Humans of Handprint: Meet Ikponke Nkanta, CEO of Tropical Research and Conservation Centre – Connecting communities with the environment

Mangrove Project Trcc Nigeria After Planting 1 (1)

It’s often the individual threads that make the most compelling stories. Welcome to “Humans of Handprint,” a special segment dedicated to shining a spotlight on the incredible individuals who are the driving force behind Handprint’s impactful journey. As we delve into the lives, passions, and experiences of these remarkable people, we discover the heart and soul of organizations that thrive on the dedication and inspiration of its diverse team. 

Join us on this journey as we get to know the faces and voices that breathe life into Handprint’s mission, and witness firsthand the profound impact they have on the world.

What does TRCC do and how are you involved?

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The Tropical Research and Conservation centre works with communities in Nigeria to restore and protect forests. They work closely with the communities of the sites for all the resources needed for reforestation and to provide jobs for locals. The forests they are trying to rehabilitate right now are mangrove trees.

Mangrove trees are a crucial resource in the forest and provide many ecosystem services. The mangrove ecosystem is very strong in carbon absorption and is also an important habitat for many species. Mangroves provide a breeding ground for marine life and are a safe space for fish. In terms of helping communities, Mangrove provides lots of food for those around, for example the periwinkle crabs, fish and shrimp. 

Ikponke Nkanta is in charge of overseeing the activities of the organization as well as going to the sites to check up on the forests. He is in charge of developing the connections bet

ween various communities and nature. The forests where TRCC is located contain many fauna, birds, primates and more. The favorite part of his job is seeing nature and being involved with the environment.

How does TRCC create an impact on the environment?

The work with Handprint has been impactful on the communities around the sites. They work with locals to plant back mangroves where the forests have degraded. They start by ed

ucating the communities on how to prepare the planters and about taking care of the Mangroves. The education aspect with communities has been amazing, with education on mangroves and biodiversity.

They then prepare the planters ahead of time; due to the temperature in Nigeria they are able to plant all year long. This process engages the communities and ensures the people are involved in maintaining the trees. They then buy seeds and products from locals, so help their businesses. They take the resources and plant them using local farmers. Trcc Community Tree Nursery

Some challenges of this process are making people believe and understand the projects. People don’t understand how it can have an impact on the communities. They tackled this challenge by bringing more people to see the progress and the trees themselves.

What work is being done with Handprint?

So far with Handprint, 100,000 trees have been planted. Handprint covers 10% of all funding going into TRCC, where a separate forest is used for all of Handprints projects to help keep track of the progress and allow for people to come visit the forests. Nkanta believes this project is already a success but more can always be done. Many projects fail in Nigeria as they are not funded by the local communities, usually because of a lack of educating locals. The difference with TRCC is that everything is community led. 

The partnership started a year ago and 100,000 trees have been grown. Over a longer period of time, hopefully entire forests will be built. With the upscaling of Handprint and their partners, an estimation of 1 million trees will be built. The main challenge of achieving this goal right is increasing the number of planters, this also means the number of locals involved needs to increase.

“We can always have more planters!”

Trcc5What is Nkanta’s story and how did he get involved?

He grew up in a village, going to a school, following his parents who were farmers and teachers. He would go farm with them and fish in the streams. As he fished, he noticed the biodiversity around, with monkeys and fish living together. He began to appreciate nature and the power of water. He has always had an interest in nature and the communities living around nature. 

“I was already going to farms and forests to work!”

He feels that his childhood impacted his career now, giving him interests and understanding of what he does today. He also feels his mother influenced him the most, as he would go farming with her the most. She taught him to believe in conservation  and how it depends on people living around the forests. People play the biggest role in conservation. 

The most memorable moment in his career was when he worked with primates. One of the sites has endemic monkeys that are rare. With his work that site has been sustained, helping that species. He has also worked in sites with red monkeys, which are also endangered. With some communities he has worked with preventing the killing of water turtles. 

What is one message you would like to share?

“We need to invest more in nature, and there’s so much impact that has to be done. The living conditions depend on nature, so increasing progress will help all.”

Want to know more about TRCC, visit http://www.tropicalconservationcentre.org/

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