A strategic feedback mechanism to enthrone sustainable growth of rural and nature tourism within and around Nigeria’s protected areas known as National Parks has kicked off in Okomu and Old National Parks in Benin, Edo State, and Oyo State respectively.
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 recent visit by the platform facilitation contact group, the community leaders pleaded for more government interventions 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) Abeokuta 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 the chalets and Olympic size swimming pool needed upgrading and careful retouching to make them available for expected visitors traffic during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
At the office, the group also shared strategic information with the Okomu management in order to sustain the peaceful relationship with communities and to wade off loggers out of the park.
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 farmlands carried out from the park as the community farmers are short of farmlands.
A similar 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 visitor’s facilities are located told the visiting team that provision of operational vehicles for effective patrol of the second biggest park in Nigeria is long overdue.