Shining prospects for REDD participation
Nigeria’s prospects as a full REDD participating nation shone bright last Thursday as a week-long Scoping Mission by the United Nations REDD+ Programme that commenced in Calabar in Cross River State came to an emotional end in Abuja, the federal capital city.
The mission was aimed at assessing the nation’s REDD potential, in the light of its desire to be elevated from its current Observer Status to a Full Participant.
Members of the scoping team, having surveyed designated pilot sites, said at a meeting with Environment Minister John Odey that features on ground had convinced them that Nigeria possessed what it takes to be a fully REDD participatory country.
The UN-REDD Programme is being coordinated by the trio of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), whose officials – Josep Gari (UNDP Dakar), Julie Greenwalt (UNEP Nairobi) and Edward Kilawe (FAO Harare) – formed the core scoping team.
A natural climate change mitigation measure, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) is an environmental finance mechanism designed to address forest conservation within the framework of sustainable development. It is a process aimed at using market/financial incentives to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from deforestation and forest degradation. REDD credits offer the opportunity to utilise funding from developed countries to reduce deforestation in developing countries.
The mission entailed a series of workshops, courtesy visits as well as field trips to assess designated REDD pilot sites in Cross River State, where over 50 percent of Nigeria’s remaining forests supposedly exists.
The pilot areas designated and visited included forest and farm plots at Ekuri, Buanchor, Obudu and Afi Mountain, where Cross River Forestry Commission officials and members of the Nigeria REDD+ Programme in the Federal Ministry of Environment shed some light on the sites as well as the criteria for their choice.
Gari said, “I rate this mission as successful, extremely successful; more successful than we anticipated. It has been successful in the way it was organised – the workshops and the field trips. On the fields, we saw some communities working and defending their forests, we saw a forestry commission well organised to better protect the forest and also prepare itself for REDD, we also met ordinary people that are ready to learn, we met the governor who has excellent understanding of the issues at hand and process to come and total support, and finally a minister that is fully supportive of the entire mission and programme.
“I have full confidence that Nigeria has the potential to move from being an observer nation to a fully participating one, but it is not only me that will make that decision. But I say this because I can see that Nigeria has a lot of things to offer on REDD. Indications point to the fact that Nigeria will be allocated a budget for a REDD Readiness Plan. The prospects are bright.”
Saying that the scoping mission aimed at achieving a clear road map for REDD in the country, Odeh described the efforts as one that would set a pace for REDD operations in the country as well as in the West African sub-region.
He called for the establishment of a technical committee to commence exploring other potential REDD ready states so that, upon completing the Cross River State process, there would not be a gap. The minister reiterated government’s commitment and support to the REDD+ Programme.
UNDP Resident Representative and Resident Coordinator for UN Systems in Nigeria, Daouda Toure, disclosed that the UNDP had been at the forefront of providing support to Nigeria in its aspiration of becoming a REDD country.
He added that addressing deforestation and forest degradation in tropical areas was relevant to various domains of the development agenda, such as the forest sector, poverty reduction and climate change.
Days earlier in Calabar, Cross River State, during a courtesy call on Governor Liyel Imoke by the scoping team, Toure’s colleague at the UNDP, Janthomas Hiemstra, lauded the state’s forest conservation initiative, describing it as “unprecedented.”
He predicted that the current effort of the state would in the next six months attract investments and that UN-REDD would standby the state in this regards which will attract great financial benefits.
Hiemstra, who is the Deputy Country Director (Programmes), said he was impressed with the green and clean environment of the state which, he added, represented its effort to tackle global warming.
Responding, Imoke said the state had made several efforts at the conservation and protection of its forest with the cooperation of international agencies and that the observations from UN-REDD would encourage the state to forge ahead. He added that challenges faced can be surmounted through their efforts and cooperation for the programme to succeed.
The governor disclosed that the state worked closely with the Federal Ministry of Environment to achieve its aim, showing great commitment to the programme. He stated that numerous benefits derived from the forest would get to the local forest community which remained its focus.
At the close of the two stakeholder workshops held in Calabar and Abuja, participants attempted to devise a workplan to be executed within the next six months. Besides introducing and exchanging information, the forum was likewise aimed at enhancing stakeholder participation in REDD+. Issued raised at the forums were centred on topics like a legal framework, stakeholder engagement and technical.
National REDD+ Programme Coordinator, Salisu Dahiru, said that upon the completion of the UN-REDD Scoping Mission, a National REDD+ Plan would now be prepared and submitted before year’s end in time for consideration and expected endorsement by the UN-REDD Council that would meet in March 2011.
He added that the programme would continue with stakeholder engagements, dialogue and consultations, while upscaling capacity building at all levels. According to him, the outcome of the workshops would inform submission of Nigeria’s REDD+ Plan Proposal.
Odey’s Special Assistant (Technical), Ochuko Odibo, who is also a member of the National Technical Committee on REDD+, stated that even though Nigeria is well endowed with forest resource accounting for about 2.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Products, the nation’s forest estates have been subjected to severe encroachments, vegetation degradation and de-reservation for agriculture, industrial development and urbanisation.
The annual rate of deforestation in Nigeria is estimated at about 3.5 percent, resulting from inappropriate agricultural practices, illegal and uncontrolled logging, incessant and uncontrolled bush burning, overgrazing, unsustainable fuel wood gathering, oil spillage from exploration activities and disjointed infrastructural development programmes.