In a bid to spread its activities across the entire country for even and maximum impact, the foremost conservation and biodiversity management organization in Nigeria, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) has embarked on building partnership with the South East Governments. “We have not made significant inroads into the Southeast geopolitical zone of the country over all these years for factors that cannot easily be adduced” said Dr Muhtari Aminu-Kano, the Director-General of the membership non-governmental organization. “The region is bedeviled as many other parts of the country by environmental challenges especially soil and gully erosion, poor drainages and waste management challenges and NCF is willing to partner with the governments and people of the region including the private sector to begin to turnaround the situation.”
It is against this backdrop that Mr. Paddy Ezeala, NCF’s Communication Advisor, led a team to Awka a few days ago to meet with representatives of the Anambra State Ministry of Environment, Ecology and Beautification Government to discuss common grounds and areas of possible collaboration and partnership. The Anambra State Government was represented by Dr. Emmanuel Okafor, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Chief Chido Obidiegwu, Managing Director, Clear Drainage & Forest Preservation Agency; and other officials. Mr. Ernest Nwufoh, Programme Director, Biodiversity Preservation Centre; and Mrs. Nkem Agu, Programme Officer, South-Saharan Social Development Organization (SSDO) also joined the meeting.
The areas are:
1. Forest Conservation – The State Government was advised to work with NCF to embrace massive tree planting in order to fight erosion and reclaim lost forests. This will synchronise with the Federal Government’s plan to plant 25 million trees in the next one year. Anambra State alone can produce 2 million trees because of severity of erosion in the state.
2. Environmental Education – NCF is willing to partner the State in introducing environmental education into the school curriculum, establishing conservation clubs and setting up relevant schemes in higher institutions.
3. Waste Management – public sensitisation and education should be carried out in order to help the public understand proper waste management techniques. Recycling of plastic waste would be introduced. Waste Management Advocacy Campaign in Lagos and Ogun States, and South Saharan Social Development Organisation (SSDO) ongoing project were sighted as examples.
4. Beautification – NCF encourages scientifically designed centres that could be used as ecotourism development projects.
5. In-situ Conservation – NCF expressed readiness to partner the State Government to establish conservation centres. This will include the protection of the sacred forests.
6. Partnership with local organizations – Activities of Biodiversity Preservation Centre (BPC) should be given more life to as low hanging fruits. Working on Agulu Lake, Maamu River Forest etc. Agulu Lake is said to have the largest crocodile species in West Africa and should be made a crocodile sanctuary.
Dr. Okafor capped the meeting by stating that Anambra State should declare a State of Emergency on environment as he identified current major environmental challenges. “Anambra is losing its land to erosion and is consequently more or less becoming the smallest in Nigeria with regard to landmass” he said. “Akpata Forest Reserve has been converted to residential area with a sprawling housing estate springing up. Only five Forest Rangers are available in the entire State and they are now relatively very old people.”
In the same vein, the NCF team visited Imo State. The team led by the Director of Technical Programmes, Dr. Joseph Onoja, visited Imo State Government to also discuss possible partnership in the area of environmental conservation and sustainable development.
The meeting took place at the Cabinet Office Annex in Owerri, the state capital on Wednesday, 23rd October with a warm reception by the host, Secretary to the State Government, Honourable Uche Onyeagucha.
The SSG promised to further welcome discussions and deliver NCF’s proposals to the State Governor. He mentioned areas of possible collaboration in conservation such as some abandoned forest reserves and streams that could equally serve as ecotourism destinations. The SSG also drew attention of NCF to some conservation-friendly cultural practices that have saved some species of fauna. “Pythons and some species of monkeys abound in Imo State because some communities don’t eat them” he said. “Conservation projects should be developed and woven around these species.”
Other officials in the NCF team were Mr. Paddy Ezeala, Communications Advisor; Mr. Oladapo Soneye, Head Communications and Mr. Solomon Adefolu, Climate Change Programme Lead.