IITA promotes natural solutions during International Day of Biodiversity
On 22 May, CGIAR-IITA joined the global community to mark the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB), an annual observance to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. In line with this year’s theme, “Our solutions are in Nature”, the Institute hosted a semi-virtual event to highlight the importance of biodiversity and plants to human health and nutrition.
The event took place at the IITA Forest Center’s Ethnobotanical Garden in Ibadan, Nigeria, and included a short interactive session with featured speakers, a question and answer session, and a tour of the medicinal plant garden, showcasing some of the natural solutions to health problems found in our ecosystems. A small number of people were present at the venue, with most participants joining via online media platforms, such as Facebook Live, due to the restrictions imposed by the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite technological advances, human society is dependent on a healthy and vibrant ecosystem for health, food, water, medicine, fuel, clothes, shelter, and energy, among other areas. The IITA Forest Center manages and utilizes forest resources for conservation, research, education, and livelihoods in the Ibadan headquarters. The ethnobotanical garden is part of the center’s conservation efforts to create awareness and teach the younger generation about the importance of conserving forests and protecting nature.
The Director of Technical Programs at the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Dr Joseph Onoja, and IITA Deputy Director General Corporate Services, Ms Hilde Koper-Limbourg, both delivered their remarks through online video streams. In her talk, Koper-Limbourg said that biodiversity is vital to human existence, and it is necessary to commemorate this event every year to create awareness and help conserve IITA’s natural treasures. Forest Center Project Officer Wale Awoyemi said that the IITA Forest Reserve is not big but is the best protected and only urban forest in the region, and is thus invaluable.
Onoja underlined the continuing collaboration between IITA and NCF, and how conservation and conservation education work being undertaken by IITA is important in ensuring that future generations will benefit from IITA’s work.
In his remarks, IITA Deputy Director General, Partnerships for Delivery, Kenton Dashiell said, “It is important that the next generation is taught the significance of biodiversity and forest conservation to create the needed mindset that will ensure that this legacy will be in good hands in the future.”
The Head of the IITA Genetic Resources Center, Dr Michael Abberton, also talked about the importance of maintaining agrobiodiversity and explained the crucial work that genebanks, which conserve seeds and planting materials of important African food crops, are doing to maintain food security in the world.
The IITA Forest Center presently has on record over 450 plant species, 272 birds, 236 butterflies, 48 mammals, and 28 reptiles and amphibians. This year’s event focused on traditional medicinal plants and its many benefits.
Speaking during the tour of the garden, Olukunle Olasupo of the Forest Center said, “There are so many important indigenous medicinal plants in Nigeria that research can take advantage of to produce supplements for healthy living and the ethnobotanical garden has so many of them.”
One of the plants he spoke about, the Thaumatococcus daniellii, is known locally for wrapping local delicacies such as moin moin and ofada rice, yet many people are unaware of its fruit that serves as a natural sweetener.
The IITA Ethnobotanical Garden is partnering with schools across Nigeria through extracurricular clubs for young people to raise awareness and teach students about the forest and biodiversity conservation, and the need to teach others as well, explained Ademola Ajayi of the Forest Center.