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Alleviating poverty through forest conservation

By Rotimi Ajayi

The reality of Climate Change is changing development paradigm every where in the world. Today, development emphasis is changing focus from fossil-heavy energy sources to green-energy, urbanisation technology is changing to more energy-friendly structures while Agricultural development is being redirected to intensive utilisation of land for maximum yield in order to preserve the natural forest.

Preservation of the natural forest world-wide has become one of the major issues being negotiated into the international climate change governance at the meeting of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The negotiation is being undertaken under the umbrella of the Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). Of course I will not go into the technicality of how the + in the acronym came about here other than to say that it is one of those international abbreviations to make life simpler for computational purposes.

REDD basically targets the reduction of the emission of the notorious Green House Gas into the atmosphere so that the world temperature could be managed within the level that allows for human existence. REDD+ envelopes conservation of Forest, sustainable management of the forest and enhancement of the carbon in it.

As things start today, the world temperature is notching up and it is a settled matter among scientist that unless the rise is arrested and kept within two degree celsius, then mankind should be looking for another place live. REDD is seen as one of the major mechanism through which climate change could be tackled as emissions from deforestation has been put at about 20% of the global carbon emission.

This figure is reported to be higher than emissions from the Transport sector. This is the reason why the United Nations has set up a special unit known as the UN-REDD to carry out international campaigns with a view to getting the world forest dependent communities to sustainably manage the remaining natural forest and keep the carbon intact.

Nigeria begins the journey to being part of the UN-REDD in the year 2010 and by 2011, using the Forest Management skill and Forest Resource of Cross River State as a model. The country completed the first of the three stages of REDD+ implementation through preparation of REDD readiness.

It submitted it’s REDD+ readiness to UN-REDD Board and it was approved. The approval attracted a sum of 4 million dollars to the country to start a national REDD+ program. As it is today, only Cross River State is significantly ready for REDD+ implementation.

However is Cross River the only state with natural Forest in the country? No. There are other states across the country. Ekiti, Ondo, Osun, Ogun, Edo, Delta, Kogi and Kwara State do have some chunks of natural Forest left but so far the States Government have not focused on the benefits that could accrue to their people through this promising UN program.

UN-REDD is not a program designed to just get the communities to preserve the existing natural Forest in their areas pro-bono, in exchange for the climate friendly sacrifice of the communities, a financial outlay is being established which financially rewards the people of the communities for their preservation services.

In other words, the people of the Forest-based communities are paid for their pro-climate choice. Other than the immediate money that REDD+ promises, there are other benefits that the forest dependent communities will derive from buying into the REDD+ program.

These benefits include additional fund that could be generated through Eco-tourism and preservation of the bio-diversity among others. Of all the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol mechanisms for tackling climate change, the REDD+ program is the most feasible program that can accrue benefits to the people in Nigeria.

The program can significantly uplift many poor rural dwellers from the abysmal poverty level. This however can only happen if the States are properly informed of the benefits lying outside there that could be tapped for their people.

There is no reason why the government of Ekiti, Ondo, Osun, Ogun , Edo and Delta States should not learn from what the Cross River State has done at the moment and get their REDD readiness in place for initial processing by the UN-REDD. This is not something that will shake the pockets of these states.

The people of Cross River State are becoming ecstatic about the revenue that will come from the Forest Conservation program through REDD plus and they should forever thank their son, John Odey who made the state the model of the Nigerian REDD while he served as the Minister of Environment between 2009 and 2011.

He laid the foundation of the national REDD program. Since he left however, nothing concrete has been done. The REDD-tape is still far away and breasting it needs a lot of work and serious one too as there is no real work on ground yet now to make REDD operational in Nigeria.


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