The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), with the support of the National Park Service, trained 50 Park Rangers of Okomu National Park, Edo State, and empowered 240 members of the neighbouring communities through two separate intensive capacity building workshops held from March 1 to 5, 2021.
The core objective of the training was to improve the security and tourism infrastructure for the effective management of the Park.
Other objectives include enhancement of the management and governance of priority Protected Areas (PA) by addressing existing limitations; enforce the legal framework required to achieve effective biodiversity conservation in PAs; support local communities’ initiatives aiming to enhance the livelihoods of local people whilst effectively contributing to PA management; and promote the ecotourism potential of the Park.
This was done with the financial contribution of the European Union and the African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) Group of States through the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) Programme.
The hands-on capacity building training for Park Rangers was to aid Rangers’ knowledge in the area of data collection, surveillance operations, nature interpretation, conflict resolution and effective protection of species within the Park.
NCF donated critical field and surveillance equipment to the Park to enhance its logistical and operational capacities on protection, biodiversity conservation and ecotourism development. Among the items donated were drone, walkie-talkie, binoculars, Global Positioning System (GPS), computers, uniforms and patrol motorcycles, among others.
Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano, Director General of NCF, represented by Dr. Joseph Onoja, Director of Technical Programmes, in his speech during the opening ceremony of the workshop said the capacity building and donations of items are being done in order to enhance the protection of the Park and also to aid data collection of the wildlife species.
He said: “To show appreciation to BIOPAMA that has graciously funded this, as NCF, we are not just going to train and donate, but also ensure the equipment are being used for what they are intended for. We are also going to refurbish a vehicle for them to aid Rangers mobility and enhance the protection of the Park.”
CP Tesleem Adeniyi Kareem, Conservator of Park, Okomu National Park, appreciated the donor (BIOPAMA) and facilitator (NCF) and revealed that the training and equipment would help in updating, conserving and managing the biodiversity resources of the Park.
He said: “Okomu National Park though is the smallest among the National Parks in Nigeria with 202.24 square kilometers but it’s the richest in terms of biodiversity.”
The training, which held at the Tourist Base Camp, Arakhuan, within Okomu National Park, will eventually increase PA capacity to protect species, improve infrastructural facilities and revenue generation. Likewise, it will help development and improve livelihoods of the community members and secure their support for the Park and environment.
The Alternative Livelihoods Enhancement Trainings organised for the community members was to enhance park-host community relations, support some communities to improve local livelihood opportunities and development in ways that contribute to improved management effectiveness in Okomu National Park.
NCF through the livelihood alternative training held at Okomu National Park Secretariat, Udo delivered income generating items on poultry, fisheries and sustainable agricultural practices to the selected local community members.
Dr. Ibrahim Goni, Conservator General, National Park Service, represented by CP Ojo Cornelius Oladipo, while giving an address at the livelihood training, said that this kind of training fosters good relationship between and among the Park, communities and other stakeholders.
He said: “I am one of the happiest persons today, witnessing one of the interventions by NCF, I want to appreciate NCF DG in providing training for Rangers and intervention programme for community members here today.”
The 12 selected communities are Udo, Iguafole, Inikorogha, Ofunama, Ajakurama, Iguowan, Igninoba, Ugolo, Asamara, Okomu-Ijaw, Ugbo 1 & AT&P.
Among the facilitators for the Rangers’ training were Prof. Shiiwua Manu, former Director of A.P Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI), Jos; Prof. Gideon Emelue, professor of forest and wildlife management, University of Benin; Mr. Damola Ogunsesan, Project Manager, Lekki Conservation Centre; Mr. Stephen Aina, Species and Habitat Officer, NCF; and Mr. Joshua Dazi, Project Development Officer, NCF; and others.
Facilitators for the alternative livelihood enhancement training are Mr. Cole Henry Nosakhare, CEO of Osazemen Farms, Benin City; Mrs. Gladys Fayomi, a specialist in Non-Timber Forest Alternative; and Mr. Foluso Alege, fish farmer among others.
The week-long workshops were coordinated by Mr. Adedayo Memudu, BIOPAMA Programme Officer, NCF and ACP Innocent Asuquo, Head of Planning, Research & ICT, Okomu National Park.
The Okomu National Park is home to white-throated monkey, mona monkey, variety of duiker species, African forest elephants, hornbill, crocodile, African grey parrot; warthog; bats; and temitarium, among others.