An NGO – Rural Africa Water Development Project (RAWDP) is to set up an international ecosystem academy in Uboma, Imo State, Nigeria. The academy , which shall function as a model eco-agricultural Learning Farm will be used specifically as a base training and demonstrations centre with the aim of creating shared value in the fragile Imo River watershed by reducing the vulnerabilities of the watershed’s sensitive ecosystem to diffuse pollution from maladaptive agricultural practices and chemical leaching.
According to the social entrepreneur and team leader of the organisation, Mr. Joachim Ibeziako Ezeji, the academy shall also feature an interactive on-line watershed-to-basin visualization and agricultural practices prototype that will be made available to research institutions, and universities and other education organizations in Nigeria upon payment of a fixed fee. This will also develop a process by which anyone in resident in any of the 12 major river basins in Nigeria can click on a virtual on-line link to get directed to their ecological address, display the watersheds in their region, learn about their watershed's characteristics, and join any local ecosystem restoration or diffuse pollution control efforts.
Mr. Ezeji further explained that the academy shall increase farmer productivity per hectare, mitigate climate change and poverty through a collaborative liaison leveraged by sensitive farming and knowledge sharing amongst local farmers. He averred that the project would further motivate and leverage farmers by developing a supply chain model that blends farmer capacity building with commercial linkages to credible market outlets for their farm produce.
Mr. Ezeji, who was named the African Development Bank 40th Anniversary Innovative competition laureate in 2004; revealed that the project plans to support over 1000 communities and provide at least 1million local farmers, particularly those cultivating maize, rice, cassava, groundnut, cabbages, carrots, onions and tomatoes, as well as agro-forestry and livestock etc spread across the watershed with adequate skills and awareness relevant in ecosystem based management in order to manage the watershed’s agricultural lands in ways that are sensitive to the ecological health of the nearby freshwater ecosystems, biodiversity, soils and climate in order to mitigate pollution, achieve food security, recharge the local aquifer and mitigate river siltation etc, and by so doing restoring ecosystem services for communities and fostering sustainable development.
He further stated that the academy is scheduled to reflect growing global awareness and acceptance of environmental values on ecological concerns such as biodiversity, and changing professional practices that view conditions of the land to be just as relevant as the quantities of outputs that can be produced. According to Mr. Ezeji, the key to ecosystem management is the goal of ecological sustainability – protecting and restoring critical ecological components, functions, and structures in perpetuity so that future as well as current generations will have their needs met, in this case – clean drinking water. Mr. Ezeji further revealed that the main activities of the project shall stretch from the source of the Imo River in Abia state, through Imo State and to its base in Rivers State, and shall consist of the identification of critical acres and designation of Nitrate or Phosphate vulnerable zones, all lands within the watershed draining directly into and polluting the Imo River; Mobilizing and working with local farmers and land owners through capacity building; and adopting a code of good practice throughout the watershed; Drafting and implementing a mandatory action plan of measures to tackle identified pollution sources; and Tree planting via intensive agro-forestry etc.