By Patrick Obia
The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) has flagged off its three-year forest conservation program in eight communities in Akamkpa Local Government Area of Southern Cross River State.
The program which is all about securing important forest resources for nature conservation, eco-tourism, sustainable natural forest resource management as well as maximizing forest potential and capacity for present and future generations was launched during a town hall meeting held at Iko Esai.
Village and Clan Heads of Iko Ekperem, Ifumkpa, Agoi Ibami, Agoi Ekpo, Old Ekuri, New Ekuri, and Owai communities were present.
Intimating the communities about the project, the Director-General of NCF, Dr. Joseph Onoja said it is pertinent to secure what is left and inherited from forefathers and have something to pass on to the coming generations.
He thanked the communities for the protection of the forest reserves which he said has become a reference point of Community Management in Nigeria and Africa.
Dr. Joseph represented by the Acting Director of Technical Programs, Mr. Adedayo Mamudu further noted that the program is geared towards enhancing the livelihood of the eight communities and supporting their quest to protect the rich forests.
He prays to the benefiting communities for their cooperation, and support for the more than 1095 days the program will last.
“The forest type we want to do the project to protect in the next three years is important because it’s one of the remaining important forest ecosystems in Cross River State and an important biodiversity hotspot in Nigeria as it bothers the Cross River National Park.
“Through the project, we want to have an endearing forest governance structure in place to help enhance the sustainability of the project through which there are other components that seek to address sustainable agricultural practice because it is a critical environment. Also, we want to see what we can do on livelihood enhancement and creating value chain and market linkages for optimum forest products that abound in the forests and also to see how we can network for more mutually beneficial interventions to safeguard the future of the forest and the people within the communities.”
He reiterated that they came to support the communities effort in protecting their forests.
The Clan Head of Iko Esai, HRH Ital Obol Awai, expressed gratitude to the foundation saying it is a welcome development provided NCF has come to assist them to preserve their treasured forests and create employment opportunities which have been one amongst numerous challenges plaguing the eight communities.
“This program and what we have expressed today is what we have been praying for all these while; to help us conserve and manage our forests sustainably. We have been managing our forests but the program of NCF will definitely assist to educate, help and manage the forest in the form of protecting the already natural forest and the animals therein.
“It is a very welcome development, if the Foundation is ready to assist the communities, what stops us from accepting the NCF; they are well received.”
He called for synergy between the foundation, the government, and the people.
The town hall meeting was highly interactive and heart pouring.
The Youth Leader of Agoi Ebami, Thompson Francis said if there is no sustainable employment for the youths, it will be difficult to stop forest encroachment inferring that government policies have destroyed the forests.
In a vote of thanks, Ms. Folake Salawu of Green Recovery Nigeria and NCF Coordinator thanked the communities for the opportunity to work with them and looking forward to having a robust relationship.
The program is funded by Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU), Germany.
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