Forest protection and Livelihoods improvement in Ekuri, Nigeria

Full Solution
Ekuri Forest
Ekuri Initiative

Through an inclusive approach, involving the community in land use planning and natural resource governance, supporting agro-forestry, equitable benefits sharing and poverty reduction, the Ekuri Initiative has addressed problems caused by deforestation and forest degradation, such as exacerbated climate change including drought, fire and flood, as well as food insecurity, illiteracy and poverty in Ekuri community in Cross River State, Nigeria.

Last update: 02 Oct 2020
Challenges addressed
Land and Forest degradation
Changes in socio-cultural context
Poor governance and participation
Lack of food security
Unemployment / poverty
effects of deforestation, poor governance and issues such as inequity in benefit sharing The solution seeks to address low knowledge on the values of the forest, causes and effects of deforestation and unsustainable harvesting of non-timber forest products, poor governance, climate change, drought, fire and flood, food insecurity, illiteracy, lack of skills for gainful employment, low community development, inequity in benefit sharing and poverty that have affected the lives of the Ekuri people
farmers, forest gatherers, fishermen, Hunters and petty traders
Scale of implementation
Temperate evergreen forest
Access and benefit sharing
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Ecosystem services
Local actors
Traditional knowledge
Terrestrial spatial planning
infrastructure, policy and legislation, sustainable livelihoods, transport
Cross River State, Nigeria
West and Central Africa
Summary of the process
Awareness, education on the values of the forest and a land use plan enabled the problems of deforestation and forest degradation, loss of biodiversity, climate change, fire, drought and flood to be addressed. A step by step approach was taken, including community meetings, training workshops, field activities and outreach activities, drawing up rules and regulations, reconnaissance, enforcement and rewards. Inclusive governance is implemented at the general assembly meetings, okwa, making inputs into draft policies of the Board, assisted to address the problems of poor governance, low interest in conservation and loss of forest/biodiversity. The practices of agro-forestry and equitable benefits sharing have been used as solutions to address poverty and poor community development. The step by step methods used are training of farmers, supply of drought resistant food crops, raising of cash crops and supply to farmers for cultivation and connecting them to markets for their products.
Building Blocks
Awareness education on the values of the forest
Sensitization: The various social groups (chiefs/elders; men; women, youths) are sensitized on the values of the forest and threats posed to its conservation. The sensitization was implemented at the social group levels which consisted of men, women and youth including the vulnerable. Thereafter, sensitization was also carried out in each Ekuri village which ended in a plenary session of the Ekuri community. Mobilization of the community and resources: The community is mobilized as well as resources to implement actions that respond to identified threats. Exchange visits to others communities: Visitation to success story sites by Ekuri community or vice-versa allows to gain knowledge to enhance success of the solution.
Enabling factors
The conditions that have contributed to the success of these building blocks are: The unwavering commitment of the Ekuri people to solve the threats or problems affecting them; the existence of strong respect for the traditional institutions and social cohesion in the community; ability to raise resources for these activities; passionate and committed local leaders. Others are partnership with relevant forestry and park agencies, sharing of roles and responsibilities.
Lesson learned
The awareness education has increased the knowledge of the local stakeholders on economic, amenity, moral, watershed protection, recreational, pharmaceutical, biodiversity and ecological values of the forest as well as cultural and spiritual values. The stakeholders have put in place local action plans that guide sustainable use of biodiversity as not to exceed use limits. Few stakeholders stood firmly against conservation and preferred commercial logging for economic purposes unmindful of the needs for the present and future generations and proceeded to initiate secret illegal forest lease. The women particularly became ardent supporters of conservation and played key roles in sustaining these efforts. Information gathering and planning is by the people and for the people. Sensitization was for all social groups to avoid marginalization and low commitments to conservation.
Review and improvement of governance structure
The purpose is to enable active participation of the stakeholders in the governance of the forest to ensure community ownership of decisions and sustainability of programs. Data Collection: This entails gathering of information on current governance structure and the roles of the various social groups - men, women, youth, age grade and cultural groups (obon, ikpe and Oforoma) in the governance of the community, forest and enforcement of local bye-laws. Review: Information gathered is reviewed at social group's levels and then discussed during general assembly meetings (okwa), to develop optimal governance structures, roles and responsibilities. Okwa is an urgent meeting at the Village Square usually convened by the Paramount Chief on matters of urgent importance. The turn up for the Okwa Call by the community stakeholders is swift and decisions are taken immediately, as the situation dictates rather than waiting for a formal meeting which may take time. During general meetings and okwa, the community makes inputs into draft policies of the Board which they integrate into approved policies, to enhance community ownership of policies.
Enabling factors
Previously existent traditional governance system, which could easily be reviewed and strengthened. Secondly, the stakeholders were eager to reform the system that alienated them (particularly women and youths). Thirdly, they have the passion and zeal to transfer this knowledge to future generations and thus demonstrated extra-ordinary commitments and efforts. Local stakeholders are keen to achieve good governance in order to improve the atmosphere for individual and community development.
Lesson learned
Data was easy to collect as there was open knowledge in the community on existing governance structure, roles and responsibilities. The review processes took much longer and consumed more resources, as the Chiefs and elders, who were beneficiaries of poor governance, opposed any reforms. The "Okwa" meeting held at 6 0'clock in the morning always had the largest turn up as the people have fresh ideas to contribute to the issues at stake. Allowing inputs by the community into draft policies of the Board of the Ekuri Initiative, and tailoring such inputs into policies, ensured community ownership of decisions and sustainability of the programs. What did not work well was the confrontational approach taken by the larger segment of the local stakeholders with the chiefs/elders, on reforms of the governance system, which lingered for a while. Mitigation measures were taken to sensitize the chiefs/elders.
