Sustainable Action for the Conservation of Obudu Plateau
- By ARADIN
Sustainable Action for the Conservation of Obudu Plateau (SACOP) project is designed to support the sustainable management of the Obudu Plateau landscape, a site of high endemism in Cross River state of Nigeria. The project targets 11 communities in and around the Obudu Plateau who have traditional rights of ownership and use of resources in the Plateau. The project is premised on the continuing pressure on the Obudu Plateau from expanding subsistence farming, increasing fire wood harvesting, grazing and naturally occurring earth movements with the resultant impacts of a decimated landscape, poor and vulnerable communities, and weakened forest and natural resource governance. The project adopts the rights-based and nature-based solution approaches to respond to these issues. The response is holistic, addressing ecological restoration and protection, improving local governance by strengthening local community institutions, creating incentives through sustainable livelihoods including production, processing and marketing, creating partnerships and linkages with potentials to enabling appropriate policies and measures, and inclusive enough to ensure that men, women and youth are involved and benefitting from the project.
The objective of the livelihood component of this project is to concentrate on enhancing agricultural productivity and improving rural food security through simple, affordable technologies, which will help small holder Farmers, bridge the wide gap between poverty and conservation practices.
From the demographic survey, ARADIN worked with the community leadership and various natural resource user groups like women, youth, farmers, gatherers to prioritize the livelihood options and identify beneficiaries from 270 households (1 per household), representing 40% of the total population. Criteria for selecting the beneficiaries included interest, vulnerability in terms of food and income security, criteria used for beneficiaries is as follow: Underprivileged persons from poorer households in each extended family; Women led households, widows and women leaders, Farmers/hunters whose activities directly affect the forest and biodiversity.
The project procured and installed four units of semi-mechanized cassava processing equipment in two (2) communities (Old Ikwette and Ugbakoko), the equipment in each of the 4 processing units include motorized engine with graters (digesters), pressers, sieves, and fryers, all with sheds constructed as working spaces. The project trained the livelihood beneficiaries on the operation and management/maintenance of the equipment. the facility is helping beneficiaries to process more garri in fewer days with lesser effort, increasing from 200kg to 500kg per week. This has increased food and income security for the target communities and reduces pressure on the forest and provided support to 210 livelihood beneficiaries (160 females and 50 males) in six communities (Kigol, Okpanzange, Anape, okwu-omu, Apah-Ajili and Keju-Ukwu) and established 11 demonstration farms, providing them with improved species of temperate vegetable crops that has high economic potential and widely demanded Temperate vegetable crops like Carrot, Cabbage, Irish Potato and Green Pepper that can withstand the sub-zero temperature of Obudu plateau and has low environmental impact.
The project has delivered its intended inputs by providing 270 livelihood beneficiaries with training ranging from: Entrepreneurship development and conflict management, Sustainable Agricultural practice, Extension services through the CLAs, Market linkages, Seeds for market gardening, Equipment for cassava process, Improved species of cassava cuttings.
Through the money saved by the beneficiaries from cassava processing mills and temperate Vegetable farms, families and individuals are now protected from hunger, having access to petty loan to start trade from the beneficiaries’ treasury account as a means of helping community members and individuals. The beneficiaries have also moved away from manual to semi-mechanized cassava processing; by so doing producing more in less time with potential for greater income. In addition, the beneficiaries are diversifying cassava products from their usual fufu production to include garri processing, with greater income earning potentials. The beneficiaries have also been introduced to improved species with greater yielding potential and resistance to adverse conditions.
Livelihood beneficiaries in Old Ikwette and Ugbakoko have experienced increase in income and asset generation by the 50kg to 100kg of cassava processed daily and also increase in food security that led to hunger prevention among beneficiaries and households.
The production of temperate vegetable had fallen to near zero in Obudu Plateau. The communities focused on coco yam cultivation for subsistence. The SACOP project is resuscitating temperate vegetable already taken up by 270 beneficiaries in addition to individuals who have begun similar farms on their own.
Madam Akwa Justina Women leaders of Old Ikwette community at the foothill of Obudu Plateau, Obanliku LGA Cross River State, one of CEPF intervention site.
CEPF project has done a lot for my village. Before we were producing only fufu but now the cassava processing mills established by ARA with support from CEPF have really been helpful to my village. The cassava mill established in our village is helping the entire community and the neighboring villages, Community members are more aware and becoming more interested and willing to be part of the project.
Mrs. Veronica Ndare women leader and livelihood beneficiary (group two) of Kigol Community Obudu Plateau Obanliku LGA, Cross River State.
I sincerely appreciate African Research Association (ARA) especially Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) on behalf of the entire group for the step by step training given to us especially on Entrepreneurship Development and Conflict Management, Sustainable Agricultural practice, and temperate vegetable farm has helped us in managing our business.
Activities were segregated with consideration of gender for best practices and inclusiveness, with women responsible for nursery weeding and movement of seedlings to planting locations, while men were responsible for making of pegs/pegging, holes and planting, Planning project activities with community members to ensures success in project implementation and Separation of activities to enhanced reduce time wasting and social distancing in line with COVID-19 best practices.
The role of women is central to sustainable forest management and biodiversity conservation, considering their roles in gathering, cultivation, and care giving. Involving them in decision making and hands-on project implementation will guarantee success and sustainability of project outcomes.
Adopting a rights-based approach for ecosystem management is imperative to ensuring local participation and ownership. The project’s implementation strategy of building the capacity of local institutions and empowering communities to dialogue on decision-making and rule enforcement regarding resource utilization is proving the leadership that communities can provide in managing natural resources.