Tag Archives: Community Conservation

Environmentally friendly litter

CERCOPAN has yet more exciting new additions to the growing family of pigs in Iko Esai village with the birth of four more healthy babies to our newly acquired female ‘Punch’. This project is proving to be an excellent flagship for our efforts toward alternative livelihoods in the communities surrounding Cross River National Park. Alternative sustainable livelihoods are a vital part of our larger goal to reduce reliance upon the dwindling rainforest resources and increase the financial and physical health of people in the area.

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The newest babies at 2 days old

The Iko Esai Ubhena farm co-operative made further improvements to the pig sty facilities to prepare for the babies, adding a new extended roof and cementing the floor of the ‘nursery’ to ensure the best possible welfare conditions for the piglets. The group is planning to develop a good breeding stock of females before commercial sales begin to ensure a constant and sustainable supply of protein for the village.

As with all CERCOPAN’s efforts, this project and others like it are only possible with the support of generous individuals and organisations around the world. CERCOPAN is entirely non-profit making and is managed by a dedicated core of international volunteers in conjunction with our fantastic Nigerian staff. If you wish to help us to continue touching lives please visit our website and donate today . Find us at www.cercopan.org or follow us on our facebook fan and cause pages.

‘Laying’ the foundations for good health and family financial stability in rural Nigeria

CERCOPAN has worked in its host village of Iko Esai for 10 years but, as of 2010, we have also expanded our alternative livelihood community work to over 100 people in Agoi Ibami, a neighbouring village. One of the larger projects targeting women is poultry farming for egg production, which can be done effectively at household level.

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Caroline with her partially completed enclosure

Eggs are an excellent source of healthy protein which are difficult and expensive to buy at village levels due to the poor state of access roads to external markets. Local chicken breeds do not produce high quality eggs for consumption and so CERCOPAN, with funding from BNRCC (Building Nigeria’s Response to Climate Change), has provided assistance to 15 women in Agoi Ibami to purchase agricultural layers that can provide a long term source of income and household protein.

As no one had tried rearing agricultural chickens in rural areas before CERCOPAN’s community conservation manager (Rachel Hemingway) bought two chickens to determine whether they would thrive and lay on locally available foodstuffs. Happily Fatty, one of the chickens, has started to lay high quality eggs already that are being given out to women in the village to encourage this type of farming.

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‘Fatty’ chicken, the experiment on locally available food

As with all our work CERCOPAN cannot continue to finance and expand the livelihoods programme without the generous support of individuals and groups from around the world, who we rely on entirely. Please visit our website www.cercopan.org for more information on how to support us. Also check out our facebook fan and cause pages for more pictures, downloads and updates.

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Some of the children who will benefit from our expanded livelihood programme

Spidermen in Rhoko!

Within the last month, Joe Brophy, a professional tree climber volunteering in Rhoko site, has trained one of CERCOPAN research assistant, Usor Arong, in climbing techniques.

Usor, who is from Iko Esai community and previously was a NTFP gatherer, is familiar with climbing trees but in a very traditional manner, escalading large climbers to access to upper branches in order to collect “Afang”, a local leaf used in many Nigerian recipes. Usor actually broke his leg few years ago from a fall after an unfortunate encounter with a snake at the top of a tree!

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Jo entering the tree platform

The techniques taught by Joe are quite different and safer, using ropes to access the various levels of any tree. But how to install a rope 30 metres high from the ground without taking any risk? This is where “Robin Hood” skills intervene. We are using a huge bow to send an arrow attached to a string above a large branch, then we just have to set a rope at the extremity of the string, pull the string until the rope passes over the branch, and fix the rope to a tree at the bottom.

Usor really enjoyed the bow but then lost a bit of his courage when he found himself for the first time sitting on a harness swinging on the rope 20 meters above the ground. Nevertheless, Usor managed to climb very well even on the first occasion. Several climbing sessions were then organized where Usor became more and more confident in this exercise. The most exciting moment for Usor was the ascent of the “tree-platform”, a metallic circular walkway installed 30 meters high around a massive tree trunk. The platform is one of the most popular attractions at Rhoko and gives a splendid view of the forest. Only a few indigenes of Iko Esai have ascended the tree to the platform and Usor was really proud of his performance.Jo + Usor climbing.JPG

Jo training Usor to Climb

Entertainment and fantastic views are not the only reason for climbing trees in Rhoko, the practice also allows the researchers to collect fruits, flowers and leaf samples from the canopy, as part of the long-term phenology study undertaken being undertaken in the Core Area.

Progress of the research and acquirement of new skills for our local staff is the perfect combination to fulfill CERCOPAN mission and to enhance our relationship with the surrounding communities. A big thank you to Joe for bringing his skills and enthusiasm to Rhoko and to Sherrilltree company for donating vital equipment.

