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Imperatives of REDD mechanism for mitigating deforestation

By Lillian Chukwu, Abuja   |   21 January 2015   |   11:00 pm  

FOREST

THE proximity of Nassarawa state to the nation’s capital was to be an advantage when there was massive demolition in the Federal Capital Territory in the year 2004, as most of the displaced persons found solace in the state.

    Today, thousands of victims of insurgency have also relocated to the North-Central state, especially to nearby settlements including Keffi and its surroundings thereby promoting intense pressure on land acquisition for the purposes of infrastructure, urbanization, agriculture, energy production, hunting with attendant consequences on the forest resulting in deforestation and land degradation. 

     In view of these increasing challenges globally, the United Nations in 2008 launched the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus (REDD+) Programme.

    The REDD+ is also an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. “REDD+” goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

    The UN initiative is a collaborative partnership among United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) programme and United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).

    Programme Officer for REDD+, Ochuko Odibo described the journey of Nigeria towards REDD+ as it started in 2009 through multi-stakeholder policy dialogue, capacity building with support from the UN-REDD Program, preliminary assessments along with field surveys, UN missions and joint strategic planning between the Federal Government, UN and Cross River which is the pilot state in the country. 

     Odibo stated that the “Nigeria’s UN-REDD National Program was signed on August 28, 2012, in Abuja. The UN-REDD Nigeria program has a timeframe from 2012 to 2015 and with a budget of $4 million which will allow Nigeria to craft the REDD+ mechanism, which is part of the set of policy and financial instruments of the UN climate change convention. 

    “Nigeria’s REDD+ program has an innovative, two-track approach consisting of actions at both federal and state levels,” he added.

    REDD+ scooping missions are either completed or on-going in states that had applied to qualify for the programme like Taraba, Enugu, Kaduna, Delta, Ekiti, Ondo, Lagos and Nassarawa states.

    The just completed scooping team mission from the REDD secretariat included National Coordinator, Salisu Dahiru, Kingsley Nwawuba, Hauwa Umar, Permanent Secretary at the state environment ministry, other ministry staff visited the Commissioner for Local government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Muhammad Dan’Azimi, the Senior Special Assistant on Millennium Development Goal (MDGs), Dr. Salisu Raj, the state director, National Orientation Agency, Commissioner for Agriculture, Naphtali Dachor and Project Manager, Ibrahim Jibril of the Nassarawa Information System (NAGIS) located at Karu near Abuja.

   Two pilot sites at Zono and Marhai in Toto and Wamba Local Government areas respectively have been proposed for the REDD programme in Nassarawa State.

    Governor of Nassarawa state, Tanko Al’Makura who was not available during the team’s visit was represented by the Secretary to the state government, Zainab Ahmed, who noted that the selection “of the state in the REDD programme will be a big plus for the north-central states.”

    Acting Commissioner for Environment and Natural Resources, Sonny Agassi expressed concern on shrinking natural resources as it affects the state and environs. 

    Agassi assured on the political will and dedication of the Governor on initiatives that will assist in mitigating climate change as well as promoting sustainable livelihoods for forest dependent communities in the state.

    The commissioner cited the climate change awareness movie produced by former American Vice President, Al Gore as a critical awakening for awareness on deforestation. 

   Nassarawa state falls predominantly under Guinea Savannah and has a total land area of 27,116 kilometer square with the total natural protected forest area 164,256 hectares contributing about 6.4 per cent.

    The Permanent Secretary at the state ministry of environment, Phoebe Gye-Wado listed the state’s afforestation and deforestation mitigation effort to include upgrading tree nurseries located at Lafia, Shabu, Akwanga, Keffi and Nassarawa to produce 250,000 assorted seedlings for annual planting.

    She said other initiates are, reduced charcoal production, the annual tree planting of Taungyya system in the degraded forest reserves, enrichment planting supported by the British America Tobacco company at Marhi and Saon Gari forest reserves and over one million seedlings donated by the presidential initiative on Afforestation.

    Surrounding villages around the REDD pilot sites at the Zono forest reserve include Ugya Sambo, Jewre, Zono, Sere, Ayiwawa, Bugu, Gbadugu and Dere and at the Marhi forest reserve are the Marhi and Masange villages. 

    The scooping team mission to the Marhi forest reserve Nassarawa environment ministry staff and community dwellers visited the Farin Ruwa waterfalls and learnt that poachers have rendered mammals especially the chimpanzees who compliment forest conservation extinct in that location.

