By Nkechi Isaac, Abuja
Timber harvesting which is the cutting down of wood from the wild and reserved areas for both domestic and commercial purposes is a thriving business, especially in the local communities, a practice that has led to severe deforestation of the natural forests in these areas.
The National Forest Conservation Council of Nigeria (NFCCN) estimates that a large portion of the forests in Nigeria will be cleared within a few decades if current rates of deforestation are not reduced.
Sequel to this development, the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) Global Environment Facility (GEF) initiated a five-year intervention project, the Sustainable Fuelwood Management (SFM) project to promote reforestation in local communities where wood vending still thrives.
Speaking at a training workshop, SFM gender sensitive training for farmers on woodlot and nursery establishment organized by UNDP in collaboration with the Centre for Gender and Social Policy Studies (CGSPS) of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife in Cross River State, the UNDP GEF SFM national project coordinator, Engr. Okon Ekpenyong, said the objective of the sustainable fuelwood management in Nigeria had multiple environmental and socio-economic benefits, including reduced GHG emission from reduced wood fuel consumption, enhanced carbon storage and sequestration as well as improved rural livelihoods and opportunities for local development.
He said the training for wood farmers which was running concurrently at the selected pilot phase states for the project, namely Cross River, Delta and Kaduna states was aimed at promoting and building capacity for sustainable fuel wood production and consumption at national, state and community levels in the states.
“The project aims at making the people aware of their environment to make them know the need of planting trees, how it can help and save the environment. This project is for five years and they are looking at how we can sustain this project after five years. So, that is why we are trying to see how they can help some of these community people, train them on how to establish and plant trees so that when the project is over after five years it can be a continuous process and also help save the environment,” he stated.
Ekpenyong who was represented by the UNDP GEF administrative officer, Mrs Grace Ibe, said the training would help the environment “because there is a lot of deforestation and you know the United Nation is preaching about this global warming, how it has affected the world as a whole.
“So, with this sustainable fuelwood management it would help us conserve our energy and also help to save the environment in the sense that when they cut trees, when you cut one tree you know that you are supposed to plant three trees in place of the tree you cut down.”
In her remarks, the acting director, CGSPS, Dr. Monica Orisadare pointed out that women and children are the ones mostly affected by wood vending, saying the centre’s role is to make sure women are mainstreamed and trained with their male counterparts.
“We’ve realized that a lot of forests have been degraded and women and children are the ones suffering the most based on this challenge. We’ve realized that they have fetched virtually most of the trees in the forest and the women and children go the extra mile to look for alternatives,” she stated.
Orisadare represented by the centre’s research fellow 1, Dr. Atijosan Ayobami, explained in order to contain the situation, women and children in a bit to improvise, use materials detrimental to their health and end up damaging some vital organs in their bodies.
“Also, most women depend on firewood to make ends meet and because of severe deforestation and desert encroachment they are no longer empowered. We believe if they are taken through on this project, teaching them how to make nursery and successfully plant trees there will be availability of fuelwood all through the year, this will empower them and improve their standard of living while children can concentrate on their education instead of going out to fetch firewood at odd times,” she added.
A facilitator and senior forest officer, Cross River State Forestry Commission, Obudu, Mr Joseph Ugbe pointed out that almost 80 per cent of fuelwood consumption in Nigeria is rural based hence the need to concentrate on the grassroots and build their capacity on how to repopulate the natural forest sustainably.
“So, for continuity of this project, which is a five-year project, they have to know how to do the nursery and plantation so that apart from forestry they know how to do it on their own,” he said.
Ugbe said the training on sustainable fuelwood management was promoted by a committee drawn from the focal communities in Mbok, Ogoja; Alifokpa, Yala; Bebi, Obanlikwu; Bateriku, Boki; Ukutia and Igw in Obudu loca government areas of the state.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP, a wood farmer, Edey Lawrence, said the training provided them with detailed and comprehensive steps on how to nurture fragile seedling in the nursery and practicals of how to groom the nursery and translate them to trees in the forest, describing it as a welcome development which would not only benefit their immediate community but the society at large.
Similarly, another participant, Regina Agabi, said the training would help ameliorate effects of climate change in the society, even as she lauded the organisers for mainstreaming the women who are the worst hit by wood fetching activities. She urged state governments to key into the programme by encouraging partnerships with the committee to repopulate the forest in states as a way of encouraging sustainable fuelwood management.
Experts in the agriculture sector have maintained that the emergence of new and smart technologies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) era characterized by the emergence of such technologies as nanotechnologies; 3D printing; machine learning; big data; cloud computing, drones, artificial intelligence and many of such can be explored to enhance sustainable agriculture and help the agricultural sector improve the world’s food and crops supply value chain.
Riding on the wings of emerging technologies, IBM, one of the largest tech companies in the world, has announced the global expansion of Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture with AI technology tailored for new crops and specific regions to help feed a growing population. For the first time, IBM is providing a global agriculture solution that combines predictive technology with data from The Weather Company, an IBM Business, and IoT data to help give farmers around the world greater insights about planning, plowing, planting, spraying and harvesting.
By 2050, the world will need to feed two billion more people without an increase of arable land. IBM is combining power weather data – including historical, current and forecast data and weather prediction models from The Weather Company – with crop models to help improve yield forecast accuracy, generate value, and increase both farm production and profitability.
“As a farmer, the wild card is always weather. IBM overlays weather details with my own data and historical information to help me apply, verify, and make decisions,” said Roric Paulman, owner/operator of Paulman Farms in Southwest Nebraska. “For example, our farm is in a highly restricted water basin, so the ability to better anticipate rain not only saves me money but also helps me save precious natural resources.”
New crop models include corn, wheat, soy, cotton, sorghum, barley, sugar cane and potato, with more coming soon. These models will now be available in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Brazil, as well as new markets across Europe, Africa and Australia.
“These days farmers don’t just farm food, they also cultivate data – from drones flying over fields to smart irrigation systems, and IoT sensors affixed to combines, seeders, sprayers and other equipment,” said Kristen Lauria, general manager of Watson Media and Weather Solutions, IBM. “Most of the time, this data is left on the vine — never analyzed or used to derive insights. Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture aims to change that by offering tools and solutions to help growers make more informed decisions about their crops.”
The average farm generates an estimated 500,000 data points per day, which will grow to 4 million data points by 2036. Applying AI and analysis to aggregated field, machine and environmental data can help improve shared insights between growers and enterprises across the agriculture ecosystem.
With a better view of the fields, growers can see what’s working on certain farms and share best practices with other farmers.
The platform assesses data in an electronic field record to identify and communicate crop management patterns and insights. Enterprise businesses such as food companies, grain processors, or produce distributors can then work with farmers to leverage those insights. It helps track crop yield as well as the environment, weather and plant biologic conditions that go into a good or bad yield, such as irrigation management, pest and disease risk analysis and cohort analysis for comparing similar subsets of fields.
The result isn’t just more productive farmers. Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture could help a livestock company eliminate a certain mold or fungus from feed supply grains or help identify the best crop irrigation practices for farmers to use in drought-stricken areas like California. It could help deliver the perfect French fry for a fast food chain that needs longer – not fatter – potatoes from its network of growers. Or it could help a beer distributor produce a more affordable premium beer by growing higher quality barley that meets the standard required to become malting barley.
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