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Usor wearing equipment donated by Sherrilltree

World Environment Day – Let’s Stand Together!

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With the globally recognised ‘Year of Biodiversity’ upon us CERCOPAN (Centre for Education, Research and Conservation Of Primates And Nature) has been preparing it’s annual environmental awareness rally based on this biodiversity theme. Every year we have organised the ‘mid-year Calabar festival’ as it has come to be known, with the help of international and local organisations and businesses including Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens, the Ministry of Environment, Cross River Forestry Commission, etc. With a different theme each year, this gives us and national environmental government agencies the chance to spread important environmental messages in a fun and colourful manner across the state!

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With televised broadcasts and over 5000 children participating in previous years, CERCOPAN has covered topics such as ‘Bushmeat can be dangerous meat’, Don’t allow our forests to become empty’, and ‘Wildlife; our heritage’. School participation is one of the main methods we use to get children thinking more about the conservation messages we deliver during our year long outreach programme to over 50 secondary and 20 primary schools. Competitions are carried out and this year we have three: a cleanest school competition to help improve the surrounding areas of local schools; a drama competition where schools are filmed acting out a 15minute sketch based on this year’s theme (the top three will perform on the day); and finally, the favourite among schools, the carnival procession, where schools are judged on the creativity of the parade and its relationship to biodiversity. Competition winners receive prizes to support the expansion of the school and the purchase of new equipment to be used by the children.

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Personally, I am very excited about the day. It is the grand finale of all of our years environmental education work and witnessing children who have grasped the conservation messages we have taught and have a newfound passion for conservation and wildlife gives our whole team a huge feeling of accomplishment. It is also an opportunity to attract media and political attention to the cause so that our conservation messages are spread even further afield and have greater impact.

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If you feel passionately about the environment and would like to support this wonderful event, your donations are most welcome. As 2010 is the international year of Biodiverity we want, more than ever before, to make this a special day to remember!

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Free and Fair election for Community Conservation in Iko Esai!

By Richard Carroll – Rhoko Manager

“It’s a good idea” said the chief, “I like it, but this idea of an election..it can’t work. No, better we just make an appointment of good people.” “But Chief,” I replied despairingly, seeing the previous night’s 3 hours of negotiation over this point slipping swiftly away with each nod of his advisor’s head, “we discussed this, we need to have a democratic election. Appointments have been tried before and they don’t work; these people represent the community’s voice- they need to be chosen by the community.” So began another round of debating on this point. It was a topic of alarming regularity over the next two weeks with apparently nobody in the village believing it was possible to hold a trouble free election. “It has never happened here; it’s not possible” was the consensus. “Trust me, it can be done.” Was my reply through gritted teeth, as I then settled down to once again explain my plan.

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CCDC elections –  Richard distributing voting tokens

To be fair I understood the concerns, the election we were planning to hold was to re-inaugurate the village Community Conservation & Development Committee (CCDC). This body initially conceived by CERCOPAN has the responsibility of deciding how the substantial funds from tourism royalties and other CERCOPAN related payments are spent. They should be used to finance any community development project that the CCDC and Chiefs’ Council agree upon, providing it does not detract from concepts of sustainability and conservation. The chiefs were worried that certain timber dealers and others hungry for influence in the area would try to hijack this committee and disrupt the peace in the village. There had been similar attempts recently as those involved in illegal timber exploitation are gradually being squeezed out by the community’s collaboration with state forestry departments; and they were looking for a way to stem the tide.

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  At the polling booths

I had already held a series of meetings with people I felt were key individuals in the community. These were young, literate people with a passionate desire to see their community make the most of its opportunities. We had been sitting on the floor around the bedside of one of my staff- Matthew, who was recovering from a motorbike accident, discussing village politics. As we spoke these people not only bemoaned the lack of influence they felt they had but also put forward a vision of how they believed things could be better. It struck me, this was the core of what the CCDC should be and within a few days I asked them to gather themselves and any like-minded individuals they could find for a strategic meeting. Within a few weeks this group had helped to pass out information leaflets, discussed relevant issues and encouraged other people to nominate candidates they would trust to represent their needs in the decision making process. General assembly meetings and manifesto nights for the proposed candidates all helped to add to the buzz being generated in the village.

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Iko Esai residents waiting to vote

The morning of the election came around; I set off from Calabar at 6am, having been up all night constructing ballot boxes, and promptly ran into trouble. Heavy rains the night before had rendered one section of the dirt road impassable and I found myself axle deep in a quagmire of sticky orange mud. With no small help from a group of friends from the nearest village, who had happened upon my predicament, as they ferried colossal mounds of bananas to the highway on motorbikes, I was finally freed; arriving tired, filthy and apprehensive to the village. Rapidly organising ourselves, the election team swung into action. Registration and voting stations were manned, security employed at the door and the village bell rung to announce the start of proceedings.

