Almost et al., 2015; Ogunwasi and Ibrahim,

Almost 5 billion people across the
globe are fed by only half a billion poor smallholder farmers, who are
vulnerable to the impacts of climate change; with sub-Saharan Africa having the
bulk of the smallholder farmers, where they produce 80% of the food (Sambo,
2014; Ching and Stabinsky, 2011).  The livelihoods
of these farmers are likely to suffer disproportionately in the face of even
slight climatic changes, not to think of extreme changes (Eastealing et al., 2007, Altiert and Koohafkan,
2008). In the Niger Delta, like the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, homesteads and
their immediate vicinities provide critical support to the livelihoods of the
rural poor (Ubom, 2010).  The homesteads
and the adjoining areas are carefully managed and exploited, by the locals, as
source of food, medicine, family nutrition, socio-cultural satisfaction and
cash income (Okigbo, 1990; Ubom, 2010). 
The homesteads in sub-Saharan Africa often harbour the home gardens (or
compound farms) with diverse assemblage of wild and cultivated species of flora
(and fauna), in an amorphous mixture (Sambo, 2014; Chivenge et al.,
2015; Ogunwasi and Ibrahim, 2016), i.e., with no standard pattern of
arrangements, except that they adjoin living homes (Essien et al., 2013). In forested areas, the vicinity of the homestead
also provides refuge to an array of wildlife species that are also exploited by
the rural households as bush meat, which in recent times has become scarcer due
to overexploitation as result of population boom (Hamadina et al., 2007; Okiwelu et al.,
2009).  The homesteads and their
immediate vicinities, therefore, provide food and nutrition security for the
rural households, more so in difficult times such as during periods of disaster
or ecological disruptions, such as floods, resulting from climate change (Sambo,
2014; Chivenge et al., 2015).

In general, the Niger Delta area
is relatively free of significant natural disasters such as earthquakes,
tsunamis, violent winds, wild fire, and landslides. However, the Niger delta is
not immune to man-made disasters, and quite prone to flooding due to its low-lying
terrain coupled with heavy rainfall regime. 
The communities evaluated in this study are found within the plains lying
between Orashi River and Sombreiro River, which is prone to severe
flash-floods.  Recently (in 2012) the
area experienced an unprecedented flood episode that led to the shutdown of oil
and gas operations, and large-scale evacuation of entire households in the affected
villages (Mmom and Aifesehi, 2013).  The
flood, which lasted for a few months, submerged several villages, farmlands,
and home gardens, which greatly demoralised the rural folks (Mmom and Aifesehi,
2013).  This scenario of flash-flood can
be used to glimpse into the possible effects of climate change on rural
communities in the Niger Delta, given the forecast that climatic change can
cause similar events (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2014). The local
adaptation mechanisms, therefore, need to be explored in order to confront the
severity of effects of climate change on the wellbeing of the smallholder
farmers in future (Mwaniki et al.,

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In the Niger Delta, petroleum
hydrocarbon exploration activities (such as seismic surveys, land take as well
as drilling and completion of exploratory/appraisal wells) commenced in the
1940s, but commercial production started in 1958 (Enemugwem, 2009).  Ever since then, the exploration and production
of petroleum hydrocarbon intensified, as the Delta proved prolific with
continuous discovery of more oil fields and reserves (both onshore and
offshore).  There are more than x nos of oilfields in the Niger Delta (x offshore, x onshore),
leading to the drilling of oil wells, and installation of hundreds of
kilometres flowlines/ pipeline, flowstations, tank farms, and oil export terminals.  In addition, gas associated with the
production of oil and gas has been routinely flared or vented into the atmosphere
until recently (about a decade) when concerns about greenhouse gas emissions
heightened.  The petroleum hydrocarbon
activities that result in ecological damages include discharge of obnoxious
gases (through flaring, venting and exhaust emissions), oil/chemical spills,
and improper waste handling/disposal. Social challenges are exacerbated by land
take and the fallout of adverse ecological impacts, including climate change.

Due to concerns with the effects
of gas flaring on the environment, including climate change; and the need to
improve foreign earnings (Emam, 2015), Nigeria
embarked on a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project. The aim was to harness the
country’s natural gas resources, leading to the establishment of the Nigerian
Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Plant at Bonny Island (Nigeria), with several gas
processing plants to supply the processed gas input to the NLNG Plant. One of
such plants is the Obite Gas Processing Plant, which is located in the study
area – generally a rural setting with subsistent livelihoods.  In addition to the gas processing plant,
three captive power plants were installed, to valorise the gas that would
otherwise be flared, to generate electricity (Biogeochem Associates Ltd., 2014).  The electricity generated is distributed to
the communities in the study area, as part of ‘corporate social responsibility’
and in a bid to satisfy the ‘host communities’.

