Tropical Research and Conservation Centre (TRCC) is a Nigerian nongovernmental organization founded in 2001 and active in the Akwa Ibom State, in Southern Nigeria, and in the Niger delta. These regions include tropical forests, river areas and coastal habitats, and are home to several indigenous groups and a rich fauna and flora, threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation.
TRCC works closely with the communities, building capacity and implementing pilot projects for forest conservation and sustainable resource use, together with national agencies and international organisations. Their work topics are sustainable agriculture, environmental resources conservation, community health and indigenous resources preservation. Focused on practical approaches, they also do participatory surveys to e.g. identify data for conservation planning or to create alternative livelihoods for specific groups, such as loggers or hunters/poachers.
The conservation work covers both inland and coastal habitats. It targets several sensitive species, such as endemic monkey species, sea turtles or the West Africa manatee. TRCC’s approach usually includes: education activities with the general public; community engagement and capacitation to alleviate human pressure, promote sustainable agro-forestry and create alternative livelihood options; and planting of indigenous (multipurpose) tree species to restore and reconnect degraded habitats.
Two highlighted projects include the “Niger Delta Mangrove Restoration Project” and the “Restoration and sustainable management of Ikpa River Basin/wetlands in Akwa Ibom State, Southern Nigeria”.The
Niger Delta Mangrove Restoration Project aims to restore degraded portions of the mangrove swamps, planting up to 100,000 stands of mangrove trees. The Niger Delta mangroves, together with the creeks and rivers, cover an area of about 1’900km2, are considered a global biodiversity hotspot and are a major source of food and livelihood for about 30 million people (over 17% of Nigeria’s population).
The mangrove trees plays a critical role in coastal protection and climate change mitigation, because of it’s action as a physical barrier and the high carbon sequestration potential of these aquatic plants ( also called “blue carbon”). Other ecosystem services provided by this unique environment include flood control and groundwater refilling, biodiversity reservoir and nursery, provision of fuelwood, cultural values, etc. Unfortunately, this unique ecosystem is in decline and has been totally lost at the verge since mangrove forests are converted to farmlands and the trees are cut for timber, fuel, house construction and so on. Consequently, many coastal communities in the Niger Delta are losing their primary livelihoods due to increased vulnerability to floods and loss of resources.
The “Restoration and sustainable management of Ikpa River Basin/wetlands in Akwa Ibom State, Southern Nigeria” aims to plant 20’000 stands of indigenous trees within this area to stabilize and ‘bridge-up’ fragmented habitat patches. The Ikpa River Basin covers a perennial rainforest that drains catchment area of 516.5km2, 14.8% (76.5km2) of which is prone to annual flooding. Besides its diverse flora, it is also one of the few sites in Nigeria with a representation of important primates, such as the endangered Sclater’s Guenon (Cercopithecus sclateri, an endemicmonkey) and the Red-capped Mangabey (Cercacebusforgustus). It also has diverse and unique populations of Grey African Parrots, alligators, short-suited crocodiles, monitor lizards, tortoise and turtles.
For afforestation with indigenous plant species, the overall impact will be positive for the apes (extended corridors) and for the community (Non-timber Forest Products). In addition, planting of “economic” trees (such as fruit trees) will improve the habitats and increase food availability for the community by providing fruits, forage for livestock, etc. As in other projects. additional activities include capacity-building among the locals land users in conservation practices and development of livelihood alternatives among wood harvesters: agro-forestry, organic farming and snail farming.