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Friday, June 9, 2023

Departing NEWMAP may transform into govt agency

Stakeholders have called for the sustainability of the objectives of the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) in a bid to ensure that the departing initiative metamorphoses into an agency to ensure its continuity.

NEWMAP officials on a visit to the Federal Ministry of Environment head offices in Abuja

These echoes trailed the ongoing project implementation data validation mission to project states nationwide.

The effort to mitigate adverse effects of soil and land degradation in targeted watershed for environmental sustainability in the country informed the creation of NEWMAP, which initially commenced with Abia, Anambra, Cross River, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu and Imo states. Today, it partners with 22 states.

NEWMAP at inception was welcomed with cautious optimism, apparently because it was a collaboration involving the Federal Government and the World Bank – the project donor partner. Stakeholder wariness however evaporated when after a few years of operation, the project gradually emerged a game changer.

Between 2013 and now, NEWMAP has been able to address over 70 active gully erosion sites across the country, and as at December 2019, “reclaimed 1,722.41 hectares of degraded lands, with reduction in loss of lives and infrastructure,” a phenomenon that earned the project many Awards on sustainable land management at local and international levels, stated Salisu Dahiru, NEWMAP’s National Coordinator.

On Monday March 2, 2020, Environment Minister, Dr Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, lauded the achievements of the project, which he considered as a flagship of his ministry.

He said: “The evidence-based achievements of Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) calls for greater consideration of transmuting the project into an agency. Turning the project into an agency at both federal and state levels will ensure sustainability, especially in watershed management.”

So far, the NEWMAP Validation Team has visited Edo, Delta, Anambra, Enugu, and Ebonyi states. As the mission progresses, it will visit all other NEWMAP project states. The acknowledgements of project intervention appear to be impressive.

In Enugu, popular Nollywood actress, Patience Ozokwor (aka Mama G), said: “The   timely intervention of Nigeria Erosion and Watershed management Project (NEWMAP) to land degradation in some of the erosion prone areas of the south Eastern Nigeria saved many lives and restored hopes in many household.”

Describing the outcome of the implementation activities of NEWMAP “as marvelous,” Oziokwor, who is an indigene of Amuzam, lauded NEWMAP’s gully erosion remediation works in Amuzam, Enugu Ngwo community in Enugu State.

The Nollywood actress added: “NEWMAP is a success story because the project intervention in Amuzam ended the deplorable situation experienced over time in her community. NEWMAP intervention was ‘a God-sent answer to prayers in the community’, especially my brother-in-law whose house was at the verge of collapse before project implementation in the area.”

At Queen Ede site in Edo State, the Chairman of the Site Committee, Sunday Imolode, and Rev. Father Richard Ofere of the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church expressed gratitude to NEWMAP for doing what, according to them, seemed impossible in their lifetime.

Imolode spoke on the manner the entire civil works and livelihood enhancement activities were carried out at the site and stressed that much impact had been made in their lives.

Rev. Father Ofere, who has become the face of NEWMAP in Edo State, spoke glowingly of the relief, as well as numerous social and economic benefits of the Queen Ede gully remediation to the people of the community.

In Delta, the Owanta gully erosion control project in Ika North East Local Government Area, the Project Affected Persons (PAPs) expressed satisfaction over the pace of work on the 2,800m project.

Stakeholders and projects affected persons including the Chairman, NEWMAP Owanta Community Association, Elder Samson Egwu, and Mrs. Ngozi Eluma, expressed happiness over the level of works done. They commended Governor Ifeanyi Okowa for keying into the World Bank assisted project to solve erosion problems, which is not only addressing the land degradation but has provided alternative means of livelihoods to the people of Owanta community.

Physically challenged persons are also considered in project implementation. Group leader at Nguzu-Edda community in Afikpo South Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, Mr. Emmanuel Kalu, said: “NEWMAP should be commended for helping the physically challenged; the project has greatly helped in reducing poverty in our lives.”

The NEWMAP project was initially anchored on IDA $500 million by the World Bank, with two additional grants of $3.96 million from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and $4.63 million from the Special Climate Change Fund as an advance to cover Phase One of the project.

The Federal Government also contributed $150 million equivalent, as part of its counterpart contribution for staff salaries, trainings, and office accommodation, among others, while the affected states also contributed a matching grant of about 10 to 12 per cent of the total cost of the civil works.

By Adebayo Thomas, Communication Specialist

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