    At a later interactive section with the community, the community head or the Sarkin, Luka Meshak lamented the continuous communal conflict with the nomadic Fulani over grazing rights and subsequent destruction of farm crops

    The REDD programme serves as an attraction for other multiple benefits such as greater access to projects from the MDGs, SURE P projects and other initiatives like the Environmental Vanguard or Safety Corp in existence in Nassarawa state that can be aligned to work to enhance the enforcement of the regulations that are needed to ban the illegal cutting of trees for timber to galvanize more support for the programme.

    A community has an added advantage if it is participating in the REDD programme and other special intervention programmes and this is additional incentives for the state to develop.

    On issue of grazing right dispute between stakeholder settlements and the Fulani herdsmen, Dahiru said that there will be some specific intervention programme that will be targeted at the Fulani to help calm them and make them realize that they have a greater stake in forest because it is when one has trees standing that there will be enough grasses for grazing.

    He cited the NAGIS as a satellite system that can assist in identifying land mass that could be mapped out for grazing route and said a specific advocacy and communication will ensure support and coverage of the Fulanis and reduce heightened tension.

    Project Manager of NAGIS said that “NAGIS will help sort out boundary disputes. Nassarawa, which is noted as a rural state can use NAGIS for a well planned environment.”

    Jubril said that the geographical satellite project which started operations in May 2012 enables planning and urban renewal involving Karo, Ado and Masaka.

    He noted that NAGIS has a clear resolution and imaging of the state and is a service, complimentary agency for the government and gives them tools for implementation, supervision, monitoring for accurate data.

     The REDD coordinator, Salisu Dahiru identified pivotal roles NAGIS can play at three levels which includes the provision of updated data of forest resources of Nassarawa state, assisting for satellite framework for imaging system to analyze forestry system and should be target oriented to contribute to REDD and help to serve as one of the key justification to give the state an edge over the other competing states.

    In analyzing the Nasssarawa state scooping mission, Dahiru stressed: “I have to be careful with my choice of words, not to preempt the selection process but to be very realistic. REDD is about monitoring forest change and measuring it to be used for provision of result-based payments. Without it there is no REDD anywhere.  

   “Two major things that we observed in Nassarawa state that are strong indicators of the readiness and viability of the state to participate in REDD are that the political will is available at the highest level, there is direct, personal and official involvement and participation of the Governor of the state. In fact, he is the main driver of the process in the state, so the secretary to the government, relevant commissioners have imbibed this primarily because of the leadership being provided by the governor in this crusade.

     “The Governor wrote officially early in 2012, when Nigeria got the REDD programme approved. He visited the then Minister of to re-emphasize the request for the state to join the programme and he kept monitoring it and went ahead to establish a State Geographic Information System which is second to none in the whole country. Today that NAGIS has produced a very current land use and vegetation map for the state. It is as current as 2012 and 2013 and that is the main instrument or tool that will be used to develop in what is called the Measurement,, reporting and Verification system for the state. 

    “That is what can be used to develop the Reference Emission Level. These are mandatory requirement for REDD in any state and in any country. And they have capacity to produce their own maps and using the most modern technology they fly over the entire state, cover it with digital aircraft like take digital photos. This is what is needed for REDD plus and to further support that the state has existing institutions that have very good structures on the ground which we all visited. 

    “The state MDG authority has projects in every part of the state. Infact, some of the areas that were not even accessible by bicycle, we had to go by foot, the MDG has projects there. This means that it is this agency that is closer to the rural community including the forest dependent communities in the state. 

    “The state also has the National Orientation Agency which has a structure with official mobilizers up to the ward level that are the main workforce for the information, education and awareness. And therefore can be used to integrate the state into the REDD programme and try to mobilize the people in terms of that component of REDD that deals with stakeholder engagement which is also a key pillar of REDD.

    “In addition, UNDP is present in Nassarawa state, undergoing a number of development programme that will compliment REDD. And you do remember that UNDP is one of the key delivery partner for REDD in Nigeria.

    “So a lot of these tend to place the state as a key delivery partner of REDD in Nigeria. These tend to place the state to some appreciable degree of advantage compared to probably what all of us have experienced and observed in some of the state that were visited. 

 I won’t mention states but we are all living witnesses of what we met and then the ability of the state to even extend the Geographic Information System they have to even support other states after REDD programme or those that are participating in the REDD programme is also highly commendable because they have already received request from Niger state to provide land use cover map.

   “So, if there are states that are not doing that. Instead of waiting to go and purchase satellite images from outside the country, then use an agency that can provide map on demand and then customize maps. For example if it’s only flood map or plane that the main focus they can do that, use the contour map and get appropriate images for (clients) that can be used for land use planning for both flood plane and river courses so as to avoid all the incidence of flash flood. 

   “There are a lot of applications that the facility can provide in terms of overall planning as well as guiding policy makers using the most appropriate current tools such as the GIS here in NAGIS,” Dahiru said.



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