End of an Era
Saturday, 31 December 2011 00:00

On the last day of 2011 Dr John Peacock officially resigned his position as Project Manager of the Leventis-funded IITA Forest Project. It was thanks to Dr Peacock’s vision for protecting the IITA Forest Reserve and reforesting other areas that the Forest Project began in February 2010.

The first step was to set up a nursery. This rapidly became so successful at propagating indigenous trees that the first young trees were large enough for planting by the end of August the same year. These numbered 300 in experimental plots to determine the best planting conditions for rainforest seedlings. Soon after this, a further 300 trees were planted by pupils of the IITA International School and IITA staff, which set the pace for 2011 when almost 4000 trees were planted and nursery stocks grew to over 33,000 plants of over 70 different species.

IITA Forest Project team 2011

Dr Peacock firmly believed in environmental education and was instrumental in setting up the Nigeria Field Society Young Explorers, which was launched on the 19th of November 2011. An expert birdwatcher himself, he encouraged children to observe and enjoy the natural world, and to understand why biodiversity is vital for their future.

Shortly before Dr Peacock left IITA for Europe, the Forest Project became part of the new Natural Resources Management program at IITA which recognizes that environmental degradation is a major cause of low crop yields and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. Now under overall management by Dr Stefan Hauser and run day-to-day as before by Mrs Deni Bown, the IITA Forest Project team will continue to fulfill the vision and aims of both Dr Peacock and the Leventis Foundation, which are to protect and restore rainforest within the IITA campus, record forest flora and fauna (especially birds, butterflies and medicinal plants), and utilize the information for environmental education, conservation activities, research and publications.


African whitewood (Triplochiton scleroxylon)

The African whitewood (Triplochiton scleroxylon), known as arere in Yoruba and obeche in Bini, is a large fast-growing tree, reaching 65 m (213 ft), usually with a straight trunk and buttresses up to about 8 m (26 ft) high. It belongs to the family Sterculiaceae and is common in semi-deciduous rainforests from Sierra Leone to Gabon and Congo, including secondary forests where it may fill gaps as a pioneer species.

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