First Women-led Nature Conservation Organisation Unveiled in A’Ibom

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..Sets to Mitigate Climate Change Effects

It is on record that climate change remains one of the global challenges facing humans on earth. The devastating effects of climate are being felt all over the world. Its effects are disastrous if nothing is done to mitigate them. There is no doubt that the impact on the atmosphere, ecosystems, and sea are a result of human activities. The big question then is “how do we make our societies more prepared for climate change” and what can be done to avoid disaster and preserve the environment for posterity?

It was against this back drop and in an attempt to provide answers to the aforementioned questions that the first women-led Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Women In Nature Conservation Organisation (WINCO) exclusively established for Nature Conservation was recently inaugurated.

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The inauguration and groundbreaking ceremony took place at WINCO global headquarters  in Ndon Uruan, Uruan Local Government Area, with dignitaries from all walks of life and the host community in attendance among whom were the chairman of Uruan, Surv Iniobong Ekpenyong; Vice Chairman of Uyo, Mrs Sylvia Ekong; Conservator of Park, Cross River National Parks, Mrs Caroline Olory and Secretary, Akwa Ibom State Environmental Protection and Waste Management Agency (AKSEPWMA), Mr Charles Ememobong. 

In his remarks, Chairman on the occasion, Prince Ikim commended the initiative of the CEO of WINCO, Mrs Emem Umoh in establishing the NGO which is the first of its kind in Nigeria, describing it as a good vision that will be successful.

Ikim who is the chairman of AKSEPWMA urged the host community to give the CEO the needed support to enable the NGO carry out conservation activities that will help restore our natural habitat.

Represented by the board secretary, Mr Charles Ememobong, the AKSEPWMA chairman stressed the need to conserve the nature, saying “without nature we do not exist and we stop existing the day we throw away nature”. He pledged the support of AKSEPWMA to enable WINCO succeed and achieve its goals and objectives.

While highlighting the activities of AKSEPWMA, the chairman who said the agency advocates clean environment, noted, “our environment has been polluted and we want to redefine it and give it a new look”, adding that “with WINCO we will achieve our set target”.

Ikim mentioned that plans were underway for the agency to embark on recycling of waste in the state, assuring that very soon people will be making money from waste. 

The chairman of Uruan Local Government, Surv Iniobong Ekpenyong congratulated the CEO on the inauguration of WINCO, noting that it was a right step in the right direction. 

Ekpenyong said conservation was a noble course that we all must adopt for the survival of the planet and prevention of endangered species from going into extinction.

“As a people, we must strive to maintain the ecological balance and save resources for future generations “, he said. 

He commended the NGO for the choice of the local government for the groundbreaking ceremony and wish them well as they kick-start the distribution of seedlings of economic trees in Uruan and beyond. 

Ekpenyong, who noted that tree planting has been proven as the only natural means of reducing climate change impacts, applauded WINCO for its resolve to embark on aggressive tree planting campaign in the state, and stressed the need to plant trees in schools and public places. 

He pledged the support of his administration to WINCO so as to enhance a greener and more sustained environment in Uruan local government area in particular and Akwa Ibom State at large. 

The chairman expressed optimism that the efforts of the NGO will result in huge success that would prompt the future generations to thank WINCO for its interventionist project. 

In a goodwill message, the conservator of park, Cross River National Parks, Mrs Caroline Olory, lauded the initiative of the CEO and appreciated her for being focused and resilient in the pursuit to establish WINCO. 

Olory, who described the project as a laudable platform for women, said women were in the forefront of conservation.

“Several women have potential and must be given the opportunity…if a woman is given opportunity to execute a project, she does it perfectly”, she said.

She used the occasion to advocate for the establishment of National Parks in Akwa Ibom State, saying that it was long overdue and prayed that it comes to pass soon. 

Also speaking, founder of Vulnerable Women Empowerment (VUWEM), Mrs Philomena Ntuen said the project was another platform for adding more value to human life, adding that it will “complement the countless contributions of Her Excellency, Mrs Martha Emmanuel in making our society a better place for all and the betterment of our collective interest”.

