOCE, in the last 3 years has been involved in activities that will help communities protect the last frontier of Nigeria’s tropical rainforest. Specifically, the Community Based Rainforest Action (COBRA) project that was implemented with funding from Goldman Environmental Foundation was designed to initiate actions, processes and structures at the community level for the protection of the highly threatened Okpon River Catchment area (Oban division) of Cross River State. Through the COBRA project, 50 out of school youths in 10 communities where trained in sustainable livelihood activities and some of them empowered with equipment and materials to start bee and mushroom farms. Also, environmental clubs where formed in 10 schools and each of the schools empowered to establish tree nurseries. All this was also aimed at enhancing environmental activism in the communities.
Ongoing is the Integrated Community Based Rainforest Action (I-COBRA) project also funded by the Goldman Environment Foundation grant. With a focus on the Okpon forest reserve and river, I-COBRA aims to help the 5 communities (Ochon, Odonget, Isabang, Alesi and Ekukunela) develop a Participatory Land Use Plan (PLUP) that will enhance sustainable utilization and management of forest and wildlife resources. Community forest policy and bylaws, as well as mechanisms for conflict resolution and law
Ambitious? Well, NGOCE needs to be.
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