The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) conceived the Green Recovery Nigeria (GRN) initiative in response to the dire need for retaining a significant proportion of Nigeria’s landmass under forest. This is because the Foundation, as the leading Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) focused on environmental sustainability, fully understands how forests play significant roles in livelihood and national unity, given the fact that a good number of Nigerians rely on it for livelihood through local, regional and global trade.
Forest resources are known to provide employment for over 2 million people through supply of fuel wood and poles and more than 80,000 people also work in the log processing industries, especially in the forest zone of the South –West Nigeria, according to Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.
However, NCF takes cognizance of the fact that the forest is a renewable natural resource and its stock has become diminished because the rate of exploitation has exceeded its regenerative capacity. This knowledge, supported by data on current and past forest distribution in Nigeria, propelled action from NCF through the GRN project to reforest Nigeria.
According to available statistics, Nigeria lost 36% of its primary forests between 1990 and 2005, thus putting our dear country second to Honduras and among the 10 countries with the highest deforestation rate in the world. The grim reality is that by 2046, Nigeria’s forestland will be reduced to grasslands in the absence of an intervention. The implication of this on national stability will no doubt be catastrophic as forest dependent people will be stripped of their livelihood.
The Foundation is certain that GRN is a grand project to remedy the situation. The overall goal of this project is to firmly establish a forest rehabilitation scheme in 25% (230,942 sq. km) of Nigeria’s total landmass (923,768 sq. km) from 2017 to 2047, while simultaneously promoting actions to curb deforestation and forest degradation.
However, the requirements for its implementation are huge and may seem unachievable but with cues from previous global reforestation projects and their successes vis-à-vis their modus operandi and their adaptation to solve contextual glitches, we are confident that GRN will turn out a success story.
An example is Brazil, which is home to the Amazonian tropical forest, the largest of its kind in the entire globe. Its recorded efforts against deforestation dated back to 1995 with the establishment of protected areas in the Amazon. Successive governments sustained the efforts to combat Amazon deforestation by implementing new social programs to reduce poverty and hunger, such as the Zero hunger (Fome Zero) and Family allowance (Bolsa familia) programs.
Thus, support from government, private sector and individuals is key to achieving successes for large scale forest rehabilitation projects such as the GRN in Nigeria. When President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines put in place a government policy with the aim of planting 1.5 billion trees covering 1.5 million ha over six years in 2011, financial commitment from the private sectors in the Philippines played a significant influence on the success of the greening program.
Case studies abound all over the world to reinforce the feasibility of GRN initiative. India embarked upon community management for reforestation and carbon farming initiative, while Payment for Ecological Services (PES) and Agroforestry were also adopted by Mexico and Vietnam respectively to address threats to forest landscapes.
NCF recognizes the fact that this is a daunting task and can only be achieved by all stakeholders in Nigeria. Stakeholders who will be key in the implementation of GRN include but not limited to: Federal and State Governments and their relevant agencies, local communities, national and international donor and development agencies (DfID, CIDA, USAID, ECOWAS), the private sector and International organizations (UNEP, UNDP) etc. We, therefore, urge all in the society to join NCF in the noble course of restoration of the nation’s forest cover.