By Wisdom Onwunmelu
For Chidera Akude, a 500-level Agricultural Economics and Extension student, and Humphrey Ali, a 300-level Physiology student, the convocation arena, as well as the pathway to the old administrative block are the most attractive areas on the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike (AE-FUNAI), campus.
“The flowers planted in the demarcation between the paths are beautiful,” Akude opined.
The emerging green environment of the AE-FUNAI campus which has endeared some students like Akude and Ali to certain spots, are linked to the concerted efforts being made by the Campus Green Initiative (CGI).
According to the Acting Director of the initiative, Arc. Ifeanyi Chukwu, CGI, a brainchild of the former Vice Chancellor, Professor Chinedum Nwajiuba, can be described as a “child of necessity.”
Among other reasons, the initiative was established in 2016 following recurring destruction of institution-owned properties by wind. As Chukwu noted, “Our students were facing the intensity of the scorching sun. Also, the vagaries of the weather on the side of the wind was heavy, in such a way that if it starts raining, most of our roofs will be blown off.”
It is to be noted that destructive wind, erosion, flood, rising sea level, and land degradation have been closely described as some of the negative effects of climate change.
Similarly, Nigeria has been identified to be vulnerable to climate change impacts in recent years. In 2020, the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index ranked Nigeria as the 53rd country vulnerable to climate change impacts and also as the 179th most ready country to adapt to climate change.
Following loss of lives and properties which accompany these climate risks anytime it strikes, researchers have suggested measures to curtail them, some of which are, afforestation, reforestation and selective deforestation.
The Executive Director, Youths in Agroecology and Restoration Network (YARN), Mr. Opeyemi Elujulo, noted that afforestation and reforestation involve tree planting, while describing tree planting as a single nature-based solution that can help address the existential crisis of climate change.
He added that, “trees utilise the oxides of carbon that are being released in the atmosphere as their food. So, having more trees sort of increases the number of carbon sinks that we have, and as such are able to sequester carbon, and store them; thereby, reducing their availability in the atmosphere.”
Periodic tree planting initiatives when encouraged and well sustained contribute to the materialisation of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals 11, 13 and 15.
It would be recalled that in 2021, the Ebonyi State Government began a tree planting exercise, with a target of planting about 5 million trees. Speaking during the flag off ceremony, Senior Special Assistant to Governor David Umahi on Environment, Prince Sunday Ugwuocha, noted that the aim of the exercise was to recreate a tree planting pre-consciousness among the people of the state.
“Tree planting is part of our lifestyle in the Ministry of Environment, but this year alone, we want to recreate a kind of pre-consciousness among our people on the need for us to confront the adverse effects of climate change.
“We are looking at planting over five million trees and that is why we have trickled down this exercise to the primary schools,” he said.
AE-FUNAI Green Journey
Narrating the activities of CGI on AE-FUNAI campus, Arc. Chukwu said the initiative regularly organises tree planting exercises and climate change awareness programmes on campus. “We have a green club, which is responsible for carrying out awareness campaigns,” Arc. Chukwu maintained.
The awareness campaign was last done in 2019. The organisers were getting ready to facilitate another one before the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarked on a strike, which is over six months as of the time of filing this report.
According to CGI’s acting director, tree planting is majorly carried out during the rainy season, except when there is a special visitor in the institution. Arc. Chukwu further stated that the introduction of tree planting exercise by special visitors to the institution is to build a tree planting consciousness amongst the students. Some of the visitors who have planted trees are Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo; Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu; Anambra State Governor, Prof. Charles Soludo, and Ebonyi State Governor, Engr. Dave Umahi.
Arc. Chukwu also said that over 33,000 trees have been planted through the initiative since its inception. He listed some of the trees in cultivation to include Teak, Mango, Cashew, Neem and Eucalyptus, amongst several others.
Arc. Chukwu noted that the key challenge of CGI centres on access to funds. He, however, stated that most of the funds for CGI’s day-to-day operations are from donations from individuals who want to plant a tree on the campus, citing that each nursery tree is sold at N500 only. This means anyone who’s planting a tree will pay N500 to the initiative for each tree.
“Fund is the major challenge. What we use to work is majorly contributions from people. We value each plant at N500,” Arc. Chukwu said.
It is not surprising since the United Nations also identified finance as one factor essential for effective implementation of climate change advocacy and research programmes.
With over 1000 students drawn from different departments supporting the initiative as volunteers, Arc. Chukwu believes more student-volunteers would help the eight staff-member initiative properly carry out its noble responsibilities.
Interestingly, hike in the price of commodities such as nylons and manures required for nursery preparation and subsequent tree planting, occasioned by the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, amongst other reasons, was also highlighted as one the threats to CGI’s initiative. According to Arc. Chukwu, “the cost of planting a single tree has gone up.”
Aside from this, some of the trees planted are destroyed by students, members of the host community, as well as traders operating on the campus.
To curtail this, “the management has made it compulsory that any student caught trespassing the lawns, would be treated as having committed an offence, and as such, would plant two trees.
“We have warned them (traders) sternly that anyone caught cutting any of the tree branches will be shown the way out,” Arc. Chukwu added.
He further stated that some unsettled members of the host community on campus were invited to the 2019 green day celebration organised by CGI where they were enlightened on the need to preserve the trees.
While harping on the importance of synergy for effective functioning of the initiative, Arc. Chukwu implored the public for more support.
“We will achieve more if people support the initiative,” Arc. Chukwu stated while appreciating the effort of the AE-FUNAI management and staff, volunteers, donors as well as the NYSC community that set up a garden on the campus, as part of their community development service programme.
A Green Future
About the sustainability of CGI, Arc. Chukwu noted that the initiative was recently upgraded to a directorate by the university’s current administration. With CGI’s current stride, Arc. Chukwu believes that in the next few years, it will achieve greater things.
His words: “In the next 5 years, we must have been able to create a sort of forest in AE-FUNAI.”
With strong conviction about CGI’s growth and impactful service delivery in the coming years, Arc. Chukwu listed some key moves the directorate has recently taken.
“We are currently partnering with the Climate Change Action Project, attracted by one of AE-FUNAI staff.
“We also made a move to partner with the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA). They have agreed to train some of our staff as well.”
The report was sponsored by I-79 Media Consults’ Campus Solutions project which is supported by the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) as part of the 2022 LEDE Fellowship.