Jointly advancing environmental sustainability and poverty reduction is a challenge the government of Nigeria holds at heart. In pursuit of these interlinked objectives, the Ministry of the Environment and the Man and the Biosphere National Committee of Nigeria proposed a project titled “Biodiversity Businesses in Omo and Shere Hills: A Means to Poverty Reduction, Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development.” This initiative, a unique example of triangular partnership between the Government of Nigeria, the Government of India and UNESCO – was recently approved in principle by the India-UN Development Partnership Fund Board to receive $1 million.
“Conservation of biodiversity and effective management of Nigeria forest resources are critical to attaining SDGs 13 and 15. Effective green-economy businesses that will conserve the natural resource base as well as promote the livelihoods and socio-economic status of local communities living within the forest reserves should be promoted and implemented for environmental sustainability,” commented Surveyor Suleiman Hassan Zarma, the Minister of Environment of Nigeria.
The project will increase biodiversity-friendly livelihoods in these two regions of Nigeria. It will offer training to local communities, with a focus on women and youth, on simple nature-based business techniques such as apiculture (bees), snail rearing, eatable mushroom and other rare species harvesting. It will contribute supplies and simple equipment, incubate businesses by providing support on business plan development to accessing markets, and help locals develop business skills including bookkeeping and product marketing.
“This is the first project the India-UN Fund is launching in Nigeria, and one of the first with UNESCO. We are excited to see how it can support people to lift themselves out of poverty in an environmentally sustainable way, and hope it can serve as an example for other countries looking to do the same. It is yet another example of the great commitment India has to further sustainable development through the solidarity-based model of South-South Cooperation” said Jorge Chediek, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on South-South Cooperation and Director of the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, UNOSSC.
Omo Biosphere Reserve was designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1977. It comprises over 130,000 hectares and is home to over 5,000 people. Their major economic activities include timber exploitation, fuel wood harvesting, cultivation of arable crops, hunting and fishing. The Shere Hills forest comprises over 35,000 hectares of undulating hills on the Jos Plateau, Nigeria. It has numerous high peaks, with the highest peak reaching a height of about 1,829 metres above sea level. Currently, both sites are under threat for losses in their biodiversity. Participatory governance of the ecosystem; improved sustainable livelihoods for local people; and enhanced social, economic and cultural conditions are key to preserving biodiversity and ensuring environmental sustainability. This project and the support by India are, therefore, highly relevant and timely.
The project will be implemented by UNESCO in close collaboration with the Ministry of Environment of Nigeria, the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria, and the Nigeria MAB National Committee.
“Convinced that inter-sectoriality and holistic approaches to development are critical to advance on the SDGs, India is supporting the UN System across its various Agencies, Funds and Programmes. We are pleased to work with UNESCO, and we hope this project a harbinger of more to come,” affirmed H.E. Syed Akbaruddin, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations in New York.
“Environmental conservation programmes and green-economy business activities in biosphere/forest reserves should lay much emphasis in activities that create employment opportunities for women and youths who are more vulnerable to the vagaries of climate change. Such activities should improve their social, economic and cultural conditions for environmental sustainability,” commented Dr. Adeshola Adepoju, Director-General of the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria.
“UNESCO’s expertise in promoting biodiversity-friendly jobs is highly relevant for populations living in rural and protected areas. We are very thankful to the Government of India for its support, which will enable us to expand our support incubating small businesses in bee-keeping, snail rearing, mushroom farming, carbon sequestration in biomass, watershed protection, bioprospecting and ecotourism in Nigeria, among others” commented Mr. Yao Ydo, Regional Director of UNESCO Multisectoral Regional Office Abuja.
The United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) is the Fund Manager and Secretariat of the Board of Directors of the India-UN Development Partnership Fund. It supports the work of the Fund through the overall project cycle. Launched in June 2017, it’s project portfolio encompasses 31 projects across Africa, Asia Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean.