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12 Cross River communities benefit from UNESCO, federal government biodiversity wealth creation

By Akpan David, Calabar 

Twelve communities in the Oban Biosphere Reserve within the Cross River National Park have been selected to benefit from supports that will help them create wealth and jobs.

Such supports are aimed at discouraging them from activities which place undue pressures on the ecosystem, resulting in loss of biodiversity and natural resources. 

The Federal Government of Nigeria in collaboration with the UNESCO has consulted with the 12 selected communities to enable them receive their thoughts and inputs on the biodiversity businesses that could be established for their good, and within the framework of the project.  

The Minister of Environment, Mallam Balarabe Abbas Lawal said the project is implemented at three sites in the country, including Oban Biosphere Reserve in Cross River State, Omo Biosphere Reserve in Ogun State and Shere Hills Forest Reserve in Plateau State.  

“The goal of the project which aligns with Nigeria’s National Development Plan (2021-2025) is to improve livelihood of local communities, contribute to wealth/job creation and support biodiversity conservation in the three Reserves through establishment of green biodiversity businesses and green economy activities. 

“These will have focus on youth and women entrepreneurship. This is intentional so that the locals in host communities would no longer mount pressures on the forest ecosystems”, the Minister said.

He acknowledged that in many rural communities in Nigeria, livelihoods and socio-economic well-being are intricately linked with their natural environment. 

He noted that local communities located in and around forest ecosystems rely mostly on the biodiversity and natural resources for their livelihood. 

But he said their reliance on the biodiversity is done in an unsustainable fashion, through river chemical fishing, hunting, burning portions of the forest for subsistence farming, amongst others. 

He said in order to reverse this negative trend alongside UNESCO, they developed the project titled “Biodiversity Business in Omo Biosphere Reserve, Oban Biosphere Reserve, and Shere Hills Reserve, Nigeria: A means to poverty reduction, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in Nigeria”.

Head of Office of UNESCO and Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Abdourahamane Diallo, said, “This Project is approved for implementation in Nigeria and has received funding support from the India-UN Development Partnership Fund, Commonwealth Window.”

Diallo said the project will help to improve local communities’ socio-economic status while conserving biodiversity and supporting women and youth entrepreneurship.

He congratulated the benefiting communities, imploring them to treasure and support the implementation of the project as life depends on biodiversity.

The benefitting communities for the pilot phase of the project Old Netim, Nsan, Obung, Ojor, Nsofang, New Ekuri, Old Ekuri, Neghe, Oban, Osomba, Orem and Ojok.

The project and its steering committee were inaugurated in December 2023 by Minister of Environment, Mallam Balarabe Abbas Lawal.

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