Sustainability: Civil society’s role underlined as Equator decorates group


Sustainability: Civil society’s role underlined as Equator decorates group


Posted 03 July 2011, by Michael Simire, Daily Independent (Independent Newspapers),

The Owerri, Imo State of Nigeria-based Smallholders Foundation (SF) was last week in Abuja formally decorated with the Equator Prize (EP), a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) initiative that bi-annually rewards outstanding community efforts aimed at reducing poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

The SF, which promotes sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation through educational radio programmes, is one of the 10 2010 EP awardees in Africa. The radio broadcast programming enables farmers to acquire contemporary agricultural and environmental management techniques, to receive up-to-date market information, and to advertise their farm produce.

Others are Development Network of Community Nature Reserves (Benin), RIBA Agroforetsry Centre (Cameroon), Community Association of New Maritime Experience in Cruzinha da Garca (Cape Verde), Mara River Water User’s Association, Muliru Farmers Conservation Group (both from Kenya), Association ADIDY Maitso (Madagascar), Local Federation of GIE of Niodior (Senegal), Makuleke Community: Pafuri Camp (South Africa) and Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development (Uganda). Fifteen other winners emerged from Asia & the Pacific as well as Latin America & the Caribbean.

Head of SF, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, received the award from Jan Thomas Hiemstra, Deputy Director of UNDP Nigeria Country Office, during a gathering of civil society groups on Monday and Tuesday at a Global Environment Facility (GEF)- and UNDP-sponsored sensitisation, capacity building and train-the-trainers workshop, where M. S. Bashar of the Federal Environment Ministry shed some light on the essence of the forum.

He said, “The role of the civil society in environment and sustainable development, as partners in progress with government, is no doubt crucial. Government recognises the crucial role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community-based organisations (CBOs) in the concerted march towards environmentally sound and sustainable development and a green economy. The event is in pursuance of the commitment to build the capacity of NGOs/CBOs concerned with the environment to serve as effective advocates and also complement government efforts.”

The forum deliberated on environmental sustainability challenges like climate change, land degradation, biodiversity, international waters, persistent organic pollutants, effective waste management and gender. Participants were groomed on the development of project proposals, management of NGOs/CBOs and inherent opportunities in participating in renewable energy projects.

Otive Igbuzor of Centre LSD in a presentation listed key issues in NGOs/CBOs management to include building of track record, financial policy and guidelines, annual audit and returns, publications, partnership and networking, as well as fundraising. He added that good governance entailed having an effective board managed professionally with policy and oversight functions over management, along with an executive that utilises good management practices that empowers staff with authority and responsibility.

Ibikunle Olubamise who is the GEF-SGP (Special Grants Programme) National Coordinator warned that the SGP would not fund proposals that do not respond to the established criteria and priorities, regardless of their (the proposals’) merit. She noted that NGOs/CBOs seeking to access the GEF needed to be interested in vulnerable groups, provide evidence of credibility and of previous work with communities, possess experience in conservation and environmental management and embark on community-driven projects.

Emmanuel Oladipo who heads the IEM Nigeria/Niger Project in Niamey listed success factors for environmental sustainability in the country as environmental awareness and education, stakeholder participatory involvement, integrated approach to environmental management, policy consistency and political will, adequate funding, good governance and effective institutional coordination, implementation of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), and information and knowledge sharing.

Adekemi Ndieli who is National Programme Officer of UN Women in Nigeria urged environmental planners to recognise women’s role in managing the environment and include gender analysis among the tools they use for project scoping, planning and implementation. She wants legislators and policy makers to address perceived inequalities between men and women through reviewing laws and policies that discriminate against women.

Speaking on the GEF-SGP, Hiemstra described it as one that gives out relatively small amounts of money for a considerable number of community initiatives that are touching the lives of people in terms of sustainable development, environmental protection and climate change. “It is not only the big projects and the big amounts of money that make the difference; the small ones do go a long way towards making an impact on the lives of the ordinary people. So we complement such big projects that in most cases have a long gestation period with the small ones,” he said.

The UN chief described the Equator Initiative (EI) as a response to the need to improve the livelihoods of people who are living among the world’s greatest concentration of biodiversity, yet often lack the capacity to convert such natural wealth into better health, education, agriculture and social development.

Ikegwuonu emphasised that the SF had as a result of the smallholder farmers rural radio broadcasts that reaches over 250,000 growers increased crop yield by 45 percent and household income by 50 percent, ensured that wood resources in about 2,300 hectares of rainforest are being managed sustainably, enabled the planting of 1,500 trees by school children, and educated listeners on HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

“Our work can be supported and replicated by scaling-up initiatives such as the GEF-SGP and the EI,” the SF Executive Director disclosed, adding that information shared on the broadcasts helped to improve local income and wellbeing.

Mrs. O. B. Jaji who is Director, Policy Analysis, Monitoring & Inspectorate Department in the Federal Environment Ministry, recalled that the GEF was set up in Nigeria in 1994 to ameliorate and eradicate environmental challenges in specific focal areas which include biodiversity, climate change, land degradation, Persistent Organic Pollutants (OPOs), International Water (IW) and Ozone layer depleting substances.

“I am happy to say that GEF has been able to make a landmark achievement in the focal areas which has direct impact on the communities which seemed neglected,” she said.



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