In May Mrs Sharon Ikeazor, Minister of State at the Federal Ministry of Environment visited the Project with our Director, Dr Danladi Umar and Tunde Morakinyo, Executive Director, ANI Foundation. Ikeazor was especially pleased with the inclusion of women and girls in the Project and committed to increasing our profile within the Ministry.
Teaching by the Industrial Training (I.T.) students in Esso Nursery School and Government Day Secondary School continues.
With help from the patrollers, the Yelwa football team and pupils from the Yelwa Esso Nursery and Primary schools, 16,000 seeds of Anthonotha noldeae and 2,000 seeds of Pterocarpus erinaceous (Rosewood) were planted directly into the grassland. By combining education with active participation in forest restoration supports the communities sense of ownership over Ngel Nyaki reserve and helps ensure it is protected for years to come.
We are still trying to find funding for the Beyond Bees honey production operation, Covid has slowed progress, but we are determined to continue.
Teaching at the local secondary school
The undergraduate I.T. students also interacted with the school students of G.D.S.S. Yelwa. For an entire term (4 months) they contributed to teaching English language, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, agricultural Science, and basic science and technology. This is an example of how the Project interacts with the community to benefit youth.
“Ngel-Nyaki is a blessing! I.T students from Nigeria Montane Forest Project (NMFP) Ngel Nyaki, came to assist with teaching at the Government Day Secondary School YELWA.” Quote from school student on Facebook
The NMFP continue to support the nursery school. Misa Zubairu leads this initiative and 2019 has seen special attention paid to the girls (see photo). The TY Danjuma Foundation, who support the school financially, paid a visit and were obviously impressed with what they saw.
Ndombo Ngishi School
Ndombo Ngishi is a small hamlet neighbouring the lower slopes of Ngel Nyaki forest reserve. There is very little room for farming in the area, with slash and burn having already depleted most of the resources outside of the reserve. The NMFP is linking with the Ndombo Ngishi community through employment of staff but also by providing some basic education to those in the village who need it. It is a three hour trek up-hill to the nearest school in Yelwa; to help, we have provided resources for a basic nursery school. Pictured, Usman teaching the children at Ndombo Ngishi.
Honey production (Beyond Bees)
We have tried very hard to find external funding for our bee keeping operation, but so far have been unsuccessful. Part of the problem is that we are based in Taraba State and some potential funders are concerned they may not easily be able to visit the project and assess progress.
Regardless, following on from Ridwan Jafar’s meetings with apiculturists at the APIEXPO AFRICA in Abuja last year (see 2018 Annual Report), this year we worked with Mr. Johnson Oluwaseun, an apiculturist based in Abuja, to develop a strategy that would allow us to continue on with Beyond Bees.
To this end Johnson ran two three day workshops at Ngel Nyaki on basic bee keeping, to which bee keepers from local communities were invited. At the workshops, aimed at empowering local communities around the forest reserve through bee keeping, Mr Johnson taught basic bee keeping techniques and discussed honey, bees wax and propolis processing for Apis- therapy.
The model we are using is based on the premise that the honey produced from local communities will be bought and processed by the Project.
We will then sell-on the honey to Abuja and Lagos, allowing us to become increasingly self-sustainable.
With guidance and introduction to markets from our Board member John Adeleke, we hope to begin honey production on a relatively large commercial scale. Without doubt Johnson’s workshops have led to an increasing awareness by the local community of the ecosystem services provided by their forest reserve and an increasing intent to conserve the forest for future generations. One of the Chinese produced wooded beehives we are now using at Ngel Nyaki.
The hives are small enough to be moved from the forest into more secure areas once honey has been made. They are light weight and strong.
A comment by one attendee on our Facebook page: “I have learned a lot from that program. How I wish everyone would understand the importance of the forest as I do!! I just hope one day everybody would see the forest as his own and be willing to protect it with his life.” Zubairu Mohammed Shekarau, Yelwa
The NMFP continue to support the nursery school in many ways and we combine this with the conservation club. All IT students from Gombe, Bauchi and Taraba State Universities teach at the school.
Ndombo Ngishi School
Ndombo Ngishi is a small hamlet at the bottom of Ngel Nyaki forest Reserve. It is extremely poor; with no work, most of the men have left to work elsewhere and the women make the arduous trek up the hill weekly to sell bananas. This year we were able to support their school in a small way by donating a blackboard, books and other classroom essentials.
We actively engage with students of all ages through our conservation club. Our aim is that the children of Yelwa associate the NMFP with a good place to be. On their frequent visits we show movies in the new science outreach centre along with refreshments. and generally give the children a good time. Of course this all revolves around talking about the significance of the forest, the ecosystem services it provides and how forest helps to mitigate climate change.
The success of our funding beekeeper Afan to train the local Yelwa beekeepers has been a success.
