Recently, the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, rallied environment stakeholders to validate a GEF-funded deforestation reduction project. Participants at the two-day workshop held in Kaduna believe the project is capable of showing the way forward to government on the imperative of forest management sustainability in the country.Olufemi Adeosun, reports.
One of the environmental challenges that has been of grave concern to the people, is the increasing rate the nation’s forest cover.
A recent statistics by the Nigeria Conservation Centre has not only revealed that Nigeria loses 3 per cent of its forest cover annually, it has also come out with a damning revelation that the country is at the verge of losing 400,000 hectares of domestic forest to unfettered cutting of trees.
Despite this frightening statistics, the indiscriminate and unsustainable exploitation of the nation’s forest resources for commercial and households use, have gone on unabated.
According to environment experts, hardly would a day pass, without a community losing tens of its forest cover.
While the country targets a recovery of 25 per cent of its forests cover by the end of 2015, there has been no tangible step, whether in terms of policy formulation or incentive, by the federal government to stem the tide of unsustainable use of the nation’s forest resources.
The botched N9.2bn clean cookstoves programme of the previous administration, according to experts, is a classic example of a nation oblivious of the looming danger in the continued assault on the nation’s forest cover.
It is against this background that environment stakeholders viewed the recent validation exercise on “Sustainable fuelwood Management in Nigeria”, as a step capable of pointing the way to governments at all levels the need to evolve sustainable agroforestry management policy.
Funded by GEF, the $4.4 milliom “Sustainable Fuelwood Management in Nigeria” programme with a counterpart funding of $16m (either in kind or in cash)from the three pilot states of Delta, Kaduna and Cross River, and the private sector equity share, is a part of the sustainable development initiatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The project, which has a five-year implementation period, is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emission from wood fuel consumption, enhanced carbon storage and sequestration, as well as improved rural livelihoods and opportunities for local development.
Designed under a commercial model scheme, the project is expected to produce 20,000 locally fabricated clean cookstoves for low income end users, achieve emission reduction of 40,000 t CO2e/yearly, and scale up clean cookstoves market, particularly in the states where the project is slated for implementation.
Speaking on the sidelines of the two-day workshop held in Kaduna, the National Project Coordinator, GEF-UNDP Energy Efficiency Programme, Mr Etiosa Uyigue underscored the imperative of the project in the targeted states, adding that it would not only help to reduce the rate of deforestation, which he described as ‘alarming’, but also help to develop and promote clean cooking in Nigeria. He explained: “Like I said in my presentation, we are developing a project, a full size GEF project.
The tittle of the project is “Sustainable fuelwood management in Nigeria. Part of the objectives of the project is to see how we can reduce deforestation and also provide alternative to fuelwood use in Nigeria. What we are doing is to review the project document designed by the consultant to ensure that it captures the views of all stakeholders.”
According to him, three states: Kaduna, Delta and Cross River have been selected to participate in the pilot phase of the project. When asked to shed light on the modalities employed in arriving at the select states, he explained, “GEF fund project on incremental basis. In order words, they look at existing activities and complement them. We all know there is an ongoing REDD programme in Cross River and Delta states. And there are also fuelwood management activities going on Kaduna.”
He said there was the possibility of replicating the project in other states of the federation upon the successful implementation of the pilot programme. He, however, noted that, this may be done by the Federal Government, stressing that GEF funding activities cut across over 195 countries.
One of the participants, a Project Advisor Gender and Social Development, Farmer Managed Renewable Energy Production in Katsina State, Ms. Folake Salawu, noted that although there were policies on agroforestry in most ministries of environment both at the states and federal levels, they were being implemented in breaches.
According to her, the policies are being implemented, particularly at the states level, haphazardly to suite different political interests. She also lamented the clear absence of a national policy driving fuelwood balance and reduce deforestation in Nigeria.
On the significance of the GEFfunded project, Salawu said that it was capable of alleviating the problem of fuelwood supply in the three states where it will be implemented, adding that the project is a step in the right direction as it could be a pilot that will bring to the fore the imperative of maintaining fuelwood balancing in terms of supply, managing the forest resources while at the same time ensuring that people don’t cut down trees unnecessarily for cooking.
She added that, the International Centre for Energy, Environment and Development (ICEED), in collaboration with Oxfam was currently implementing similar project in seven local governments in Katsina State, entitled “Improving the fuelwood balance in seven states in Katsina”.
According to her, the programme which is being undertaken under “Farmer Managed Renewable Energy Production” and funded by European Union, is “aimed at improving fuelwood balancing in the identified local government areas where there are adequate supplies through farmer manage National Regeneration of Agro-forestry and clean cookstoves, where people are supplied with fuelwood reduction stoves to reduce their consumption of firewood, at least by 50 per cent.
The project targets 35,000 households and involves planting 1million trees within the four years project circle.” Asked to comment on why Nigeria would always rely on foreign aid to tackle its environmental challenges, she said: “I do not agree that Nigeria relies solely on foreign assistance.
I believe that the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Environment started some initiatives, one of which is the N9.2bn clean cookstoves programme. “I am convinced that if properly implemented and the aim is redirected, it could achieve a landmark.
For instance, if the money is invested in the cookstoves sector to promote production, to promote awareness without distributing cookstoves, it will go a long way in driving the sector and creating the long awaited change that people have been looking for in the clean cookstoves sector.
“The current deforestation rate put at about 3 per cent per annum is not in the good interest of Nigeria and Nigerians. It is rather drastic for a country where over 70 per cent rely on firewood for cooking. It is not sustainable.
While we are promoting clean cooking, and appreciate the fact that firewood will remain the fuel of choice for cooking in the next decades, we need to promote sustainable agro-forestry models that will ensure reduction in deforestation and at the same time ensure that people get firewood to perform basic act of cooking.”
While urging Nigerian government to act to avert the looming danger in the gradual despoliation of the environment, she averred that the effects of such human activities were already manifesting in the increase in temperature, sea level rise in the coastal areas and desertification.
“With high temperature comes with all forms sicknesses,” she also warned. The GEF Operation Focal Point at the Ministry of Environment, Mr. Ladapo, in his speech, commended the initiative of the UNDP in developing the project, adding that it would not only help in reducing GHG emission arising from the use of fuel wood, it would also help the country evolve effective forest management and sustainable land management in the country.
“As we all know, the emission of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere may pose a challenge to the environment, hence the need to do our best to ensure that its emission is reduced to the nearest minimum or totally avoided if possible, in view of the harmful effects on human existence.
“Globally GEF has demonstrated its support to communities , countries in its efforts to achieve sustainable global environment benefits, reduction of GHG inclusive, the purpose of which this project serves as a remediation measure”, he noted.