NCF moves to save forest in 8 C’River communities

...introduces sustainability intervention scheme

By Anthony Uwadiegwu, Calabar

The Nigerian Conservation Foundation, (NCF), has activated a community based sustainable forest management scheme to protect the forest shared by eight communities in Akamkpa and Yakurr Local Government Areas of Cross River.

The intervention which is in partnership with Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union, (NABU), of Germany is aimed at ensuring community based forest management and livelihood improvement in the buffer region of Cross River National Park.

Speaking at the project inception in Iko Esai Community in Akamkpa LGA, the Director General of NCF, Mr Joseph Onoja revealed that the intervention was a response to protect what was left of the nation’s rainforest in the area.

Recall that in 2008, the government of Cross River announced a ban on forest based activities in the state and established a militarised taskforce to enforce the ban.

It also invited the United Nations Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, REDD+, to generate income from carbon credit, however, the initiative had not worked as illegal logging and deforestation had persisted.

Onoja represented by Acting Director, Technical Department of NCS, Mr Adedayo Memudu said the eight communities occupied a critical environment under the Cross River National Park and made Nigeria listed among the 25 biodiversity hotspot in the world.

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He said they were aware that Nigerians had a cultural attachment and earned a living through their forest but these had to be done sustainably to ensure that something was passed to the future generations.

“The project has five components which include forest governance, enhancing sustainable agricultural practices and development of agricultural value chain.

“Others are more recruitment of forest guards popularly known as Eco-guards from the eight communities and showcasing the communities to the world to attract other interventions,” he said.

He added that while the intervention would benefit the communities immensely, it was a collective responsibility and would work as the communities continued to protect their forest inheritance.

On his part, CP Zana Lawal, Controller Cross River National Park Service commended NCF for the initiative, noting that it would help to preserve the nations pristine forest.

CP lawal represent by a deputy controller of the service, Innocent Asuquo appealed to the traditional rulers of the eight communities to talk to their subjects to refrain from degrading the forest because it had far reaching effects.

He also thanked the Ecoguards from the communities adding that whenever there was opening in the service, they would be the first to be considered.

Responding, the leader of the Iko Esai Community, Chief Obhol Obio Owai said the intervention of NCF was a welcomed development but the community had suffered from many failed interventions and promises in the past.

He said if the community was properly taken care of, nobody would tamper with the forest because they would have jobs to keep them busy.

“Many youths in the eight communities are educated but have no jobs yet there is a law in the state that prevents inhabitants from benefitting from their forest, there are no access roads in the communities, this is sad and unacceptable.

“We also ask for better training of our Ecoguards and at least allowances and tools to work with which will help them to be more effective in protecting our forest from poachers and illegal loggers,” he stated.

The beneficiary communities include Iko Esai, Iko Ekperem, Owai, Ifumkpa, Agoi Ibami, Agoi Ekpo, Old Ekuri and New Ekuri.

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