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NCF, BirdLife launch Gashaka biodiversity scheme

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Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor during a visit to the Gashaka Gumti National Park to boost morale of the park management and park rangers<br />

A new initiative that will change the narrative of biodiversity conservation in Nigeria and promote the participation of rural dwellers has been launched in Gashaka, Taraba state.

The scheme christened Gashaka Biodiversity Support Initiative (GBSI) would enable the conservation of endangered organisms, including Vultures. The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) in collaboration with BirdLife Africa is promoting the new initiative.

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GBSI, which is an autonomous biodiversity programme by residents of Gashaka Community has a Board of Trustees to be chaired by the Emir of Gashaka Kingdom, Alhaji Zubairu Gabbo. GBSI is being used as an avenue to reward the community for its steadfastness in protecting the national park within its domain.

NCF Director-General, Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano, said the foundation and its partners would give maximum supports through funding, training to community-based organisations that show strong commitment in conservation efforts.

Dr. Aminu-Kano, who spoke at the inauguration of GBSI, said the people of Gashaka deserve recognition, applause and commendation for guarding and protecting Gashaka-Gumti National Park in their area.

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The park, which was gazetted from two games reserves in 1991, measures about 6,402 square kilometers, making it the largest in Nigeria and Africa in general.

NCF DG commended Emir Gabbo for his sacrifice in donating six hectares of prime land in his community in support of the GBSI scheme.

His words; “NCF has had a long history with Gashaka and the Gashaka-Gumti National Park. For a long time, we had supported the protection, research and community-based activities in the park, and in partnership with some of our international partners including the WWF, BirdsLife and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

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“So, all that culminated in the launch of a genuinely independent, autonomous community-based organisation in support of biodiversity in the rich and largest national park in Africa. It is really a historical moment.

“The Emir and his community have been quite supportive, and this is remarkable because it is not the same story around other parks, not just in Nigeria, but around the world.

“It is their culture, motivation and works that have led to the endurance of biodiversity in the park.

“It is because they have taken care of those resources, not just for themselves but for Taraba, Nigeria and the rest of the world have done that at considerable cost.

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“They have restricted their own access to resources that they could if they had given a short view, they could have thought they would maximise their economic benefits by destroying those resources.

“I am going to commit my organisation and energy to ensure we provide all the support to make the initiative enduring, flourishing and achieve its goal and objective.”

Earlier, Emir Gabbo promised to donate six hectares of land to the GBSI and use his power, privileges and connections to ensure the initiative survives, adding that it will provide opportunities for job creation, especially for youths of his community.

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He commended NCF, GBSI trustee members, national and international partners for their undiluted commitment, promised to bring on board global best practices in making the initiative a masterpiece, thereby justifying the unique role of indigenous people in nature conservation.

“This is the first time in the recorded and known history of conservation that an indigenous organisation headed by myself to launch the initiative and ensure synergy in support of rural biodiversity conservation in Nigeria.

“We will through GBSI, raise the status quo for enhanced social inclusion, indigenous scholarship, job creation and improved participation of our teeming population in the conservation of collective heritage,” he said.

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