Land use plan in Ekuri for conservation.and livelihoods
The purpose of the building block is to facilitate participatory creation of land use zones to boost conservation and sustainable use of the Ekuri community forest. Several consultations with the community members were held on the importance of a land use plan, and answers to questions were provided, which allayed fears of possible exclusion from the forest. With the situation clarified, the communities 'comments and consent were obtained. Some community members were selected and others members who were involved in timber inventory and perimeter surveys of the Ekuri community forest. The group was trained in land use planning prior to the implementation of the activity. Progress activities of the land-use plan were presented twice at the plenary and further inputs gathered to finalize the plan. Topography, vegetation and forest reserve maps were obtained from the Forestry Commission, a governmental agency, which is one of the local partners. Nine (9) land use zones were created based on the topography and needs of the community. Rules and regulations for the land use plan were established and enforced.
Enabling factors
Existing social cohesion in the community, strong respect for the traditional authority, improved knowledge on the values of the forest coupled with improved governance and the need to plan for the future contributed to the success of this building block. The availability of an indigenous lawyer from the community made it possible to draw up rules and regulations to enforce the land use plan for a very low fee.
Lesson learned
The consultation period evoked deep concerns from the villagers over the problems at hand, thus everyone was keen to get involved to remedy the situation. The activity was participatory, the inputs of the community were sought at various stages and the output guaranteed community ownership. The improved capacity of the selected villagers has earned them membership of the Reconnaissance Team, thus enabling them to earn stipends. The farmers who were relocated forcefully from their satellite farmlands into the farming zone protested for non-negotiation and compensation, this lingered and generated conflict in the community. The mitigation measure taken was consultation and negotiation with affected farmers for peaceful settlement of the issue. Consequently, the matter was resolved in favour of payment of compensation to affected farmers by the community as soon as the community raises such funds.
Community based benefits sharing
The purpose of this building block is to enhance equitable benefit sharing among the local stakeholders and increase forest protection. Consultation with the people on the prevailing benefit sharing in the community identified its successes and drawbacks. Data was collected from various resources, incomes and facilities in the community which include forest and farm resources, types of incomes earned by the community members and rural facilities which were non-existent. This formed the baseline for planning how benefits can be fairly shared among the people through training, capacity development, scholarship, health and housing subsidy, empowerment of farmers, hunters and forest gatherers, and provision of rural facilities for the overall benefit to all. Implementation of benefits sharing was then implemented in the form of skills development, supply of improved drought resistance crops, scholarships, training in agro-forestry, sustainable agriculture, health/housing subsidy, micro-credit, alternative livelihoods in goat and snake farming and building of rural facilities.
Enabling factors
The conditions necessary for the success of this building block are: Identified needs of the community motivated them to solve it. Many stakeholders volunteered and were engaged in the consultation and planning processes. The provision of rural facilities e.g. roads, schools, health centre and town hall with accompanying benefits to all was also an enabling factor.
Lesson learned
Benefits sharing was discussed extensively and made clear to the local stakeholders at the beginning of interventions, and this principle must be honoured all-through to gain continuous support by all. Disparity in benefits sharing ruins or waters down the interest of the people. The mobilization of funds from the forest used in providing social facilities stimulates and engenders fair benefit sharing among the people. The initial benefits sharing for individuals prior to the commencement of the solution generated conflicts as the powerful community members hijacked the process to their advantage.
Training and support for gro-forestry
The purpose is to regenerate deforested areas, restore ecosystems, improve soil fertility and food security for the people. Data is being collected on current agricultural practices to determine the expanse of deforested lands in Ekuri community and approximate affected area, the number of people suffering from food insecurity, malnutrition and diseases. Information is also collected on the number of people stricken with poverty in a gender disaggregated manner, causes and effects of poverty and which social group (men, women or youth) is most affected by poverty and for which reasons. Planning was implemented with the farmers on agro-forestry practices to reduce these problems. Training of farmers in identified needs followed, followed by the distribution of drought resistant crops to the farmers. Land preparation, cultivation and management of the farms by the beneficiary farmers was supported by the Ekuri Initiative. The harvested crops to ensured food security of the beneficiaries, and the marketing of products enhanced and generated needed incomes. Monitoring and evaluation of the farms was carried out to check if activities are on track
Enabling factors
Prevailing hunger in the communities triggered commitments to end it. The availability of land, poor local knowledge on agro-forestry, availability of improved crop varieties not far away and local tropical trees was another success factor. The zeal of the farmers to improve their skills on agro-forestry, need to reduce hunger, malnutrition, diseases and availability of markets in nearby towns to sell products and improve livelihoods contributed positively to the success of this building block.
Lesson learned
A group or community, when faced with problems, sever ready (if well guided) to find means and solutions, rather than wait for outside interventions. Initial supports and successes lead to such a group being continuously committed. About 285ha have been regenerated with a variety of crops - cassava, plantain, banana, cocoa, kolanut, pear, avocado and tropical trees. The water quality, soil fertility, food production, food security and medicinal plants have improved. There was an initial setback when some farmers were against agro-forestry. Measures taken were to raise the awareness of such farmers to embrace agro-forestry. Marketing was problematic due to high costs of transport and mitigation measures were negotiated with buyers from outside who patronized and bought the product, benefiting the farmers and contributing to poverty alleviation.

