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Group readies four states for REDD participation

External Reference/Copyright
Issue date: 
Jan, 30 2011
Publisher Name: 
The Independent
Michael Simire
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In line with the Cross River State initiative, more states in Nigeria are making plans to be part of the socio-economically beneficial Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) climate mitigation scheme.

Indeed, two major forest reserves stretching across four states are being targeted by nature conservationists and government officials to toe the path of those in Cross River, believed to hold over half of what is left of the country’s largely degraded stock.

These include the sprawling, three-in-one Omo-Oluwa-Shasha Forests (in Ogun, Osun and Ondo states) and the Kurmi Forest (in Taraba State).

REDD entails a set of steps designed to use financial incentives to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from deforestation and forest degradation. It can also provide benefits such as biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation.

Courtesy of Lekki, Lagos-based environment watchdog-turned REDD promoter, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), a range of start-off REDD readiness endeavours is underway in the identified forest reserves towards eventually making them officially part of the nation’s REDD programme, which has the Cross River venture as its foremost project.

At the Omo-Oluwa-Shasha Forests (OOSF) for instance, the NCF adopted a three-phase approach towards laying a foundation for forest carbon credit opportunities.

While the initial phase entailed a speedy assessment to determine whether sufficient areas of forest with biodiversity conservation potential survive, the second featured detailed mapping of boundaries of potential conservation areas along with sampling of wildlife populations, assessment of human influence and pressures on the forests, and developing an outline management plan, taking account possibilities for ecotourism, research, carbon credits and conservation. 

The final phase however bordered on the establishment of a protected area, forest protection and monitoring system along with eco-tourism facilities and research station, as well as development  of a full carbon credit scheme.

First logged in the 1920s but with a reservation status imposed in 1946, the OOSF prospered and became officially recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 1977. Elephants were later discovered there in 1990. 

But initial conservation schemes were not sustained and huge areas became degraded. It features 12 small community enclaves and an estimated population of 27,000 people in and around the reserves.  A fresh conservation scheme was however initiated in 2007.

The NCF Director, Technical Programmes, Alade Adeleke, identifies unplanned logging, cocoa agriculture expansion into forest areas and unsustainable farming practices in the buffer zones as drivers of deforestation in the area.

On the reserve’s current status, he declares, “There is only 40 percent of the natural forest remaining. While the Omo and Shasha forests are still connected, Oluwa is however now isolated from these. Elephant and chimpanzee are still present but the population is very low. Demarcation work on 60,000 hectares (ha) is completed in Omo and Oluwa Forest Reserves for the purpose of forest protection. There is an estimated area of 40,000 ha buffer with 50 percent of it more of cocoa agro-forests.

“Similarly, plans are in top gear to establish a new protected area - comprising Western Omo/Shasha and another comprising Oluwa. Apart from the preparation of a socio-economic survey that will provide guidance on community involvement process, there are plans to seek opportunities to carry out carbon stocking assessment, as well as complete work on a Draft Management Plan.”

Adeleke points out that a successful establishment of the protected areas will contribute towards the sustainable economic development of the three South-Western states, raise their international profile for business and other investors, as well as enable them to obtain carbon credits from forest protection.

“This is potentially a large amount of revenue if protection is effective,” he adds. 

With financial support from the Canadian Funds for Local Initiative provided through
Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the NCF has commenced activities
towards implementing REDD in Taraba State.
The activities involve the usage of practical tools that are capable of addressing the current spate of deforestation, while providing financial incentives for forest-based communities in the state.
The CIDA support is coming in form of a grant towards biodiversity conservation for livelihood improvement in three forest-edge communities in Kurmi Local Government Area of the state.
Towards the preparation for the full implementation of the project, a sensitisation workshop on sustainable management of natural resources and sale of non-timber forest products for improved income generation held recently. It formed part of moves to strengthening community capacity to conserve forest for livelihood improvement and promote awareness on climate change and REDD in the state.

The forum, designed for communities, forest management officers and officials of
ministries in the state, addressed the low level awareness on climate change issues, in the light of the state’s strategic position on the delivery of the UN-REDD programme in Nigeria and opportunities available to forest-based communities.
Similarly, the workshop provided stakeholders the platform to discuss the role of forest degradation in carbon emission and the efforts of REDD as a tool for reducing deforestation while providing financial incentives to communities through carbon credits. It also analysed Nigeria’s current efforts on REDD and what the Taraba State Government and people needed to do as preparatory efforts towards REDD implementation in the state.

Adeleke stresses that, although Nigeria may not have the finance or sophisticated technology to mitigate climate change, the country remains endowed with mosaic of natural ecosystems with capacity for carbon sequestration.
“Ecosystem services produced by ecosystems and biodiversity such as food, water,
timber, fuel and fibre, particularly food are one of the key drivers of inflation rate. Scarcity of or shortage in supply to the food market due to poor agricultural yield triggers high cost of essential commodities which has significant impact on the nation’s economy. It will suffice to say climate change will exacerbate the dwindling inflation rate of essential commodities required for daily living,” he adds.
Taraba State Environment and Urban Development Commissioner, Gebon Kataps, notes that the state is keying into the REDD programme at the national level and likewise fashioning a road map to that effect.

His words: “REDD is about a time frame and you cannot afford to do a REDD Programme if you are not programmed. Of course before then, we had already started doing programmes that looked like REDD. Of course when REDD came on board, what we needed to do was to get the nitty-gritty of what exactly we are expected to do. We knew that we have the forest resources that will definitely put Taraba State amongst the states that are REDD ready.

“Secondly, we knew that we have the indigenous people and what we call in the Nigerian Constitution forest communities that we needed to begin to enlighten and educate them to protect the forest. And of course what is very important is to be able to generate the interest of the indigenous people and people that have something to do with the forest so as to take the state a step further. This, we have been able to do within a short time. Today, we are very comfortable to take off.”

Last October, a UN-REDD Programme’s Scoping Mission involved the Cross River forests. The weeklong 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. The mission entailed a series of workshops, courtesy visits, as well as field trips to designated REDD pilot sites in the state.

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.

Other members of the team were Salisu Dahiru (Coordinator, National REDD Programme), Ochuko Odibo (Special Assistant, Technical), Odigha Odigha (Chairman, Cross River State Forestry Commission) and Tunde Morakinyo (Consultant to the Cross River State Forestry Commission).

On the state’s REDD potential, Cross River Governor, Liyel Imoke, submits, “With recent developments on climate change and with our efforts at REDD, we have seen tremendous values in our forests. We understood that, for us to attract attention to those forests, we needed to take a number of steps. We have done that. We have tried to bring in the needed legislations in the state that would protect those forests. We have banned logging because of the rate of the depletion of the Cross River forests.

“The forest was being depleted at the rate of two percent per annum which means that, in about 30 years, we will have no forest left. So it was necessary for us to take some drastic steps. We know it’s necessary for us to ensure that that ban is enforced in the face of enormous challenges. We believe that if we can articulate our programme we should be able to key into the United Nations programme.”

Environment Minister, John Odey, had suggested at the close of the UN-REDD scoping mission last year in Abuja that a technical committee be put in place to commence exploring other potential REDD ready states so that, upon completing the Cross River process, there would not be a gap.


Extpub | by Dr. Radut