Goodwill messages were also received from the chairman of Uyo local government area, Dr Uwemedimo Udo who was represented by his vice, Mrs Sylvia Ekong; the village Council; Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) and Uruan first lady, Mrs Ndifreke Iniobong who also presented wrappers to some selected widows in the area. 

Setting the tone for the inauguration and groundbreaking ceremony, the CEO of WINCO, Mrs Emem Umoh described the event as the fulfillment of a laudable dream which will change the narratives for the women. 

Umoh called on the women to take advantage of the opportunity WINCO will offer to contribute their quota in conserving the nature by embracing the project which she said will be for the good of the society. 

“The coming on board of WINCO therefore means a lot of good to our society in particular and the environment in general. The benefits will affect our economic, health and social well-being”, she said. 

She used the occasion to thank the governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel for his developmental strides in the state and wife, Martha for her support to conservation activities in the state especially for the donation of 500 seedlings of improved species of indigenous fruit trees to WINCO for distribution and planting.

The CEO appreciated the local government chairman and the host communities as well as all who contributed to the success of the event. 

Umoh, solicited support from the government to provide  field oriented vehicles for the team who are mostly women to ease their mobility and made case for review of forestry laws/policy to enhance commencement of sustained management by the ministry of environment and NGOs.

Prior to the inauguration, the CEO of WINCO had undertaken the grading of roads in four communities of the local government as part of its corporate social responsibility.

The event featured presentation of Poultry farm items to 2 mangrove communities; Urua Essien Etuk and Ikot Eteghe in Ikot Abasi Local Government Area worth $350 for each community.

This is expected to cover the management cost of 50 additional birds for each, which is WINCO’S way of supporting and sustaining the livelihood component of the  recently concluded  ” Ukpom Okon Community Mangrove Restoration and Tree Planting Project, Nigeria” which was one of Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF)’s supported  maiden projects in South East Niger Delta.

The items were donated by the Regional Implementation Team leader, Bird life International, Ms Ruth Agagu, who was represented at the event by Mr. Obongha Oguni.

She enjoined the benefitting communities to cooperate with WINCO to enhance the long term goal of the CEPF funded project in the communities and South East Niger Delta in general.

Other high points of the event include the unveiling of WINCO by the conservator of park, Cross River National Parks, Mrs Caroline Olory, the groundbreaking by the commissioner for Women Affairs Dr. Ini Adiakpan who was represented by the director of administration in the ministry, Mrs Anietie Archibong and the planting of trees by the chairman of Uruan local government area, Ekpenyong. 

WINCO was established in 2015 and incorporated in 2019 as the first women-led Non-Governmental Organisation exclusively dedicated to nature conservation in Nigeria to inspire the next generation of women conservation leaders in Africa and across the globe.

Its vision is to teach or encourage women to place value, nature and care for nature as much as they care for people and items committed into their care; to encourage more connectedness of women to biodiversity conservation because of the unique roles they play in homes and the community which has made them develop knowledge related to biodiversity and introduce women to the field of conservation with the hope of making them build passion for nature considering a woman’s natural tendency to preserve or keep things committed into their care. 

WINCO believes that women are better keepers of valuables as such if they can be groomed to cultivate or transfer a similar passion in conserving nature, then they can do exploits in Nature conservation. 

Their goal is to ignite passion in women or awaken their consciousness and also indoctrinate them on urgent need for nature conservation and proper resource management.

WINCO has a mission to promote nature conservation and sustainable management of natural resources for posterity with the aim of enhancing livelihoods in pro-poor indigenous communities by: increasing women’s participation through relevant training and mentoring programmes and preserving all forms of natural resources and ecosystems. 

Others are: promoting conservation of endangered plants and animals and advocating for actions that promote sustainable management of gazette but abandoned forest reserves in South East/Niger Delta region of Nigeria. 

WINCO main programmes include: annual lecture on pressing conservation issues which will bring together international leaders, emerging Conservationist and students, international Women’s Day celebration, quarterly mentoring programme for women, participation/involvement in World Environment Day, World Mangrove Day, conservation club Tree Planting and Annual membership /WINCO network/Partners forum.

Credit: Victor Essang