A plan to plant six million trees in Oyo State has failed so far as a PREMIUM TIMES examination finds only a few hundreds of trees at the site.
Nigeria’s bid to gradually reverse the impact of climate change by planting millions of trees has suffered a major setback after a government-funded afforestation programme worth over N30 million failed less than three years after the project was completed, PREMIUM TIMES has found.
The government said it spent N30.4 million from its historic Green Bond initiative to plant six million trees in Oyo State, but PREMIUM TIMES found just a few hundreds of trees during a recent visit.
Officials said the trees died as a result of drought and other factors and that remedial efforts were underway. But the finding has alarmed environmental activists and ecological experts who questioned the planning and execution of the project.
“The field visit shows very clearly a project executed in the usual fashion of lack of transparency and accountability that has tailed most national projects,” said Enoabasi Anwana, a senior ecologist at the University of Uyo, who conducted a qualitative analysis of the project.
In 2017 and 2019, Nigeria issued two “green bonds” worth N10.69 billion and N15 billion respectively, becoming the first African country and the fourth in the world to raise a debt instrument entirely for the purpose of financing sustainable environmental projects.
The objective of the bond was to fast track Nigeria’s low carbon development pledges as enshrined in the Nationally Determined Contribution document submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
It offered the country an opportunity to demonstrate leadership in its green financing agenda, while giving exposure to new investors and solidifying the country’s commitment to the Paris Climate Change Agreement which was endorsed in 2015.
One of the several projects funded from the proceeds of the bonds was the restoration of degraded areas in old national park in Oyo State.
According to the Department of Climate Change (DCC) at the Federal Ministry of Environment, N30.4 million was earmarked for the restoration of the degraded areas in Old Oyo National Park.
The project was implemented under the national afforestation programme of the Federal Ministry of Environment, with the supervision of the Old Oyo National Park Services in November 2019.
According to the ministry’s department of climate change, eligible projects captured under the green bond projects were identified and selected from the federal government appropriations of the corresponding years.
The objective of the National Afforestation Programme is to increase Nigeria’s existing forest cover through the plantation of environmental and economic tree species.
During a recent visit to the project sites, PREMIUM TIMES and two environmental experts observed that the project was carried out in three communities (Igbeti, Alaguntan and Tede) bordering the national park territories in the state.
The deputy comptroller of the park, R.I Muraina, said six million economic trees were planted on 15 hectares of land across the three communities.
The environment ministry, however, reported on its website that trees were planted on eight hectares.
Mr Muraina said the reason for spreading the project site across the three communities was to reduce and divert pressures from poachers on the main park itself.
The signpost stationed at the project sites when our reporter visited showed that four major tree crops were planted on five hectares of land at both sites (Igbeti and Alaguntan) of the communities. They are rose wood, cashew, mango and orange.
Of the six million trees reported, this newspaper counted just a few hundred trees standing. Most of the trees did not survive, officials said.
Interestingly too, the project areas at Igbeti and Alaguntan now grow crops such as cassava, soybeans and maize plants as well as yam.
Ajibi Peter, an official of the National Park, said the unrelated crops were planted by the community members as a strategy for weed control and soil conditioning pending when the seedlings of the four project’s tree crops are fully established to a reasonable height.
Mr Peter said majority of the tree crops planted for the project could not survive due to drought and heavy infestation of termites and grasshoppers.
“We have tried to replace many of the plants that did not survive over time, but termites kept eating most of the seedlings and during the dry season, it is not easy to irrigate the whole of these areas,” he said.
At the projects sites, termite tunnels could be seen at numerous spots.
Meanwhile, a qualitative analysis of the project by Mrs Anwana of the University of Uyo and Razaq Fatai, a policy manager with the environmental watchdog, One Campaign, revealed that there was a lack of consideration for soil gradients, microclimate and ecological variations needed for the project.
Mrs Anwana said the absence of the records of the total number of seedlings still existing in the project sites made it difficult to project an estimate of the expected reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
It was also clear at the site that no provision was made for a sustainable irrigation system to water the trees.
“For a project of this magnitude, it is expected that water should be provided. This contributed immensely to the failure of most seedlings’ establishment, as noted by the chairman of the village committee in Igbeti,” Mrs Anwana added.
Asked if a soil test was conducted before introducing the seedlings to the project sites, a top government official said nothing of such was done, and that the planting of the seedlings was done mainly by locals employed from the communities without pre-scientific checks.
PREMIUM TIMES also found that the contractor was appointed from the headquarters of the environment ministry in Abuja without proper engagement and consultations with the project communities to fully establish the kind of economic trees they would like to be planted.
Mrs Anwana said a prior soil test would have shown that the site had termites which may pose serious problems for young, unestablished seedlings.
Source: Premium Times