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Women Registering for the election

I am told that there was an element of the village connected to the timber extractors grumbling amongst themselves that they were going to disrupt the day; that no election would hold unless they said so. However, they failed to leave their corner of discontent and so missed the atmosphere of celebration 5 hours after polls opened and the successful candidates were announced to the massed crowd. It was extremely gratifying to hear the talk outside the classroom which served as a polling station; “free and fair” could commonly be discerned amongst the other incoherent jumble of triumphant conversations in the local Iko dialect. So happy were the participants with the days events, that I may have made a rod for my own back as it has been suggested we assist with the re-election of several other bodies in the village! I couldn’t be happier with the group of men and women that the community chose to represent them over the next 3 years and despite their initial misgivings, neither it seems could the chiefs. I’m not entirely sure, however, how I feel about the new nickname they bestowed on me; ‘The Bulldozer’- though it does have a certain ring to it.

CERCOPAN saves rare drill monkey!

Usually a trip to Agoi is an anticipated event, often for an exciting occasion when the local community are even more cheerful than usual and their specially brewed, extra ‘hot’ spirit is more readily available.  This trip however, was quite different from those usually encountered.

We had received information that a drill monkey was being kept as a pet within the village.  Our first response was to inform Pandrillus, another primate organisation based in Calabar who specialise in drill monkey and chimpanzee rehabilitation.  Due to their current schedule and as Agoi is so close to our forest site, they asked us if we could go and remove the animal from the situation.  CERCOPAN will never buy an animal, as it encourages people to try to catch them for financial gain, and we try to avoid getting the police involved as it deters people getting in touch to donate animals already in their possession.  In these cases we try to negotiate with the owners and hope to persuade them to give up their animal, making them understand why it’s better for the individual and for them.

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Rescued Juvenile Drill monkey     

When we first sent our CERCOPAN representative to see the owner we found it very hard to get our message across.  The owner, did not want to give up the animal.  He said he had paid 4000 naira for the monkey, now a juvenile male named Chris, from a hunter back in January of this year.  He had been caring for it since then and it had been living in a small wooden box constructed from wooden planks at the side of his house.  The box only had some small holes to see out of and soon he would grow far too big for the box, as adult male drills grow to a huge size.

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Adult male Drill Monkey

When our first approach was not working, we attempted to negotiate with someone who had the power to sway the owner’s opinion; the local chief of the village.  The chiefs of a village often have the final say in many decisions and solve many disputes involving village residents.  After consulting the chief he spoke to the owner and began to change the owner’s position on the situation.  To begin with the owner still wanted a reward in the form of guaranteed employment.  Again we had to explain that if we agreed to such terms we would continually have this problem in future situations, and inadvertently increase the number of primates removed from the forest when others decided to use them as a means of getting a job.

Eventually he understood our position and we reached an agreement whereby he would receive a certificate stating that he had donated the drill monkey to us.  We left to prepare a certificate and returned, again to a big discussion about the situation.  Luckily we still managed to make him see he was doing the best thing and Chris was handed over in front of a crowd of around 50 people.  In addition to his certificate we presented him with information leaflets about why it is wrong to hunt monkeys and a poster urging people to protect the highly endangered drill monkey.

To make the entire event official, various traditions had to be adhered to.  After the exchange of monkey and certificate, further exchanges had to be made involving kai-kai; the locally brewed spirit that happens to be particularly strong in Agoi.  This isn’t the kind of exchange where each party buys a bottle and the other takes it home to drink leisurely in their own time – this is when both parties buy a bottle and both bottles must be finished by the end of the gathering.  A little speech was made by both sides and then each departed, swaying slightly from side-to-side!

Chris was brought to our Calabar site late the next evening where he remained in our quarantine area overnight and where he had more space than he had been used to before.  He seemed to enjoy it so much that, by the next day, he was so eager to run around more he managed to escape our trained staff and cause havoc around the office.  After destroying several office items, chewing keys off computer keyboards and peeing on important papers, we finally managed to calm him down and return him to a travel box.  After that he was taken to Pandrillus and reunited with those of his kind.  Now he is busy making new friends and learning what it is really like to be a drill monkey!

October CERCOPAN newsletter now available here!

 The October edition of the CERCOPAN monthly newsletter can be dowloaded from the link below

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cerconews-october-2009-edition.pdf

Hope you enjoy it! Look out for the next issue on the 5th November.