Iko Esai community bans slash & burn farming to save their forest
In a bid to take charge of a sustainable approach to their forest resource, the community of Iko Esai has for the first time ever imposed a ban on any clearing of forest for new farmland in the coming growing season. As a rule, the period from March to May each year sees an Armageddon scene as forest areas are opened up to farming simply by burning the trees that create a barrier between sunlight and fertile soil. But rains wash away the nutrients within 2-3 years, and the slash & burn cycle continues, and continues…. As the forests recede, livelihoods dependent on a flourishing forest are threatened, and the sources for the basics of living such as firewood and water are impoverished.
Deforestation is the second biggest contributor to climate change (after the burning of fossil fuels). An international initiative to help mitigate climate change forces can also sustain forest dependence for communities such as Iko Esai. The United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation in Developing countries (REDD+) programme offers incentives in exchange for a commitment to conserve forested areas. Nigeria’s REDD programme is engaged and working to develop a programme with communities of Cross River State centred on Iko Esai. Iko Esai’s bold initiative is a step ahead of the timetable, to demonstrate their commitment to a long-term solution.
A Surveillance Team from the village, trained over the past three years by CERCOPAN, is actively patrolling the area to ensure everyone adheres to the new rule. Furthermore, CERCOPAN’s Community Liaison Officer, Mike Ekpe, is carrying out awareness activities for farmers working close to the forest edge. Speaking to them about the land-use management plan, conservation principles, REDD+, and the new Iko Esai clearing ban will help to ensure that they understand what is at stake, and adhere to the rules.