Conservation of a Protected Area in Nigeria – the Edumanom Forest Reserve (EFR)
We are currently developing a partnership between local communities, government agencies, private sector companies, and civil society organisations with a common interest in the sustainable management of one of six key forest reserves in Bayelsa State, Nigeria – Edumanom Forest Reserve (EFR).
In line with our strategic approach and expertise of working with, and developing the capacity of local people to ‘own and deliver’ projects, we are utilising participatory planning methodologies to collaborate, identify and develop ways to achieve improved conservation and sustainable development outcomes. The key objectives of our project are to:
1. put in place partnership MoUs between the interested parties;
2. develop a Theory of Change to help inform project design;
3. identify potential social enterprise ventures that would generate triple-bottom-line returns, utilising project partners skills to assist in catalysing these;
4. produce a framework for biological data assessment;
5. describe the makeup of local communities living around the two forest reserves in terms of differences in power and wealth within/between the villages and how the project will avoid elite capture of benefits;
6. provide sufficient information to populate a project log frame, such as the numbers of beneficiaries by gender, age, capability.
Under the auspices of the Niger Delta Low Carbon Growth Initiative (NDLCGI), the Conservation Foundation and its partners are working on an agreement to work collaboratively in Bayelsa State, Nigeria, with one of the priority areas for intervention being the landscape around the EFR. During the Concept Design Phase of NDLCGI (2016-2017), the Ministry requested support to review the State’s plans for protected area management, particularly in relation to invasive species such as Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) and Nipa palm (Nypa fruticans) and management of their impact on the condition of the state’s locally-threatened, globally-important mangrove forest.
Our current focus is meeting with local communities living around the EFR to understand their livelihood challenges and particular circumstances in order to feed into an outline Theory of Change, as well as obtaining some baseline socio-economic information.
Based on experiences gained elsewhere in countries where rural poverty impacts on biodiversity, we recognise that whilst finding sustainable ‘win-wins’ for people and the environment can be challenging, nevertheless recent technological innovations mean that creating income from bio-waste (turning bio-waste into fuel that can be locally consumed or sold) is now a practical option. In the case of the Niger Delta (and elsewhere in central Africa), the collection of water hyacinth as a base product for creating gas for cooking, or fuel briquettes, gives exciting possibilities.
Water hyacinth is regarded as one of the world’s most destructive invasive species. The IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group writes:
“Originally from South America, Eichhornia crassipes is one of the worst aquatic weeds in the world. Its beautiful, large purple and violet flowers make it a popular ornamental plant for ponds. It is now found in more than 50 countries on five continents. Water hyacinth is a very fast-growing plant, with populations known to double in as little as 12 days. Infestations of this weed block waterways, limiting boat traffic, swimming and fishing. Water hyacinth also prevents sunlight and oxygen from reaching the water column and submerged plants. Its shading and crowding of native aquatic plants dramatically reduces biological diversity in aquatic ecosystems.”
In the first instance therefore, we are looking at the potential for setting up bio-waste to energy schemes, whereby water hyacinth can be collected by local people, transformed into a marketable and/or locally used product, with the local people being a shareholder in a social enterprise, sustainable business.
In addition, in order to access any offset funding allocated as part of the NDLCGI development, the management plan for the EFR will be updated with information coming out of this project’s findings.