Tackling environmental degradation: BDCP’s initiatives
BIO-RESOURCES Development and Conservation Programme (BDCP), has several notable experiences at executing projects on environmental sustainability and sustainable development of the Nigerian ecosystem. Some of the projects stretch to neighbouring West African countries and Guinea Current Large Ecosystem (GCLME) countries. These projects were attracted by BDCP and funds provided by the donor agencies were augmented by BDCP and the respective Ministries, (where applicable).
BDCP, in tackling problems affecting Nigeria’s ecosystem, has carried out implementation of a public awareness programme in relation to mangrove depletion and proposed re-forestation.
The mangrove forest of Nigeria is the third largest in the world and the largest in Africa. Over 60percent of these mangroves or 6,000 square kilometers is found in the Niger-Delta. The fresh water swamps are 11,700 kilometers in area. Mangrove forest grows along the coast and delta areas of Nigeria. Mangroves are found in all coastal states of Nigeria namely- Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, and River States. The area is generally referred to as the Niger Delta and most of the communities are under-developed making the area generally difficult to assess.
The Niger Delta is also the oil-producing area of Nigeria. The Communities, which inhabit this area, are made of mainly of fishermen and women in the purely riverine areas and farmers, in the drier upper areas. They also had some local industries based on the mangrove and the surrounding swamp waters, e.g. local salt Industry, mat making etc. These seraphic communities are a result of the constantly changing conditions brought about by river deposits, formation of sand bars, lagoons, temporary swamps caused by alterations in river channels, lake borders and drainage patterns, tidal movements of salty and brackish water, in estuaries as well as for considerable distances upstream, and even the effects of wave action along seacoasts on the deposition of silt, mud or sand.
Coastal ridge barriers, mangrove and fresh water swamp forests characterize the ecology of the Niger Delta and lowland rain forest each of which provides habitation for different species of plants, fish, reptiles, mammals and minerals. The two major mangrove species found in the coastal states are the Red mangrove (Rhizophora racemosa) and White mangrove (Avicennia spp.).
The project was carried out by BDCP to protect and restore the mangrove depletion through public awareness and reforestation promotion in the Gulf of Guinea Large Marine Ecosystems (GCLME) and its natural resources in coastal Nigeria.
“Our specific objective was to carry out a public awareness and public participation campaign aimed at sensitizing coastal communities and other important stakeholders on the risks associated with the continued destruction of the mangrove forest and the consequent deterioration of the ecosystem and the depletion of associated living resources”.
The high level of decimation/degradation of the mangrove forest of Nigeria located within Niger Delta region has led the government to undertake the task of control of the Nypa palm under the GCLME project. Such an action, along with the planned re-forestation project, will no doubt restore the country’s mangrove ecosystem. However, the success of these actions is dependent upon a carefully implemented awareness and public participation campaign, which has been carried out in this project.
The public awareness programs have effectively educated and sensitized the local communities and State Governments, and have generated a lot of positive interest in participatory management of the mangrove resources by all stakeholders including the oil companies. It is hoped that the support of the Federal and State Government, instillation of a sense of ownership of the resources by the local population, and their legal empowerment so that they are able to institute and execute control measures on their mangrove resources will serve as essential components in the process aimed at achieving full community support for the sustainable utilization and management of mangrove forests. It is thus expected that local communities will begin to protect and to plan better ways of exploiting their mangrove resources using knowledge/skills acquired through the awareness campaigns.
Activities required containing Nypa threat. From ecological perspective the displacement of mangrove vegetation by alien Nypa is regarded as a serious threat to the existence of the original mangrove. However, the Focus Group Discussion (FGD) conducted during the present study has not shared this view.