Experts identify deforestation as catalyst to social upheavals

Beyond what is currently happening in the country as related to the crises between Fulani herdsmen on one hand, and food shortage occasioned by the vagaries in weather condition, experts are worried that policy makers at all tiers of government are paying little or no attention to the continuous deforestation in Nigeria, which they identified as major cause of the disturbance.

To some commentators, the quest by the cattlemen to feed their animals made them to look for greener pastures, “whereas, this is always at variance with the condition of farmers who need to protect their farms, thus, a clear case of conflicting interest,” noted Pastor James Omotola, an environmentalist, who opined that as long as forest is disappearing, violent conflicts among the different groups with different interests as exemplified by the farmers and cattlemen, including famine, would be escalating.

Explaining further, another expert on environmental issues, Dr Michael Olatunji while describing deforestation as a process where vegetation is cut down without any simultaneous replanting for economic or social reasons, added that deforestation has the capability of  becoming a national malaise, capable of raising tension among ethnic groups, neighbours and communities, who may be striving for their existential needs.

Moreover, it was generally agreed that deforestation do have negative implications on the environment in terms of soil erosion, loss of biodiversity ecosystems, loss of wildlife and increased desertification among many other reasons.

Speaking on the danger posed by the scenario in Sangotedo, Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State, at an event of private developers last week, Mr John Amanze, an environmentalist, expressed concern at the rate which forest is disappearing in Nigeria, especially as a result of physical and infrastructure developments, coupled with reliance on firewood which is the only source of energy in many parts of the country.

Much of the allowance for deforestation in Nigeria comes from their demand for fuel wood. 90 per cent of the Nigerian population  relied on kerosene as the main energy source for cooking, but because it is expensive and often unavailable, 60 per cent use fuel wood instead.

The usage of fuel wood for cooking is higher in rural areas of the country where more of the population is concentrated.

“Granted that we are blessed by nature to have rain when is due and good arable lands, but our attitudes towards our forests, coupled with the effects of climate change that our policy makers refused to duly recognised may spell disaster of unmitigated proportion in the not so distant future,” he warned.

Citing the findings as contained on Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) last three months’ review of the situation, it was noted that annual rate of deforestation in Nigeria is 3.5 per cent, approximately 350,000-400,000 hectares per year.

In the review, FAO listed the requirements of sustainable forest management as: extent of forest resources, biological diversity, forest health and vitality, productive functions of forest resources, protective functions of forest resources, socio-economic functions and a legal, policy and institutional framework.

“Unfortunately, many aspects of the outline are currently not being met and will continue to have detrimental effects if not quickly addressed, regretting that a lot of damage has been done to Nigeria’s land through the processes of deforestation, notably contributing to the overwhelming trend of desertification.  Desertification is the encroachment of the desert on land what was once fertile.

“From 1990 to 2010 Nigeria nearly halved their amount of Forest Cover, moving from 17,234 to 9041 hectares. The combination of extremely high deforestation rates, increased temperatures and decreasing rainfall are all contributing to the desertification of the country.

“The carbon emissions from deforestation is also said to account for 87 per cent of the total carbon emissions of the country,” says the report.

“The current state of the environment and has been allowed by the State Department of Forestry who have not implemented any forest management policies in efforts to curb deforestation since the 1970s, is regrettable.

“Without any conservation efforts or education, the society is not aware of how to properly treat finite natural resources. Very few steps have been made to try to lower the deforestation rates and to stop illegal logging,” the reports indicted.

It was noted that Nigeria is home to 1417 known species of fauna and at least 4715 species of vascular plants according to figures from the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. Although national parks and reserves have increased in the country only 3.6 per cent of Nigeria is protected under IUCN categories I-V.

As of 2005, Nigeria has the highest rate of deforestation in the world according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

Between 2000 and 2005 the country lost 55.7 per cent of its primary forests, and the rate of forest change increased by 31.2 per cent to 3.12 per cent per annum. Forest has been cleared for logging, timber export, subsistence agriculture and notably the collection of wood for fuel which remains problematic in Western Africa, especially, Nigeria.