Women, men and youth living in and near the Hadejia-Nguru-Bade Biosphere Reserve, in North East Nigeria, met on 17 December 2020 to discuss and choose green economy initiatives to generate income and support their livelihoods. The workshop was part of the BIOsphere and Heritage of Lake Chad (BIOPALT) project that aims to promotes the safeguarding of Lake Chad and the sustainable management of natural resources in favour of peace and the development of communities, especially women, youth and indigenous peoples. Within this framework, UNESCO is mobilized with the Lake Chad communities, which are among the poorest on the planet, and applies the principles of the UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme in the implementation of income-generating activities (IGAs) based on green economy.
Th workshop brought together about 80 people, including the leaders of the communities of the Hadejia-Nguru-Bade Biosphere Reserve, the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University Gashua, situated in the transition zone of the biosphere reserve, and community-based groups. Other participants were the Nigerian BIOPALT-project core group members, and representatives of the UNESCO Regional office in Abuja.
In his welcoming message, the Director a. i. of the UNESCO Regional office in Abuja encouraged the community members to make the best use of the workshop; especially in choosing green economy initiatives to generate income and improve their livelihoods, as well as validating socioeconomic studies and livelihood mapping conducted in and around the biosphere reserve through the BIOPALT project. The Vice Chancellor of the Federal University Gashua stressed that the University wished to facilitate the application of the green economy concept in the local communities. He explained that Typha grass, which is presently an environmental threat, could serve as a useful raw material for animal feed. He therefore suggested adding the production of animal feed from Typha Grass, to generate economic benefits while helping to reduce its expansion and environmental impact. In his opening address, the Emir of Hadejia, a community leader, welcomed the BIOPALT project’s objectives and expressed his support.
Members of the communities applauded the progress of implementation of the BIOPALT project in Nigeria, appreciated the concept of green economy and income generating activities, and agreed with the socioeconomic and livelihood studies that were conducted in each of their communities. They appreciated that the concept of the project not only covers replenishing lost resources, but also sustainable income generating activities that will help them build resilience to cope with the devastating socioeconomic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. To this end the communities had productive discussions in break-out groups and agreed on three possible green economy activities: integrated orchard and bee production, fish farming and poultry farming.
Working group of participants in the workshop
The BIOPALT project also focuses on accompanying Member States in the preparation of a dossier for the creation of biosphere reserves in the basin, thus applying their approach, which reconciles people and nature as ‘learning places for sustainable development’. The Hadejia-Nguru-Bade Biosphere Reserve was the first to be designated in the framework of the project, and the workshop was an opportunity to officially celebrate this achievement. The Nigerian Biosphere Reserve Focal Point - Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN) - supported the celebration.
The green economy initiatives will be a strong pillar of the development function of this new biosphere reserve, and they will be implemented by the local communities with the support of the University, which will provide training and scientific follow-up. It was indeed a remarkable day for the local communities, as they have commenced a journey towards resilience, building back better and ultimately sustainable development.