Wetlands International, under the Sustainable Livelihoods and Biodiversity Project (SLBP) aims to sustain and restore wetlands in Nigeria’s Niger Delta. Wetlands International began by identifying Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), who can play a positive role in the promotion and implementation of Ecosystem Based Approach to development in Niger Delta. Thereafter they carried out the capacity building needs assessment of these CSOs and embarked on a series of trainings. Eventually four Communities were selected as pilot project sites and four CSOs chosen (using a strict selection criteria) to work in each of these communities.
Riverine Communities Health & Development Organization (RIVCHO) was one of the four chosen and assigned Obi-Ayagha Community in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State. Other Communities chosen are Asarama in Andoni LGA of Rivers State, Abobiri & Opume communities in Ogbia LGA of Bayelsa State. The Obiayagha Community has wetlands resources area of about 3 square kilometers, located between the Okpare creeks.
The objective of the project in ObiAyagha is to demonstrate how restoration of wetlands can be linked to improved livelihood opportunities and engaging the community on integrated wetland values into development plans, with the ambitions to enhance ecosystems and sustainable livelihoods through incentive systems such as bio-rights. The objective of the project is to link community based Bio-rights financing mechanism and restoration/conservation of wetland ecosystem to livelihood improvement in Obiayagha community in the Niger-Delta area of Nigeria.
Initial activities included Advocacy visits to Delta State Ministry of Environment, Ughelli South LGA Chairman as well as to Community leaders in ObiAyagha. Thereafter a baseline survey was done which was followed by Community sensitization, Stakeholders mapping and resource linkages as well as dialogue with third parties. The Nigerian Conservation Fund (NCF) acting as Consultant to the project and RIVCHO as the Local Program Manager guided the community in election of Project implementation Committee who jointly under took a tour of the community forest in selecting project site.
The project which commenced in ObiAyagha in November 2014 has achieved establishment of Nursery and selection/grouping of beneficiaries, signing of MOU with Community and beneficiaries, engagement of micro-finance Bank etc. A cheque presentation ceremony was held at the community town hall with dignitaries and all stakeholders duly present. A total of three thousand timber trees are expected to be planted in the first instance to recover the communities dwindling timber trees. Nearly three million naira was presented to the twenty five beneficiaries grouped into four Cooperative Societies. Planting of the timber seedlings and the disbursement of micro-credit to the beneficiaries are tied together under the project. The Bio-Rights approach which is been implemented under the SLBP requires the beneficiaries to plant timber seedlings in exchange for the microcredit offered.
The engagement of the beneficiaries in capacity building sessions on nursery establishment and management and also in planting of timber seedlings in the restored area offered by the community was consulted to the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) who had been engaged in these processes since March, 2015. RIVCHONEWS wishes ObiAyagha community success in this endeavor.