National Ocean Service, United States Department of Commerce, defines Wetlands are land areas that are saturated or flooded with water either permanently or seasonally. They include marshes, swamps, ponds, lakes, etc. characterized as having a water table that stands at or near land surface for a long period of time each year to support aquatic plants i.e. plants that have adapted to living in salt or fresh water. They are different from a land that is wet after a rainfall. These are not wet year round because of water levels due to change in seasons. During the period of excessive rain, wetlands absorb water which helps to restore soil damage and save lives.
Wetlands have been used for agriculture for thousands of years. They provide a range of valuable ecosystem services such as the provision of food and clean water, the retention of soil and the cycling of nutrients. But the importance of wetlands to humanity and planet led to setting aside February 2nd globally every year to create awareness about the value of wetlands and mark the adoption of the convention on wetlands on February 2nd 1971 when a group of environmentalists signed an International agreement at the Ramsar Convention in Iran.
Ramsar Convention objectives were to ensure conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands and stop the encroachment and loss of wetlands i.e. the need to preserve wetlands and explore the gains for food security. World Wetlands Day was first celebrated for the first time in 1997 and since 1998 a particular theme is always adopted to celebrate the day every year. Variety of events are organized to create awareness e.g. lectures, seminars, nature walks, children’s art contests, clean-up day, Radio and Television interviews, write-ups in the newspapers, etc.
Wetlands day is aimed at drawing attention to the relevance of promoting biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of natural resources in such an important ecosystem. Biodiversity boost productivity of ecosystem where each species no matter how small have an important role to play. The environment also parades all kinds of plants, animals, fungi, etc. and each of these species and organisms work together in ecosystems to maintain balance as well as support life. Biodiversity possess everything in nature that we need to survive, food, clean water, medicine and shelter.
The theme for year 2019 signifies the importance of healthy and intact wetlands to climate change, one of the most pressing challenges of our times. “Wetlands and Climate Change”. The theme was chosen in 2019 to initiate action against extinction of wetlands, while “Wetlands and Biodiversity” has been chosen as the theme for year 2020 to celebrate the World Wetlands day globally. And in ensuring food security in any nation, potentials embedded in wetlands should be tapped into and explored for the betterment of the society. Experts say Wetlands has socio-economic values which include, support to fertile soils, reduce erosion and retain sediments and nutrients, support aquaculture or grazing, provide habitat for harvestable plants and animal species, provide drinking water for animals during dry season, provide shade, wind buffering, protection from floods, acts as filters in waste water treatment, and provide a range of raw products such as timber, etc. They are also great spots for fishing, canoeing, and hiking, bird-watching and enjoyable place for outdoor.
Well-managed wetlands, produce food continuously all year round without any break. The Yorubas, the south-western part of Nigeria call it “Akuro”. Farmers that are knowledgeable about this take advantage of its potentials and make much profit from the sale of their produce during dry season. When all other farmers might have retired from active farming, ‘Akuro’ farmers still flourishes and profit from vegetables among others.
The Ogun State Government through the Ministry of Forestry once harnessed these potentials for economic benefit. Vegetables were planted, harvested and sold to members of the public as part of Internally Generated Revenue. There is also plan to identify types of wetlands in the state so as to further boost fish farming, rice production among others for well-being of the people.
Ogun State Government has taken advantage of this “Akuro” farming mechanism to combat unemployment, alleviate poverty and ensure food security through the FADAMA Project tagged “FADAMA Graduate Unemployment Youths (GUYS)”. The present administration of Governor Dapo Abiodun is encouraging youths to embrace agriculture in order to ensure food security, revamp the state’s economy, reduce rural poverty and contribute to the development of the sustainable development goals.
In line with the Federal Government’s agenda on food security in order to boost Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as well as reduce foreign exchange spent on food importation, the State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun while flagging off the scheme presented cheques amounting to millions of naira to hundreds of youths that were inducted into the project.
“It is time to recognize the incalculable value of wetlands to all species – ours included”, says conference co-chair Paulo Teixeira, coordinator of the Cuiaba-based Pantanal regional Environmental Programme, a joint effort of the United Nations University and Brazil’s Federal University of Mato Grasso. When the potentials embedded in Wetlands are properly harnessed, some of the challenges of food shortage in the society will be tackled to some extent and it would promote healthy living in the ecosystem world over.
The Federal Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture should identify numbers of Wetlands in Nigeria and encourage states in the federation to utilize the potentials of Wetlands for socio-economic development of their citizenry.