Mangroves, climate and community: Cross River State’s holistic approach to resilience building

By Climate Champions | October 12, 2023
  • Partner: Regions4
  • Implementers: Cross River State Forestry Commission (CRSFC) with support from GEF and UNDP
  • Country & Region: Nigeria, Cross River State
  • Impact System: Sustainable Fuelwood Management and Agroforestry
  • Beneficiaries / Impact: Forest communities, women, unemployed

In the heart of Nigeria, Cross River State homes not only over half of the country’s remaining forests but Africa’s largest mangrove ecosystem. Yet, this biodiversity haven, recognized as one of the planet’s 25 hotspots, has been under threat. Between 2007 and 2014, an alarming average annual deforestation rate of 2.95% threatened its very existence, driven by unsustainable practices like agriculture, logging, and fuelwood extraction.

Fuelwood, a staple for over 70% of Nigerians for cooking and heating, has been at the centre of this environmental crisis. In Cross River State, the prolific use of biomass-based cooking not only jeopardizes human health but also wreaks havoc on the environment. The unchecked felling of mangrove trees for fuelwood has led to increased flooding, forest cover loss, biodiversity habitat destruction, and the disappearance of invaluable non-timber forest resources.

However, a solution emerged with the launch of the Sustainable Fuelwood Management (SFM) project by the Cross River State Forestry Commission (CRSFC). With the backing of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and UN Development Programme (UNDP), this initiative aimed to pivot the state towards clean energy adoption through clean cook stoves, while also championing reforestation and food production in degraded forest areas. By empowering landlord forest communities to cultivate fast-growing trees for fuelwood and leguminous crops like cowpea, the project introduced an agroforestry land-use system that promises sustainable fuelwood, food, and fodder production.

The results have been transformative. In under three years, the SFM project has established over 60 hectares of agroforestry plantations across nine communities. This not only ensures sustainable fuelwood production but also strengthens food and water security by protecting watersheds. The project’s ripple effects are evident in the community capacity-building efforts, with over 1792 fuel-efficient cookstoves produced and sold, and the establishment of Carbonization centres that train locals in converting plant waste into biofuel. By growing a cooperative society, the initiative also paves the way for entrepreneurial ventures, diversifying livelihoods, and strengthening resilience.

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Main image: Agbokim Waterfalls Ikom Cross River State Nigeria, Wikipedia Commons.

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