A strategic feedback mechanism to enthrone sustainable growth of rural and nature tourism within and around Nigeria’s protected areas (National Parks) has kicked off in Okomu and Old National Parks in Benin, Edo State and Oyo State.
The idea was conceived by the Conservator – General of the Federation, Mallam Ibrahim Goni, who believes that any successful protected natural resources management must be built around the support zone communities.
Towards this agenda, preliminary field trips to Okomu and Old National Parks revealed that the engagement process was not only timely but a veritable platform to capture the fears and expectations of stakeholders around the parks.
At Udo in Okomu during a visit by the platform facilitation contact group, the community leaders pleaded for more government intervention in areas of employment for youths in the communities around the parks and other social interventions that can help alleviate poverty in the communities.
The contact group,who were conducted round by the Okomu National Park by Conservator of Park, Abdullahi Ahmed visited the famous Tree House, the heart of holiday spot and recreation hub in Arakuan and a momentous interaction with students from the Federal University of Agriculture (FUTA) Akure, who were on field study at the Park.
Indeed, very profound was the interaction with the students, who expressed and called on the Federal Government to properly fund the Park and build roads leading into the community not just for ease of movement by visitors but also for the good of farmers in the community to move their farm products with ease.
The contact group also observed that chalets and the Olympic size swimming pool need upgrading and careful retouching to make them available for expected visitors traffic during the Xmas and New year holidays.
At the office, the group also shared strategic information with Okomu management in order to sustain the peaceful relationship with communities and to wade off loggers out of the Park.
In the same vein, the visit to Old Oyo national Park was also engaging as the discussion with the Onikoyi of Ikoyi-Ile, Oba Oladoju Oyelowo, who told the visiting team about the need for employment of youths of the area and more access to farm lands carried out from the park as the community farmers are short of farm lands.
The same line of discussion also topped engagements at Sepeteri and Igboho.
A thriving Nature Conservation Club is the face of the community secondary schools in the area, a successful storyline that has helped educate youths in the area on conservation practices and benefits, making them keen nature ambassadors.
Conservator of Park Old Oyo National Park, Cornelius Oladipo, who conducted the team on tour of Akoto base camp, Ikoyi Ile, where strategic visitors’ facilities are located told the visiting team that lack of operational vehicles for effective patrol of the second biggest park in Nigeria is long overdue.
It was observed that the faculties are in good shape but needs to be promoted for private sector participation and nature tourist visitation.
The contact group expressed deep appreciation at efforts to keep the visitors faculties in top shape and offered to impress on the Conservator – General to organize a select media visit to all the Parks next year.