Preventing a Shifting Future, the Exemplary Practices of the Ekuri community in Nigeria

Chief Edwin


Ekuri community in Cross River State of Nigeria consist of Old Ekuri and New Ekuri villages with a population of 6,200 people, and, has a forest called Ekuri community forest. The Ekuri community forest is sandwich by Okokori, Etara/Eyeyeng community forests to the north-east; to the south-east by the Cross River National Park (CRNP) Oban Division; Iko Esai community forest to the east and the Ukpon Forest Reserve to the north. The Ekuri community belongs to indigenous peoples called Nkokoli which consist of only five villages, all in Cross River State of Nigeria. As a forest dependent community, Ekuri has for years used traditional knowledge and identified climate change and accompanying effects in Ekuri, nearby and faraway communities because of deforestation and forest degradation. These changes include loss of biodiversity and wildlife (movement of species), drought, poverty, strange diseases etc. To avert these problems, the Ekuri community resolved in 1982 to communally conserve the Ekuri community forest to address loss of biodiversity, movement of species and also for the purposes of community development. After series of meetings on how to go about this, in 1992, the Ekuri community established the Ekuri Initiative, an NGO, with focus on conservation, sustainable forest management, livelihoods and rural development. Since inception of the Ekuri Initiative, several activities have been accomplished to mitigate a shifting future: a perimeter survey of Ekuri community forest (33,600ha) to know the size of the forest and on how to manage it; a land use plan with 8 designated zones – farm fallow, farm reserve, riparian, sustainable timber management, non-timber management, commercial cash crops, animal corridor and protected areas accounting for 50% of the entire forest. The policy of ownership of all trees on farmlands and in the forest by the community, controls inordinate clearing of the forest by individuals to own trees therein and sell to loggers, contrary to what is obtainable in other communities. Every member of Ekuri community is excluded from harvesting of timber for commercial purpose unless for domestic uses, whereas, the Ekuri Initiative has the sole mandate to harvest timber commercially from inventoried plots in the most sustainable manner whereby trees from 70cm diameter at breast height and above are harvested leaving “mother trees” standing to flower and reseed the forest floor, and, less girth of 69cm down to grow to maturity for another harvesting cyclical order of 40 years. The indigenous peoples of Ekuri have evolved sustainable practices of harvesting non-timber forest products – harvesting of chewing stick, cattle stick, randia above the base and allow regrowth of coppices for subsequent harvestings; harvesting of vegetable leaves without cutting the vines to allow regrowth of leaves; harvesting of matured rattans from clumps and allow immature rattans to mature for later harvesting. Others are implementation of agro-forestry practices of intercropping food and tree crops to mimic the forest, regular reconnaissance survey of the forest, outreach programs in neighbouring communities on conservation, climate change, effects and mitigation, cleaning of Ekuri community forest boundary every 2-3 years to deter trespass and cause havoc on the forest; skills development of youths and university scholarship awards for the youth for gainful employment and reduce pressures on the forest. These conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity activities by the Ekuri community have contributed and ensuring long-term survival of the Ekuri community forest and reducing shifting future in the face of climate change.

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