We are hopeful that now Besongngem Mbikeng (see above) is on the ground at Ngel Nyaki we will be successful in obtaining funding for the beginnings of our honey industry.
The conservation club was funded by the Australian High Commission in 2015, we greatly appreciate their support.
Students in the conservation club are from: Esso/NMFP Nursery school Yelwa, Primary school Yelwa, Community Secondary School Yelwa, Ngabuli Primary School Hainare and Maisamari Government Secondary School.
Members of all these schools regularly visit the NMFP. Each visit is enjoyable, the students learn about the value of the forest both locally and globally. They gain insights from the Project members about forest regeneration, how to run a nursery and lots more about what goes on at the NMFP.
Afan from Aplori, a very experienced beekeeper has had his first visit to Ngel Nyaki to teach the local bee keepers about building hives and honey production. The bee keepers have permission to keep their hives in the forest fragments of the reserve. While this initiative has been slow to take off, it is proceeding well.
The IT students continue to teach on a weekly basis at the nursery school and the Yelwa community on its own is maintain the buildings.
The project is beginning a new collaboration with Shalina Healthcare Nigeria and Osomo-Sama Nigeria Ltd in a deworming initiative for the school children on the Mambilla Plateau.
Nursery School teacher training
This year the NMFP has obtained £7,700 for the nursery school the Project built for the village. The funding is from the TY Danjuma Taraba Community Fund and is being used to train five nursery school teachers as well as improve the school resources. The NMFP identified two excellent teachers from Gombe Sate University, Drs Adepoju and Danjuma. This relationship has proved invaluable. The five teachers, Ali Buba, Abubackar Hodi, Alisabeth Fedzir, Thomas Benjamin and Evaline Samuel, are learning new teaching techniques, education management.
In addition, the NMFP sends postgraduate and undergraduate IT students (the latter are at the field station for six month periods) to teach the nursery school children on a weekly basis. This has proved very fruitful.
Beekeeping and honey sales
The NMFP is actively working with the local bee keepers to access funds to send them on a training workshop. It seems that the Australian High Commission Fund may be appropriate. In addition, the beekeepers will be helped (through John Adeleke- NMFP Board Member) to sell their honey in Lagos through Shoprite. Shoprite will help bottle and label the honey. There is much enthusiasm for this initiative, and the NMFP are committed to help.
Maternity Hospital support
The NMFP is helping with the local Yelwa maternity hospital - Misa Zubairu, our project coordinator and trained through the NMFP in bookkeeping and accounting, is managing MDG funds for the hospital. This happened because the MDG visitors were so impressed with Misa’s financial acumen.
We have continued to fence-off areas around the forest reserve and are experimenting with active regeneration by planting seedlings from our tree nursery. To this end, Augustine Ntim is using his silvicultural training to good effect.
In the last reporting period Augustine had grown over 6000 seedlings of forest tree species in the nursery. Of these, 11 species (4726 individuals) have been planted (with help from the TSF patrollers and NMFP staff and students) into fenced off grassland bordering the forest:
Polyscius fulva 2000; Santiria trimera 800; Carapa oreophyla 550; Sterculia setigera 300; Cordia millenii 8; Syzygium guiniense 70; Pouteria altissima 350; Isolona deightoni 180; Trilepisium madagascariense 78; Entada abyssinica 80; HMC500 ‘Unknown’ 300; In addition many cuttings of Ficus species have been ‘planted’ in order to fill in grassland.
Augustine measured the height of 75 representative transplants from across all species and intends to check their growth annually. On average the seedlings were 30 cm high when transplanted.
The conservation impacts of 5 years of such plantings is beginning to show. More birds are visiting the area, there is more vegetation cover and tree seedlings are naturally regenerating. We now observe duiker and bush buck from the field station balcony- hitherto a very rare event.
One ‘problem’ has been the increase in grass-cutter rats which eat the base of saplings.
A 2012 IT student, Prince Peter Umeh from TSU, under the supervision of Dr Umar and the NMFP, has completed his project aimed at understanding the effects of fencing off grassland on species composition. His report titled ‘The speed of recovery of a grazed montane forest reserve at Ngel Nyaki, Taraba State’ is available online.
This report documents the difference in species composition, increase in ground cover and height of vegetarian in the grazed versus ungrazed grassland.
This dry season we shall establish permanent plots in the fenced off areas for long-term quantitative monitoring of vegetative change. This will supplement our permanent photo points which have been established since 2005.
We are working with Dr Martin Cheek, Dr Xander der Burgt and Iain Darbyshire, of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew to have our collections of over 4000 herbarium specimens named.
