Reforestation protects the environment, increases food supply and income

Some trained members of the Wula community in Cross River State in the cultivation, propagation and management of the afang plant
Some trained members of the Wula community in Cross River State in the cultivation, propagation and management of the afang plant. Photo: undp nigeria

The efforts made by a local community in Nigeria to save a popular food plant from extinction have started bearing fruits: increased harvests of the food crop, income from sales – and reforestation of degraded lands in the region. The crop in question, the gnetum africanum plant, is one of the most popular food crops in Nigeria. The leaves of this plant are the main ingredients for making a local soup known in various parts of Nigeria as afang, okazi or eruru. Nigeria imports over 4,000 tons of afang leaves annually from neighbouring Cameroon, to supplement local demand.

Highlights

  • 1,000 seedlings of popular Gnetum Africanum crop planted by community
  • Over 60 individual farms nurtured by trained community members
  • 479 students trained on afang propagation
  • Popular vegetable consumed by over 5 million people in Nigeria

Due to overexploitation arising from the popularity of this wild vegetable, the afang plant is on the verge of extinction in Nigeria. As villagers search further afield to harvest this rare crop, both for food and for sale in the local markets, a massive degradation of the forests where the afang plant is found has occurred. The need to save the afang plant in Nigeria has therefore become not only an economic issue of boosting food production and raising local incomes, but also an environmental conservation issue.

With the assistance of the UNDP-Global Environmental Facility programme, the Wula community in Nigeria has embarked on a massive programme to save the popular afang plant and help to ensure a sustainable supply of its vegetable delicacy to over five million homes in Nigeria where afang is eaten regularly.  With a GEF grant, a local NGO, RISE-UP, has trained members of the Wula community in Cross River State in the cultivation, propagation and management of the afang plant. This is part of a programme of empowerment of the rural poor through improved agricultural and environmental practices.

The community has already planted over 1,000 seedlings. Some have been reintroduced into the forest for restoration; some were used to establish a model Gnetum Garden while others were distributed to community members to nurture in their personal farms. Specially trained community members are also nurturing about 60 individual afang farms. Under a Catch Them Young programme, 479 students of Buentebe Secondary School also received training on afang propagation, assisting their parents.

As the crops mature, they boost the supply of the popular afang leaves for local consumption and income generation, and help to repopulate the degraded farmlands and bushes.

Mr. Damian Arie, a community leader, said the people a very grateful to GEF for the assistance in restoring the afang crop to their farms and their food tables.  He said: “People have had to trek far distances to get afang, and even import from Cameroon. But now the afang is coming back...”

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