ARADIN sees community forestry as a key opportunity to strengthen participatory forest management in line with the Cross River State Government and the Federal Ministry of Environment’s policies and in support of current international forestry paradigms. In the past, ARADIN’s community forestry programme was limited to facilitating a Forest Management Committee on Obudu Plateau and various small scale tree planting/reforestation schemes on the plateau and plains. This has been expanded to include advocacy on forest law implementation, non-timber forest product (NTFP) domestication as well as a other livelihood options.
The key aim of the alternative livelihoods programme is to promote livelihoods that are not dependent on forest clearing and at the same time address the burning issue of poverty. Alternative livelihoods programmes must have potential to generate income for community members and groups. Small-scale agriculture is a key component of the alternative livelihoods projects, including promotion of market gardening, livestock fattening and the integration of agro-forestry practices. ARADIN has worked with both Christian farmers and Muslim pastoralists in small scale agricultural projects. We have been adopting a discovery learning approach in teaching farmers improved farming method through the farmer field school programme.
Since 2007 ARADIN has been involved in promoting participatory governance through engagement with government at all levels, capacity building on good governance and joint implementation of government supported projects and programmes.
The adult literacy programme directly addresses one of the key causes of poverty – that is low literacy level. It has been a particular success story and was given a high priority by many communities during ARADIN’s participatory Needs Assessment and strategic review. Its relatively low inputs yield a great deal of benefits to participating communities, including helping to reduce conflicts between different ethnic groups, expanding knowledge on the best approach to minimizing activities that accelerate environmental degradation including erosion and watershed impacts. Literacy groups have been encouraged to undertake joint projects in order to put new skills and knowledge into practice and increase learner motivation.
Most rural communities suffer from lack good water for drinking and this has contributed greatly to health related issues and complications. Also it’s obvious that the level of sanitation at the rural areas is poor. This is as a result of poor disposal of solid wastes; in most rural communities waste is indiscriminately disposed and open defeacation is predominantly practice by the people making them vulnerable to certain health diseases.
Across the globe today, climate change is possibly the greatest environmental challenge facing mankind. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecast a global average temperature rise of 1.4-5.8oC by the year 2100 (IPCC 2001). Such temperature rises will bring enormous and varied changes in weather patterns, ocean currents, regularity of natural habitats (and thus biodiversity) and sea level, resulting in increased or decreased levels of rain, floods, landslide, drought and famine (depending on region). The effects will be felt disproportionately by poor countries and by the poorer communities within these countries. The poor are disproportionately vulnerable, given that the ability to adapt and cope with environmental disasters depends upon economic resources, infrastructure, technology and social safety nets (IPCC 1996). ARADIN is committed towards creating awareness and strengthening local capacity for adapting to climate changes through the adoption of sustainable practices in their means of livelihood.
ARADIN’s action and focus in the past has been largely dictated by socio-economic and ethno-botanical research. In recognition of the importance of development research, and to make an input at the macro-level, ARADIN established a Research, Documentation and Policy Unit (RDPU) with the goal of contributing to policy debate and review for the sustainable management of natural resources in Cross River State in particular, and Nigeria in general. The RDPU also plays an important role in supporting field activities, monitoring and evaluation. Researches carried out by ARADIN highlighted the dependency of local communities on forest resources and identified women as primary users of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and thus the most vulnerable forest user group.
Promoting greater environmental awareness cuts across all of what ARADIN sets out to achieve in conserving forests and reducing poverty. Promoting good community forest management requires knowledge and awareness, which ARADIN aims to pass on to community partners. It is also imperative that alternative livelihoods do not impact negatively on forests and therefore environmental education is a major component of the alternative livelihoods promoted. Community partners have been expressing their desire to learn more about their environment and how to manage their natural resources.
ARADIN has had HIV/AIDS as a separate programme and achieved considerable success in creating awareness about the epidemic. HIV/AIDS not only poses a serious threat to livelihoods and contributes negatively to poverty reduction, but also undermines efforts to guarantee productive work to women, youth and men in rural communities. The approach is intended to help prevent the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and lessen the impact on households and poverty in ARADIN’s target communities.
Gender awareness is a core value of ARADIN, not only when working with our community partners, but also within the organisation itself. Our community forestry and alternative livelihoods programmes require a fundamental understanding of the roles both women and men play within their communities. It is a recognizable fact that men and women play important and often distinctive roles, in the use, management and decision making over natural resources and land. Important as these roles may appear, the society more often than not fails to recognize the differences between their work, knowledge, contributions and needs, thus, suppressing the potentials, talents and contributions of the rural women to sustainable development; as studies in recent times have shown that this has had far reaching implications for sustainable natural resource management as well as gender equality.
ARADIN has a long-standing involvement in community forestry/environmental restoration as well as poverty reduction through the promotion of income generation and livelihood activities. We have been involved in micro-enterprise development, sustainable agriculture in cocoa, cassava and latterly, rice. In Cross River state ARADIN has provided garri and oil palm processing machines to more than ten farmer groups for value addition in cassava and palm produce processing and marketing; our NGO has trained over 750 cocoa farmers in cocoa agro forestry and Integrated pest management adopting the Farmer Field School approach.
These cocoa groups comprising 30 farmers each have been organized and are registered as a cooperative at the local government level; Groups have further organized themselves as a Licensed Buying Agent (LBA); the cooperative has established a warehouse where members of the cooperative scale their produce and sell to major buyers thereby making more profit as a group.