A Speech by Prof. Gabriel Umoh, Director, Centre for Wetlands and Waste Management Studies, University of Uyo at the Grand Finale of 2016 World Environment Day and Inauguration of Ikot Abasi Participatory Biodiversity Conservation Project
Today is the last day of June 2016 and marks the end of the celebration of 2016 World Environment Day. The slogan of World Environment Day 2016 is: “Go Wild for Life”. Today we gather here to inaugurate Ikot Abasi Participatory Biodiversity Conservation Project. These events are taking place in the Women War Centre, Ikot Abasi. These are coincidences which we must note!
It was when I came into this Centre that the impact of today’s event really dawn on me. First, Ikot Abasi was the Centre for Women War of liberation in 1929.
I believe that the women went wild for justice and that was why they confronted the colonial administration head-on. They fought back injustice!
While injustice exists today in different forms, humanity is faced with yet another serious threat to its survival. This threat is the extinction of the rich biodiversity that nature and God endowed our environment with, biodiversity which supports life on the earth ecosystem. As an Ibibio saying goes: Unen obo enyin uduak akang, eka idama ke,isua idat ad itie die? (if something you value and cherish is taken from you and you do not go wild, when and what else will make you go wild?)
Today, Ikot Abasi is at the verge of making history again. It is going “wild” for the life of the flora and fauna (plants and animals) in our environment that are getting extinct. This is by way of inaugurating Ikot Abasi Participatory Biodiversity Conservation Project (IPBCP). This is one of the few bold steps to be taken in this direction in Akwa Ibom State. For this bold and historic step, I salute you.
I salute Georgie Environmental Conservation Services (GECS) for initiating and leading this process. I salute the Akwa Ibom State Government for supporting these efforts.
It was Socrates, the great philosopher who said that: “a life that is not examined is not worth living”. Let us therefore examine Biodiversity in our communities. Let us ask why we got to where we are today in regard to biodiversity conservation!
- Why don’t we have sacred grooves again in our communities?
- Why don’t we have sacred streams, creeks, pools, and other such water bodies that used to hold stocks of biodiversity in our communities?
- Why don’t we have usen ibet (sacred days) when people were forbidden from entering certain places (forests) and water bodies, thus protecting the aquatic resources of our communities?
- Why don’t we have sacred animals and trees whose destruction is forbidden?
I do not have answers to these questions. But, I know you Ikot Abasi people have. You know why you dropped these practices. But if anybody had told you that these practices were not good, I am here to tell you that they were good for biodiversity conservation. We only need to offer scientific explanations for these practices.
I am here today, to encourage you to go back to the root. Let us go back to the traditional practices that promoted biodiversity conservation. I am convinced, beyond all reasonable doubt that in using the indigenous knowledge that we have at our disposal, we can sustainably conserve our biodiversity. Therefore, let us go back to our root. And do so we speed, conviction and passion. In this way, we can achieve biodiversity conservation for today, tomorrow and the remote future.