To celebrate this year’s World Environment Day, the CGIAR-IITA Forest Center, Corporate Services Directorate, and Communication Office organized a virtual event on 5 June as part of activities to create awareness and action for protecting the environment.
The theme for this year’s event, which is celebrated annually, was “Time for Nature” to emphasize the importance of conserving the environment in keeping with the theme of International Biodiversity Day “Our solutions are in nature.” The World Environment Day or Eco Day is also the United Nations’ platform for promoting progress in the environmental dimensions of the Sustainable Development Goals.
In her opening talk, IITA Deputy Director-General Corporate Services, Hilde Koper said, “IITA is delighted to participate in this day of recognition as we are highly involved with nature and biodiversity. IITA’s campus, known for its research in agriculture, is also known as a rich centre of biodiversity and as the site of one of the few remaining forest reserves in Nigeria.” She further emphasized the need for the Institute to do its best to preserve the unique and endangered species on campus.
IITA has 350 hectares dedicated to forest and wildlife conservation. Birdlife International has designated the IITA Forest Reserve as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) due to the presence of 67 unique Guineo-Congolian bird species in the forest. It has also recorded over 450 plant species, 272 birds, 236 butterflies, 48 mammals, and 28 reptiles.
During the virtual event, Olasupo Olukunle, Forest Center Field Supervisor, emphasized the need to educate the younger generation on conserving the natural environment. “We need to take care of our heritage and conserve it to have something of worth to pass to the next generation,” he said.
In pursuit of this, the IITA Forest Center coordinates the School Conservation Club (SCC), which the US Embassy in Lagos sponsors, with about 40 schools in the south-west. The club engages students in activities such as conservation education, collection of indigenous seeds and trees, bird monitoring, planting and gardening, and upscaling waste like plastics to store seed and plants.
Two students from the IITA International School and Ibadan International School who are members of the SCC, along with their teachers, joined the event virtually to share their experiences since they joined the club and visited the IITA Forest and other conservation activities.
The IITA Forest Center continues its mandate through funding from donors and collaboration with partners, including the Leventis Foundation; Centre for Environment, Renewable Natural Resources Management, Research and Development; Direct Aid Program of the Australian High Commission Abuja; Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust; and the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund.
Other conservation partners such as Botanic Gardens Conservation International, Butterfly Conservation Ghana, IUCN Red List, and Nigerian Conservation Foundation play a major role in the Forest Center’s work, ensuring that forest and environment conservation is promoted in Nigeria.
The Forest Center’s bird-focused activities and research receive support from A.P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute, BirdLife International, Nigeria Bird Atlas Project, World Migratory Bird Day, and Spring Alive Project.