The Ekuri forest continues to re-seed the forest floor, resulting in enhanced regeneration of deforested/ degraded areas thus increasing the number of hectares under forest cover. It has also increased wildlife populations with attendant distribution of seeds, ensured natural regeneration and maintenance of the forest. The solution has improved the livelihoods of the Ekuri people through the creation of jobs in sustainable harvesting of timber and non-timber forest products (NTFPs) as well as in agriculture and adding value to farm/forest products. Also, the Ekuri community has enhanced incomes from timber, annual registration fees by dealers of various NTFPs, sales taxes and gate fees which enabled the construction of 40km dirt road to the community, construction of a school, heath centre and town hall. The solution has improved literacy through the awarding of scholarships and skills training. Indirect impacts of the solution are mitigation of climate change impacts, e.g. increased purification of air by plants, production of oxygen, and increased capture and storage of carbon, water purification, soil fertility, food production

In Ekuri, there was unpredictable rainfall, drought, fire, flood, poor harvests, malnutrition, poverty and drying up of streams. In conclusion from consultation of literature, foresters and agriculturists, the causes of these are climate change. In a general assembly meeting, these issues were discussed, solutions offered which included training of farmers on agro-forestry, procurement of drought resistant food crops, raising of economic trees and distribution to the farmers, protection of riparian areas and cultivation of crops. The farmers were trained on agro-forestry practices. Drought resistant food crops (cassava, yam, plantain, banana) and economic tree crops (cocoa, bush mango, kolanut, avocado, pear) raised were distributed and cultivated by the farmers. Areas close to the stream buffers were planted with forest tree seedlings to mimic the forest ecosystem. The farms were managed, monitored and evaluated by the farmers with support from the Initiative. There was certainly doubt by some farmers over the efficacy of the solution to their problems but after years of intervention, the results were overwhelmingly positive. First, it has been celebrated that streams that formerly dried up during dry season are running throughout the year and water quality improved. Secondly, soil fertility, food productivity and food security have significantly improved and malnutrition decreased. Thirdly, marketing of farm products and income generation have improved, and 285ha of land regenerated thereby increased the hectares of land under forest cover. Fourthly, the problems of drought, fire and flood are reduced. Poverty has also been reduced, evidenced by an increased number of zinc roofed houses built, increased number of students in secondary and tertiary institutions, improved clothes, improved food, savings and contributions at community's events to raise funds. The provision of rural facilities (road, school, health centre, civic centre) has also increased. This solution has inspired me, Ekuri people and other communities in Africa that have visited Ekuri community to learn from her innovative experience. These successes has earned the Initiative the "2004 Equator Award" and a flagship community forestry project in Nigeria.
Connect with contributors
Other contributors
Edwin Ogar
Wise Administration of Terrestrial Environment and Resources (WATER)
Mrs PatricIa Ita
Wise Administration of Terrestrial Environment and Resources (WATER)
Mr.Benjamin Asuquo
Wise Administration of Terrestrial Environment and Resources (WATER)