At the time of this study, the oil
and gas facilities within the study area included 1) a Flow-station (where oil
from clusters of well are pooled into a single stream), a Gas Treatment Centre,
a Production Cluster, numerous oil and gas wells, and a network of pipelines of
different sizes (Biogeochem Associates Ltd., 2014). The ecological and social
footprint of the oil and gas industry manifests as potpourri of adverse effects
resulting from myriad of technical activities, influx of people in search of
opportunities, and accelerated ‘community development’ precipitating as
socio-cultural and ecological challenges (Ubom, 2010; Hamadina and Anyanwu,
2012).  One of such effects is the
expansion of built-up areas, changes in housing types, and destruction of flora
around the homesteads to pave way for modern housing types. However, there is a
dearth of information on the ecological resilience (in terms of floral
diversity) of the areas around homesteads and their role as source of support
to rural households in the communities in times of difficulty.

The nutritional status of Nigerian
families is, perhaps, the most precarious in sub-Saharan Africa: one in three
children is either stunted or malnourished, yet another one in five is said to
be wasted (Nwaneke and Chude, 2017).  To
tackle this scenario, Nwaneke and Chude (2017) reported that Nigeria, together
with interested entities, has put in place elaborate intervention measures in
the form of food fortification, supplementation and provision of therapeutic
foods to the target population, to ensure food security.  Despite spirited intervention by the Nigerian
government and other interested entities, the nutritional security of Nigerians
does not seem to abet (Nwaneke and Chude, 2017).  In general, it has been reported that, over
the years, homestead gardens have supported the rural households with provision
of additional income, as source of food and augmenting family finances (Osewa et al., 2013)

This study was undertaken to assess
the floral diversity around rural homesteads in the Niger Delta. The study has
identified plants with great potentials as source of food, especially the underutilised
ones, within the vicinity of homesteads of some communities in the Niger
Delta.  The study also ascertained the
potentials of the underutilised plant species for ensuring food and nutrition
security of people trapped between material poverty and ecological challenges
resulting from hydrocarbon exploitation and compounded by climate change.Study Methodology/ ApproachCharacteristics of the Study CommunitiesThe study communities are located
in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area (equivalent of a County) of Rivers
State, in the oil producing Niger Delta region of Nigeria (Fig. 1).  The communities belong to the Egi clan (made
up of 16 constituent communities). For this study, eight communities were
selected based on nearness to petroleum facilities, size, relative accessibility
or remoteness.  Thus, the eight
communities encompass both rural and urbanising communities, as well as
cosmopolitan and non-cosmopolitan ones (Plate 1).Prior to production, exploration
activities have been carried out leading to the discovery and commencement of commercial-scale
production of crude oil in the Niger Delta. 
Consequently several oil production facilities were installed, upgraded
or decommissioned as the need arose in the course of production and further
exploration activities.  This has inadvertently
affected the ecological setting of the respective communities, as they
dramatically transformed from sleepy rural setting to vibrant urban-like
communities, with ‘modern’ neighbourhoods springing up alongside rural
homesteads (Hamadina and Anyanwu, 2012).The soils in the study area are
generally acidic, loamy sand and support luxurious native vegetation, although
mostly in a disturbed state at the time of this study (Biogeochem Associates
Ltd., 2014).  The ecosystem of the study
area consists mainly of farmlands, fallow re-growth, swamp forests, secondary
forests, and isolated patches primary forests (some are left as ‘restricted
places’ spiritual sites).Survey,
Identification and Evaluation of Plant Species Plant biodiversity was assessed
using a mix of methods, which included field identification, and sampling along
transects, in each of the communities studied. Transects were cut across the
various ecotypes found within and outside the immediate vicinity of homesteads.
In addition to transect sampling, interviews were conducted with the local
inhabitants using appropriate plant specimen. 
Samples of plants that were not identifiable in the field were brought
to the herbarium of the Department of Plant Science and Biotechnology,
University of Port Harcourt Nigeria, for proper identification.  The keys of Hutchinson
and Dalziel (1958; 1963; 1968; 1973) were used to identify plant

Each of the plant species
identified during the field survey was evaluated for their future potentials by
searching through several online databases of plant species and their uses
around the world. Information on local uses of the identified plants was
gleaned from published and unpublished sources, including consultations with
local inhabitants of the study area. The consultations with local inhabitants
were in the form of face-to-face interviews and focus group discussions (FGDs)
with inhabitants of the respective communities studied.