UNESCO Headquarters, Paris: Since becoming a member of UNESCO in 1960, upon its independence, Nigeria has relentlessly pursued a dual interaction policy both at this UN specialized agency and with Member States, offering in the latter case opportunities and benefits for collaborative cooperation.
These were some of the topics explored on 20th July last at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris when St. Kitts and Nevis’ Ambassador to UNESCO, H.E. Dr. David P. Doyle met the Ambassador to the Permanent Delegation of Nigeria to UNESCO, H.E. Dr. Hajo Sani.
As an educator, author and education policy analyst, Ambassador Sani, has served as the second minister of the Federal Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Development from 1997 to 1998. After her national assignment, she founded ‘Women and National Development (WAND), an NGO that focuses on the education of the girl-child and obstacles facing women. She was elected Secretary General of the West African Women’s Association (WAWA) in 2003. In 2021, Dr. Hajo Sani was appointed by the Federal Government of Nigeria, as the Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of Nigeria to UNESCO in Paris, France.
Ambassador Doyle was particularly impressed with Nigeria’s Omo Biosphere Reserve and compared notes with Ambassador Sani relating to St. Mary’s Man & Biosphere Reserve in St. Kitts, the first designated biosphere site in the English-speaking Caribbean. The St. Mary’s Biosphere Reserve is seeking all the assistance it can secure in scaling up the biosphere site to become, in the very near future, a plastic-free zone.
Ambassador Doyle opined that “The St. Kitts St. Mary’s Biosphere Reserve can learn much from Nigeria’s long-standing experience and expertise in running one of Africa’s compelling protected zones in Omo, in terms of developing economic and entrepreneurial activities and addressing soil erosion.”
The Omo Biosphere Reserve is situated about 135 km northeast of Lagos in the south of Nigeria. The major habitats comprise dry evergreen mixed deciduous forests in the north and wet evergreen forests in the south. Plantations and agricultural lands can also be found within the area.
With 6,000 persons living within the boundaries of the biosphere reserve, the Omo reserve boasts of major economic activities such as fuelwood harvesting, cultivation of arable crops, hunting, fishing, and the plantation of indigenous and exotic tree species. Like the St. Mary’s Biosphere Reserve, the Nigerian MAB authorities are facing the challenges of soil erosion and loss of biodiversity which are principal threats to biosphere reserves.
The Ambassadors of Nigeria and St. Kitts and Nevis explored the prospects of organising a virtual learning and experience-exchange workshop to enable members of the respective Man & Biosphere national committees to share best practices in growing and sustaining their biosphere reserves.
Concluding the meeting, Ambassador Doyle pledged the Federation’s support for Nigeria’s candidacy to the UNESCO Executive Board at elections this coming autumn. Both St. Kitts and Nevis and Nigeria have previously served together on this decision-making UNESCO committee in 2018-2019.