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Addressing Nigeria’s deforestation issue

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By Usman Oladimeji

Forest cover has been decreasing at the rate of 3.5% to 3.7% per year.

Over the past few decades, Nigeria has experienced a rapid decline in its forest cover, leading to one of the highest rates of deforestation globally. This trend has raised concerns about the future of the country’s forest resources, as both the size and quality of Nigeria’s forests have been diminishing. In 1990, the country’s forests covered approximately 175,000km², which decreased to 135,000km² by 2000. From 2000 to 2004, approximately 75,195km² of untouched primary forests were reported to have depleted in the country, representing a significant loss of 55.7% of this natural landscape.

According to a study conducted by the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD), forest coverage in Nigeria has been decreasing at an alarming rate of 3.5% to 3.7% per year between 2000 and 2010. This equates to an annual loss of 350,000 to 400,000 hectares of forest land. If immediate action is not taken, the entire forest coverage of the country will be gone by 2052, based on the current deforestation rate of 3.5% per year.

Regulations governing forest management are outdated.

It is worth mentioning that forests play a crucial role in the economic growth of countries, offering a wide range of benefits. They provide essential resources like wood for construction, fuel, and paper. Forest ecosystems also provide various physical, biological, and chemical advantages. It supports nature-based tourism and ecotourism, contributing to the socio-cultural aspect of society. Forests not only enhance our knowledge of nature but also contribute largely towards medicine, specifically in the fields of immunology and disease studies.

Prior to the 1950s, the majority of Nigeria’s gross domestic product came from the forestry and agriculture industries. However, with the discovery of oil in the 1950s and early 1960s, this dynamic shifted. Currently, the regulations and guidelines governing forest management are outdated. Furthermore, there is a lack of effective oversight, monitoring, and protection of forested areas. The insufficient staffing and lack of basic infrastructure exacerbate these issues. Most forest reserves have moved away from the concept of sustainable forestry, where products extracted from the forest are supposed to be replenished by new growth.

Extensive farming has taken over forested regions.

The lack of accurate inventory records for resources hinders effective forest management. Community engagement in decision-making processes concerning forests is inadequate. Corruption, including financial misuse and unlawful activities, continues to impact the forestry sector. Nigeria experiences widespread clearing of primary forests, with state forestry departments struggling to safeguard the forest estate. Many forest reserves previously used for logging are now cleared and divided, with some repurposed for alternative activities. Meanwhile, extensive farming has taken over a substantial portion of forested regions.

Just like illegal and random cutting down of trees occurs in the natural forests, urban development without careful planning also contributes to deforestation. After studying the forests in Nigeria and analyzing various projects, recommendations were suggested to address the issue of forest depletion in the country. Nigeria stands out from other countries in its lack of a formal forestry law. Without a national Forestry Act, the country’s forest cover continues to diminish. Implementing such legislation could halt this decline, providing essential protection and promoting the sustainable stewardship of Nigeria’s forest resources.

Related Article: Nigeria can curb its 3.7% deforestation rate

Also, it is crucial for trees to be planted and replanted nationwide. State governments should work together with non-governmental groups to make this happen. Sustainable forestry methods need to be encouraged. Laws against illegal logging and harmful timber extraction must be strictly enforced by the government, using advanced technology like remote sensors, drones, and satellite images. Collaboration with local communities, traditional leaders, and NGOs is crucial for educating people about the significance of protecting forests and biodiversity. Employing skilled forest professionals and equipped guards is necessary for ensuring the safety of the forests.

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