Securing the genetic resource base of Indigenous plants species: A Community Biodiversity Conservation Initiative
Maximizing the potentials of indigenous plant species thus promoting their use and conservation.
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge and that I am eligible to apply.
I am 18 years old or older.
Initiative's representative name
Dr. Andrew Chibuzor ILOH
Initiative's representative date of birth
9th Nov. 1979
Initiative's representative gender
Headquarters location: country
Headquarters location: city
Where are you making a difference?
FCT, Imo, Ogun, Nasarawa States ALL in Nigeria.
Website or social media url(s)
FB: Biodiversity Education.
Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan going forward)
Yearly Budget : What is your current yearly budget for the initiative?
1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.
As a little boy, I have always been amazed of how Charles Darwin came about his theories. I have realized that his theories were not based on high academic knowledge but the simple fact of his “LOVE for NATURE” complimented by his “NATURAL INSTINCTS” for observation. Growing up, I found that I also had passion for nature conservation and my training as a plant scientist increased my skills for monitoring flora biodiversity. In my quest to be that “Better Naturalist” I picked up interest in communicating biodiversity issues to local people. These where the “Aha” moments leading to my science for community development goals. I want to see my research projects not only have scientific impacts but also rural community development impacts.
2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
Biodiversity is critical for food security and nutrition. Sadly, human impacts are accelerating loss. Indigenous plants hold the potentials to scale up Food Security/ Nutrition and biodiversity conservation due their potential contribution in preventing malnutrition, obesity and diet-related disorders as well as hidden hunger. Sadly most of them are localized and may even go extinct before they are even discovered, disappearing with them their enormous Indigenous knowledge.
3. Your solution: How are you working to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
My idea is an outcome of studies on the over-exploitation of wild plants for their domestic and economic use. As majority of these forest communities depend on these plants as their MAJOR source of Livelihood; we are building community resilience taking into account indigenous knowledge which has over time played an important role in shaping their existence. In doing this, these communities will cope with the threats to food/Nutrition security and biodiversity loss especially events of extreme climates thus reducing venerability. In maximizing the potential of Indigenous food Species in these communities, we have built community confidence and perception on socio-economic factors in the human environment which will strongly be influenced by human attitudes and behavior that can help build community resilience. We have shown a link between Good Nutrition which these indigenous plants bring and health of the Environment and Forests around these communities. Conservation and protection of these diverse species therefore becomes important.
4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?
We have leveraged on the use of Biotechnology (Plant Tissue Culture/micropropagation) to assist communities develop home gardens for important wild plants species. This has increased the availability of these plants in the community, reduced their exploitation and increased dietary needs of the people. We have maximized the potentials of these plants sustained by a model approach that combined indigenous knowledge with science and technology. By providing cost effective seed/gene saving initiative, our intervention has conserved, restored, revitalized, and strengthened local crop species and varieties of Okra, Pumpkin, local Gwari yams, Millet, Local Tomato, Amaranths, Gwari Rice, Garden Eggs critical for the community's survival.
5. Collaboration: How does your initiative seek to bring key players together to preserve biodiversity?
We have developed a manual which can help small holder women farmers replicate the solutions in the South West of Nigeria. At the national level, collaborating with policy makers to include indigenous food plants as key components of in the School feeding programs as well as the Anchor borrowers programme for micro-credits. Our Seed bank Open day programmes provide avenues for exchange and display of seed diversity as well as a model for local seed bank scale up to a national project for the conservation of a larger number of wild crop relatives in Nigeria. We are currently advocating at the National legislature to provide legislative laws on the inclusion of Indigenous food plants to the Nigerian Food policy programme. These initiatives when pulled together will contribute significantly to indigenous Plant Species Conservation.
6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far — in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?
With limited access to land, women are still custodians of Biodiversity with Knowledge to bolster food security. 65% of the participating community members were women. 53% ages 40-65, 47% ages 18-39. Women participation was supported by their husbands. This saw more women take decision on dietary requirements for their families and strong participatory roles in management and benefits sharing. The project provided alternative sources of propagation, (Home gardens for 500 Households in 5 villages) increasing diversity around forest community while reducing pressure on the forest for these species. 175 Varieties of 35 crop species were saved in the community seed bank. Seed exchange and multiplication activities influenced the increase in cultivation of new varieties. Seed bank produced and sold over 10 different varieties of local Tomatoes, Yams and Garden eggs. Proceeds was used to set up a Community Biodiversity Management Fund.
7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?
We have provided an excellent Community extension service that will provide the best institutional infrastructure to help in the scaling up from local seed banking to national level banking. We had a “train the trainer” model, where by pioneer farmers can teach others the skills acquired, increasing the spread beyond the community. Another strategic growth impact is to allow the Federal Government adopt Indigenous plants as part of the National School feeding programme for primary Schools (Fonio drink).
8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for society? Or different stakeholders?
Households created small/medium-sized enterprises for steady economic growth which put less pressure to their surrounding forest. As a result of less pressure on the forest for livelihood, new revenue streams are up and running. Local base ecosystems have facilitated growth not only within the Forest Community but beyond, creating opportunities for decent work. Achieving social inclusion was to emphasize “local ownership”. Setting up spaces for dialogue that allowed for the active and inclusive participation of local people ensured that priorities were determined locally and that local concerns were at the core of all activities.
9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?