To bring all plant species in this geographic area to the attention of the rest of the world, Matt Walters, in collaboration with Dr Pieter Pelser, is leading a project to develop an online plant checklist. Using our internet facility we are able to share images between the field station and UC for identification. The project links named plant species/genera to photos taken at Ngel Nyaki. Already over 950 identified plant images are available free online at PhytoImages (phytoimages.siu.edu), a web based database of plant images. Field assistant Idriss Musa is dedicated to this task and is in regular contact with Matt.
Our checklist is growing.
A wider biodiversity checklist is in progress and includes birds, which are going to be linked to a bird equivalent of PhytoImages. Dragonflies, amphibians, freshwater invertebrates etc are also included. This checklist will be an ongoing project using field assistants, citizen science and our Facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/4829132147.
Our fully automated weather station from the Low Carbon High Growth grant from the British High Commission, Abuja, and logistic support from DHL is working well. The high tech weather station links with internet.
After a recent meeting with the Federal Forestry in Abuja it was agreed that the weather data be sent to the Ministry where it will be used in creating climate change maps for Nigeria. In addition there are plans underway to use the data on the Taraba State TV weather updates.
Taraba State University IT student Aminu Musa is working with Professor Bayobel from Modibbo Adama University of Technology, Yola to analyze the weather data recorded at the research station over the past five years.
The protection of Ngel Nyaki forest is still not guaranteed. While the NMFP continues to collaborate closely with the State Government around the patrolling and management of the reserve, cattle continue to infiltrate and hunting is still prevalent. However there are battles won- for example the image below is of a man having his chainsaw confiscated by the patrollers. There is no doubt that hunting is far less prevalent in the areas of forest frequented by researchers.
Misa Zubairu, coordinator of the NMFP, sends reports to the State Commissioner of the Environment and Urban Development, the Honorable Kwetaka Danfulani on these matters.
The NMFP has continued to fence off more grassland adjacent to the forest edge and this year over 200 tree seedlings from the nursery were planted into these areas. The species included pioneers and high forest species. The nursery has extended in size and now has two full-time staff maintaining it.
Sasha Roselli (UC) is starting her MSc thesis in forest restoration exploring the establishment of tree seedlings in a range of different habitats and different treatments (see 2010 report).
The chief of Yelwa, Jauro Saidu must be commended for his initiative challenging the Fulani who take their cattle into the reserve. Jauro Saidu is working with the Fulani to look for alternative solutions to their cattle grazing.
Official Opening of Yelwa Nursery School
With much fanfare the new nursery school was formally commissioned on the 17th of April 2009.
Nursery School and borehole
(January 2008) ESSO Petroleum/ExxonMobil has sponsored the building of a nursery school and borehole for Yelwa Village.
Building began in November 2007 and the school is now complete. It will provide nursery education for up to 300 children from the village.
The Taraba State Government has agreed to come in on the Project and provide teachers for the school.
Nigerian montane forests (forests above +/- 1500 m) are globally important because they represent one of the rarest vegetation types in Africa. They are satellite populations of many species of plants and animals restricted to African mountains. They harbour many tree species listed by the IUCN as endangered, are rich in wildlife, especially primates, and are an Important Bird Area.
The main reason montane forests survive today in Nigeria is because of their remoteness and inaccessibility, in some cases enhanced by the fact they fall within the protection of Gashaka Gumti National Park. However, Nigeria's burgeoning population is putting immense pressure on these forests and their associated wildlife; unless immediate action is taken animal populations will be hunted to extinction and the forests replaced by subsistence farming.
The aim of the Nigerian Montane Forest Project (NMFP), instigated in 2004, is to facilitate research into the understanding the montane forest ecosystem so as to implement the most effective management for biodiversity conservation.
In practical terms we have developed a tree nursery to grow as many local montane forest tree species as possible for future forest restoration. Augustine Ntim has collected seed from as many forest trees as possible and is investigating the most efficient methods for their propagation. Last wet season we planted over 200 seedlings into the grassland close to the field station. The nursery is sponsored by The North of England Zoological Society.
An area of grassland the forest has been fenced off to protect it from cattle grazing and burning. Tree seed naturally entering the grassland through frugivore or wind dispersal is being monitored, and its germination in grassland vs cleared plots recorded.
A. P. Leventis continues to sponsor 5 patrollers from the local villages Yelwa, Ndombo Ngishi and Dujere, who report back to the NMFP on any hunting or grazing activity they see in the forest. We then pass this information onto the Nigerian Conservation Foundation and the Taraba State Forest Service.
The NMFP has signed Memoranda of Understanding with the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, Nigerian National Parks, the Taraba State Forestry Department and The Federal University of Technology, Yola. The partners offer logistic support, collaboration with research projects and student exchange.
The conservation club is working hard to promote conservation awareness around Ngel Nyaki and our local communities including Maisamari, Dujere, Mayo-Nyebbe, Zango and Yelwa village. The Conservation Club is now led by the teachers of the primary and nursery school, and includes an Arabic teacher.