The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) has disclosed that, with the support of the United Nations Developmet Programme – Global Environment Facility/Small Grants Programme (UNDP-GEF/SGP), it is implementing a project on Integrated Rural Economic and Sustainable Forest Management in Boje (Ebok, Kabakken and Ebranta) communities in Boki Local Government Area (LGA) in Cross River State on resilience and mitigation of the impact of climate change for farmers through the establishment of a 30,000-tree nursery for agro-forestry.
Under the scheme, some 60 community members were trained on improved methods of harvesting Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) – bush mango, cassava, snail, poultry and Afang (Gnetuma fricanum), while 90 were trained on eco-tourism. Site support groups were likewise trained on field techniques to promote eco-tourism as, according to the NCF, the site is an Important Bird Area (IBA) and a Barn Swallow Roosting site. Improved cassava stems and cocoyam seedlings were reportedly given to target groups in each community and cassava processing mill was provided as well.
According to Adeniyi Karunwi, the NCF Director General, the project also intends to increase agricultural productivity without losing more forest lands through Rural Participatory Approach (RPA) by training members of the three communities on improved agricultural practices and alternatives to hunting animals in the wild by training them and providing sustainable livelihood enterprises such as poultry and snail farms for food security.
A participatory governance platform was established with men and women as leaders, he says, adding that the project promotes gender equality having more women participating in the training exercise.
Karunwi explains: “As 75% of the participants are women. The project supports the empowerment of women in terms of taking leadership role, decision-making and financial independence, as women are seen as the major stakeholders in the use of NTFPs and cultivation of cassava and cocoyam. Afang, which is locally and traditionally collected on forest floors, has been domesticated. After the training on sustainable harvesting and cultivation of Afang which is widely used in the preparation of diverse soups in Cross-River State, four households have started cultivating Afang in gardens around their homes for domestic and commercial purposes.
“Cooperative societies would be established in each community to coordinate and provide viable market links for these farm products. 90 individuals from the three communities were trained on Eco-tourism, as Boje, being an IBA site and Barn Swallow Roost, attracts tourists.”