Youth Speaker entry #68: Aigbedion Mercy Ekeata (Nigeria)

Forest Re-New Initiative (FRI) aims to achieve improved livelihoods for people living in the North-West Zone of Nigeria, which is highly prone to desertification. With a growing human population and very high dependence on trees especially for energy for heating and cooking; there is a widening gap of fuelwood availability due to massive deforestation to meet daily needs. Women are particularly vulnerable and face a lot of stress in the search for firewood which is becoming more scarce and expensive by the day.

MERCY AIGBEDIONFRI draws on the idea that trees cut ‘can be’ and have to be replaced. Firstly they should be replanted by those who use them and who will ultimately benefit from them in the future. Secondly, FRI recognizes the high level of ‘knowledge poverty’ on the importance and value of planting trees on a regular basis; especially by the youths who represent a larger percentage of the population in these areas. The challenge is that more and more forested areas are being lost both to agriculture and more critically to an underestimated fuelwood demand in these regions, thus paving way for rapid deforestation and desert encroachment.

There is also a very huge gap between reforestation rates and deforestation intensities. The decision to embark on reforestation has been left with the government- who most times do not see the priority or urgency to embark on reforestation initiatives. Furthermore, even when Government responds, the interventions falls into the hands of ‘political highjackers’ who see it as a form of project for personal empowerment; hence the benefits are mostly never achieved.

On this back drop, FRI strategically works with youths in secondary schools (male and female)- who form a large number of household fuel wood collectors and gatherers, community leaders, and community groups by educating them on the value of tree planting and agreeing on specific actions to reverse the trends of deforestation in communities within the North West Zone of Nigeria.

Forest Re-New Initiative is therefore basically a participatory approach to encourage young people within their communities to RE-New the old commitment of Tree Planting that has provided us with trees today; so that tomorrow’s youths will have trees to make a living worthwhile.

Text, photo and video are submitted by Aigbedion Mercy Ekeata (Nigeria) – ame.merci12(at)gmail.com

The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.


This post is published as an application by the author, to speak as a youth representative at the World Forestry Congress. Have a look at the other entries too!

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