THE ROLE OF NGOs IN THE MANAGEMENT OF OKWANGWO RANGE OF CROSS RIVER NATIONAL PARK
(FORESTRY AND WILDLIFE
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Wildlife conservation is to prevent individual species of wild animals, or sometimes whole communities from becoming extinct either regionally or globally. Nigeria is blessed with a rich and unique array of ecosystems and great variety of wildlife, but the conservation of these resources remains precarious. The National Parks developed and managed by the Federal Government under the exclusive legislative list, are to enhance the protection of endangered species, promote scientific research, encourage educational knowledge and promote ecotourism.
The enforcement of conservation by national parks in Nigeria has yielded limited results. Beyond the establishment of reserves, parks and sanctuaries to protect landscapes, game, fauna, flora cultural and scientific sites, no concrete efforts have been put in place check the current and increasing challenge of land and resource alienation of indigenous population. This neglect threatens the objective of conservation and integrity of protected areas. To check this looming threat, the Federal government should move beyond fortress conservation to practice conservation with rural development. This involves the recognition of indigenous historical rights over protected areas and collaboration with locals to manage national parks found within underdeveloped communities. Within protected areas, economic growth and development is rudimentary. To achieve harmony in nature and society, the state should adopt and expand conservation with development. Park partnership or collaboration should involve provision of non-agro forestry livelihood alternatives to reduce local dependence on the forest. The provision of funds by the state and international organizations to retrain locals on sustainable agriculture, social development in areas such as spatial development, education, health care delivery, will encourage local communities to co-operate with the park by providing skilled, semi-skilled security labour within protected areas.
Non-Governmental organizations are largely or totally independent of government, and they exist for a variety of reasons, usually to further the political or social goals of their members or funders. They function as charitable or religious associations, mobilize private funds for development initiatives and programmes, raise awareness and influence policies in pursuance of the ideals of democracy, good governance as well as undertake diverse humanitarian projects that could better the lots of the grassroots. Examples include improving the state of the national environment, encouraging the observance of human rights, improving the welfare of the disadvantaged, or representing a corporate agenda.
To conserve our forests effectively, there is need for NGOs to study the inherent dependence of the local people on forest resources and then find ways to implement development projects which will deter them from degrading the forests. Information on sustainable forest conservation needs to be disseminated so that the communities will know the state of forest exploitation, the problems and consequences of their actions, and the need to participate in conserving the forest. The most successful conservation project is that which puts conservation and development activities under the control of the local people (1UCN, 2009). Ekum (2006) pointed out that, there is an urgent need for initiating “sustainable livelihood options” that strengthens rural livelihood security through self-identified and community managed projects. This will certainly improve standard of living for present and future generations, economic security, self-improvement guided by their knowledge and strategies which will lead to sustainable livelihood.
Yamamotu (2011) wrote that participatory forest conservation involving NGO’s and community members helps to protect renewable forest resources with proper consideration of the social status of the rural communities or forest dwellers. NGO’s play vital roles in biodiversity conservation particularly in CRNP and their impact on the communities cannot be overemphasized. They help to build harmonious relationship between the natural resources it seeks to conserve and the people who depend directly on these resources for survival. It also tries to integrate conservation with the natural development in order to achieve long term sustainable development of our forests for the benefit of all.
The essence of this research is therefore to determine the role of NGO’s in wildlife conservation, using Okwangwo Range of Cross River National Park as a case study.
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
The Cross River National Park (CRNP) was established by the Federal Military Government Act of 1991, with the Cross River gorilla chosen as the theme animal. CRNP is a home to valuable flora and fauna species. It has two ranges (Oban and Okwangwo) which are threatened by illegal logging, slash and burn farming and poaching. The Government tried to stop these forest degrading illegal activities but maximum result was not seen, which is why Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) waded in to assist Government in park conservation. It is believed that NGOs play important roles in the management and conservation of the park to include creation of awareness and enlightenment programs, provisions of funds for park management, provision of skilled personnels to run and monitor the affairs of the park, bringing citizen’s concerns to Government, advocating and monitoring policy programme encouraging participation of civil society and stakeholders in park management. However, agilations from other roles are the provision of basic infractures to local communities to improve on their livelihood, park management and local communities have indicated that the support from these organization are not adequate enough to meet their needs. This position is also held by the management of Okwangwo range of cross river national park. This study is therefore expected to evaluate the role of three of the NGOS operating around the range.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The general objective of the study is to assess the roles of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in wildlife conservation in Okwangwo Range of Cross River National Park.
The specific objectives are as follows:
- To examine the impact of the NGOs in the management of Okwangwo Range of CRNP
- To evaluate the level of conservation education programmes organized by NGOs in support zone communities.
- To assess the impact of NGO programmes on the livelihoods of support zone communities.