The roots of restoration: My journey into the heart of mangroves in Calabar

Welcome to this first episode of our journey. Today, I invite you to embark on a voyage through my restoration work, where I weave a narrative that is deeply intertwined with the veins of the Earth and the breath of the ocean. 

My name is Obi, Anna Akpe, and I am a mangrove restoration steward. This isn’t just a title but a testament to a commitment that has transformed my life and, hopefully, the coastal ecosystems I’ve dedicated myself to rejuvenating. This blog is my canvas, and through it, I wish to paint the story of restoration, resilience and hope that mangroves symbolize.

Anna Obi, 2024 Wetland Restoration Steward, in the heart of her local mangrove ecosystem.
Shedrack T.

A creative beginning turned green

As a young dreamer, I envisioned a life filled with colors and canvases, aspiring to study creative arts at university. But fate had other plans for me, and I was admitted to study plants and ecological studies by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) of Nigeria. 

Initially hesitant, I found my passion ignited when I met Clement Oko, a passionate conservationist, who opened my eyes to the wonders of nature and the importance of preserving it. His dedication and enthusiasm inspired me to embrace my course and dive into the world of ecology with newfound fervor, which led me to join the Biodiversity Rescue Club (BRC), an organization where theory meets practice. 

Through hands-on field experiences and practical applications, I discovered the real-life implications of my studies. The BRC became more than just a club; it became a platform for action, where I actively participated in biodiversity conservation and restoration efforts.

The spark of inspiration

It all began on a humid afternoon in late November 2022, when I found myself walking through a coastal area that had once flourished with the rich, green and vibrant life of mangrove forests. What greeted me instead was the stark contrast of an overly exploited land – a silent witness to the vulnerability of our natural world. 

The sight was a jolt to my system, a call to action that I couldn’t ignore. It motivated me to dive into research, learning about the vital role mangroves play in coastal protection, biodiversity and carbon sequestration. I realized that restoring mangroves wasn’t just about planting trees; it was about healing communities, protecting biodiversity and fighting climate change.

The unique ecosystem of Cross River State

Calabar, the capital of Nigeria’s Cross River State, boasts a rich and diverse coastal area characterized by its unique mangrove ecosystems. These vital ecosystems serve as nurseries for marine life, protect coastal communities from erosion and storm surges, and play a crucial role in carbon sequestration. 

However, like many coastal areas worldwide, mangroves here face threats from deforestation, pollution and climate change.

Our vision for mangrove restoration

Within a year, our team is dedicated to restoring and preserving mangrove ecosystems in Cross River State. Our goals include planting thousands of mangrove saplings, engaging local communities in conservation efforts, and raising awareness about the importance of mangrove ecosystems. Through our actions, we aim to create a thriving and resilient coastal environment for generations to come.

Meet my fantastic team

My team consists of passionate individuals dedicated to making a difference. From researchers and volunteers to community leaders, each member brings unique skills and perspectives to our mission. 

From left to right: Anna Obi, project team leader; Courage Yegwa, field officer; and David Oyama, project volunteer, on the outskirts of the mangroves with mangrove propagules. Oko A.

From left to right: Oseni Oreoluwatomi, project volunteer; David Oyama, project volunteer; Anna Obi, project team leader; Godwin Ogbiji, communications officer; Courage Yegwa, field officer, at the restoration site. Oko A.

The Biodiversity Rescue Club team is made up of incredible young individuals. Godwin Ogbiji serves as our communications officer, Nsikak Peter handles monitoring and evaluation, David Oyama contributes as a project volunteer, Courage Yegwa fulfills the role of field officer, Oseni Oreoluwatomi acts as our wonderful project volunteer, and I lead our project team. Together, we form a formidable force committed to protecting our planet’s biodiversity.

Collaboration for impact

In our quest for restoration, we are fortunate to have the guidance of mentors like Adejoke O. Akinyele, a professor at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, and Camille Rivera, a former Wetland Restoration Steward, whose expertise and wisdom light our path forward. Additionally, our collaboration with the Global Landscape Forum (GLF) provides us with invaluable resources, networking and opportunities to amplify our impact on a global scale.

As we move forward, I’ll dive deeper into the how-to’s of mangrove restoration, the science behind it, the stories of the people involved, and the lessons learned along the way. I’ll share the beauty of this journey through photos, stories and perhaps even some tears and laughter.

Anna Obi conducting an activity with young people from the community of Esierebom, Calabar, Cross River State. Oko A.

This blog isn’t just my story; it’s an invitation to join us on this journey of restoration and hope. Whether through words of encouragement, spreading the message, or getting your hands dirty in the mangrove mud, there’s a place for you in this story.

Together, let’s grow a future where mangroves stand tall, not only as guardians of our coasts but as symbols of our collective resilience and commitment to the planet. Welcome to our journey.

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Generation restorationrestoration stewardswetlandsYouth

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