We decided to pick Gashaka as our flagship project for three main reasons:
World-scale Natural Beauty and Biodiversity – With an area of almost 7,000 square kilometres (3 times the size of the Masai Mara in Kenya), with the largest population of chimpanzees in West Africa, with one of the most biodiverse, and oldest montane rainforests in the world, and containing the tallest mountain in Nigeria, Gashaka is incredibly precious from a biodiversity perspective. Because of its remoteness, until fairly recently, Gashaka had been left largely intact as an ecosystem. However, illegal logging and bushmeat poaching are putting an increasing strain on the park and there is now an urgent need to act to prevent major damage.
Critical watershed of one of the most important rivers in West Africa
– Gashaka is a critical source and watershed of the Benue River, which flows into the Niger river, and is the most important river in West Africa, and third largest in Africa. Preserving the integrity of this watershed is fundamental to the livelihoods of millions of Nigerians who depend directly on the health of the Benue river for their livelihoods. The forests of Gashaka provide a vital “sponge” which absorbs and gradually disperses the rainfall to ensure all-year clean water into the Benue river. Disruption to this watershed would have catastrophic impact on the livelihoods of millions of Nigerians.
Strategic Location from a Security and Socio-Economic Perspective–On the border with Cameroon and due south of the troubled North Eastern areas of Nigeria, Gashaka is in a critically important axis that is vital to secure and maintain law and order. Whilst Gashaka has not been directly affected by Boko Haram, because of the remoteness and current difficulties in patrolling the park effectively, there are increasing signs of banditry, unauthorised personnel and groups invading the park. Ineffective patrolling due to poor equipment and training, and limited investment in community development means that the park is highly vulnerable to being a haven for outlaws and security threats. Nomadic Fulani herdsmen are increasingly clashing with park rangers, and there is a need to put in place a socio-economic programme aimed at improving livelihoods of the communities in and around the park, and strengthening the rule of law. This will be a key part of our efforts in the park.
TRANSFORM GASHAKA GUMTI
We have signed a partnership agreement to make Gashaka Gumti in Nigeria a world-class nature reserve using the best sustainable conservation management practices.
Gashaka Gumti is the largest national park in West Africa with the tallest mountain in Nigeria, spectacular montane rainforests, the largest populations of chimpanzees in West Africa, and the source of the river Benue supporting the livelihoods of over 10 million people.
OUR WORK WILL INVOLVE:
* implementing best-practice park management programme in collaboration with the National Parks Authority,
* creating eco-tourism accommodation and activity consistent with conservation,
* providing infrastructure (access roads, communication, water, electricity),
* supporting world-class wildlife research.
AN INNOVATIVE FINANCING MODEL FOR SUSTAINABILITY:
For Gashaka-Gumti National Park to be well protected in the long term, it must become economically relevant i.e. it must generate revenue for the country, local government and local communities. The park must also stimulate the local economy and provide jobs and other development benefits in order to give local communities a stake in its protection. ANI is developing a business plan for the park that aims to generate sufficient income to cover its annual recurrent costs within 5 years.
We aim to create a framework from private sector investment into conservation compatible enterprises in and around the park. These will devote a percentage of their profits to the annual upkeep and maintenance of the park (i.e. a benefit-sharing mechanism) and might include eco-tourism, processing and export of shea butter, electricity generation from micro-hydro using the parks rivers and carbon offsetting.
RICHARD BARNWELL’S GASHAKA