Our Initial grants came from the GEF Small grants and the Heinrich Boll Foundation, however, our projects were designed to be self-sustainable. Communities were exposed to procedures for fund access to financial (market linkages, development funds and savings.) hence we saw some of their products go beyond local markets. For mid and long time, talks with the CBN to include local Women farmers of indigenous food crops to the Anchor borrowers programme for micro-credits. We also would seek funds in form of new grants to consolidate on progress made on getting a policy on School Feeding, National Seed bank, and Law backing inclusion of Indigenous Food plants to the National Food Security Plan.
10. Team: what is the current composition of your current team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?
We are a team of 6 Scientists (4 core and 2 Part-time) working under the Biodiversity Education and Resource Centre (BERC). A Think Tank, Not for profit Centre with the mandate of carrying out Research, Education and Land Rights issues advocacy. We have two Ph.Ds holders in Biodiversity conservation and Biochemistry, 2 female Junior Scientists (Ph.D. Candidates) and two Research assistants. For Expansion, new Ph.Ds who would design their projects around our core mandates will be taken.
11. How did you hear about this challenge?
Ashoka page or contact
12. Connection to Biodiversity: How does your project directly contributes to preserving and/or restoring biodiversity? Please share data to support your answer.
Our project is restoring indigenous plant biodiversity around forest communities in Nigeria where they have been depleted over time due to over-exploitation as well as contributing to preserving traditional plant varieties and wild gene pools for Indigenous people. Our project has provided alternative sources of propagation, increasing diversity around forest communities while reducing pressure on the forest for these species. For example, 20 new climbers of Gnetum species was found within 10 sq. Km radius compared to 5 climbers at the start of the project. Local varieties susceptible to genetic erosion have been preserved via community seed savings. Seed exchange and multiplication activities within the Seed bank influenced the increase in cultivation of local varieties i.e. an increase from 2 to 5 new varieties of Local eggplant during a planting season was an indication of gradual but direct restoration of plant diversity in the community.
13. Example: Please walk us through one or two concrete examples that show how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address.
Our initiative increased regeneration of Indigenous plants in the forest while providing families with activities in traditional agroforestry practices vital to their reservoir of unique genetic diversity. By growing diverse species, use-value of the species to households as income generation, food, nutritional supplements and medicine was enhanced. In most cases, Households have created versatile small sized enterprises that ensured steady economic growth. Women participation via a “Train the Trainer” approach enhanced conservation and seed saving (50 Women Seed savers Network). Seed saving/multiplication activities increased diversity of local plant varieties making it possible to have diverse dietary options for families. Our project have also shown potentials for these plants to inform National policy directions e.g. Contribution of Indigenous plants in the National School feeding Programme as well as promotion as components in sustainable diets for Nigeria even at post COVID 19.
14. Marketplace: Who else is addressing this problem in your environment? How does your proposed project differ from these other approaches?
IITA Forest Centre raises indigenous plants in the Nursery for research purposes, APLORI, Jos has worked on threatened Indigenous fuel wood species, Notwithstanding, what made our approach unique was our ability to connect communities to Indigenous plants conservation. In promoting conservation of indigenous plants, we have offered opportunities for responsible forest management and business development at community level. Thus armed with these tools, community members could achieve industry specifications/requirements as well as access new markets. In all, we have created a local base healthy ecosystems which greatly facilitated economic growth not only within the Forest Community but beyond the community through trade of products. With decent packaging techniques, locals have seen sales even on the shelves of super malls in urban areas. This has ensured that local biodiversity products are marketable.
15. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?
I have been elected in to the prestigious Ashoka Social Entrepreneurs Fellowship (Ecology). Prior to this, The International Climate Protection fellowship by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany were i conducted Research on genetic diversity of Indigenous plants. On a lighter note, I was given a Chieftaincy title from the Obinze King as a sign of gratitude for the successful impacts the project had in their community.
16. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: Please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.
Individual donations or gifts: 5%
Foundation or NGO grants: 30%
Corporate contributions: 0%
Grants or contracts: 40%
Earned income (Product or services sales, licensing, franchising, consulting, financing, etc.): 20%
Other (Personnel Savings): 5%.
Our major Source of Funding came from grants and Awards. As a Trained Plant Molecular Scientist, with our modest Plant molecular laboratory, we have been able to develop multiple income streams, providing Molecular and Training consultancy (DNA extraction, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), Genetic diversity Studies, Molecular Identification, GMO testing etc.) for Post graduate Students and Teachers in Nigeria while transforming our Research to Development. Also our initiatives were designed to be self-sustainable as communities were exposed to procedures for fund access (market linkages, development funds and savings).
17. How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge? How would you invest the prize money to leverage your work?
With new cash inflows, we will leverage on technology, create Apps that will capture plants unique to different ecological zones, success story Inforgaphics for project expansion to capture new plants, a bigger impact will be the link between Good Human Nutrition which these indigenous plants bring and health of the Environment/Forests. Hence we hope to spark a systematic change for sustainable food system which a rich Plant diversity brings. We will work to achieve new partnerships among actors (farmers, businesses, government, science, civil society) and achieving the goals of Indigenous plant conservation. Encourage the take up of potential plants for Industrial applications (Acha for example as a potential raw material for the production of Weaning Foods). Part of our systematic change will also be driving techniques for city dwellers take up Home gardens I.e. Some form of Urban Farming of important indigenous vegetables
18. Pitch-video (finalists only)