The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has disclosed that it would submit nomination dossiers this year for the establishment of national and transboundary biosphere reserves in Nigeria, Nigeria/Cameroon, Ghana and Ghana/Cote d’Ivoire.
In an interview with newsmen, the national professional officer of natural sciences, UNESCO regional office, Abuja, Dr. Osuji Otu, noted that the project would be achieved through its Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme.
MAB is an intergovernmental scientific programme, launched in 1971 by UNESCO, targeted at establishing a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people and their environments
Otu stated that the Omo Biosphere Reserve (OBR) project in Nigeria reduced pressure on Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) /forest resources by 20 per cent, saying that local communities were effectively engaged in the project to adopt alternative livelihoods and conserve the natural resources.
OBR which is located in Ogun State, occupies about 130,600 hectares of land, with over 5,000 people living permanently in the boundaries of the Biosphere Reserve (BR).
He hinted that 40 per cent of stakeholders whose means of livelihood depended on one kind of activity would have an alternative or additional source of livelihood three years after the project’s implementation.
The UNESCO officer maintained that the project improved the socio-economic status of beneficiaries by 10 per cent, adding that some of them have started new businesses in the community and expanded their livelihood businesses through private fish farms, mushroom farms, snail farms and among others.
He said that the project resulted into 20 per cent increase in profit margins of businesses undertaken by beneficiaries one year after operationalisation.
According to him, “Four alternative livelihood businesses like fishery, snailery, mushroom and grasscutter production were established and 15 per cent increase in profit margins were recorded, one year after business operationalisation.”
Other benefits of the project are reduction in the use of harmful chemicals for fishing in the streams and rivers within the biosphere reserve thereby reducing health hazards likewise the provision of potable water at the GEBR’s project office for students and the community.
Otu revealed that the project assisted the beneficiaries to form four cooperative associations on four alternative livelihood businesses.
He described the Lake Chad Basin as an important source of freshwater that provided livelihoods to 40 million people, saying that it holds great potential in terms of biodiversity, natural and cultural heritage.
Otu emphasised that between 1960 and 1985, Lake Chad area shrunk by 95 per cent due to reduced rainfall, which he said led to significant imbalance and weakened ecosystems.
He stated that the area was currently plagued by conflicts over access to water resources, which was further exacerbated by violent extremism of Boko Haram, leading to a significant rise in population migration.
The UNESCO officer regretted that the Lake Chad area was taunted with numerous challenges including conservation of biodiversity, ecosystem management and rehabilitation, participatory planning and inclusive governance.
To this end, he said UNESCO, Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) and other stakeholders were implementing a project tagged: ‘Applying the Model of Trans-boundary biosphere reserves and World Heritage Sites’, to promote peace in the basin through the sustainable management of its natural resources.
Otu noted that the project, known as BIOPALT, is a sub-component of the programme targeted at rehabilitating and strengthening the resilience of socio-ecological systems in the Lake Chad basin bordering five countries of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.
He added, “The programme will offer an opportunity for cooperation and sub-regional integration on which the BIOPALT project will build to promote peace, safeguard, enhance natural and cultural resources in order to improve the sources of income for local communities thereby contributing to reducing poverty.”
He affirmed that UNESCO was making plans to replicate the GEBR concept in other biosphere and forest reserves in the region.
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