Banditry, encroachment, poor funding threaten Nigeria’s once lively National park | Dailytrust

Banditry, encroachment, poor funding threaten Nigeria’s once lively National park

Group Discussion With inhabitant of one of the communities, Bugai

“This National Park used to be a beehive of activities with tourists trooping in from all over the country and students who come for their internship, among others. It is now nothing to compare to its old self,” Malam Rabiu Babayo, a 69-year-old farmer in Goron Dutse, told this reporter. Mr Babayo lives some 2km to the rich but deserted Kamuku National Park.

The Kamuku National Park, situated in Kaduna State, has a total land area of about 1,121 square kilometres.

The National Park Service Act, the law that established and guides the operation of National Parks in Nigeria, in Section IV (22a), outlines its functions including to “ensure that the National Park is set aside exclusively for the propagation, protection and management of the vegetation and wild animals in the National Park.”

Forest resources, lying within the park, can serve various uses such as commercial values, ecological significance, aesthetic value and can also support the life and economy of the local community where such forest is located.

Kamuku National Park map

The Kamuku National Park is blessed with Non-timber Forest Product (NTFP), mainly derived from a large variety of plants and animals and can be consumed and processed into different sets of products.

Apart from the forest resources, the park also has other sights for tourist attraction including the Tsaunin-Rema, a hill formed out of large boulders arranged on top of each other, the Goron-Dutse inselberg and the Dogon-Ruwa Waterfall.

The aim of setting up parks in Nigeria, Kamuku in particular, is being threatened and defeated, as the park has not been put to optimal use and the forest cover is now being lost to poachers, deforestation, encroachment and insecurity.

These negative developments have led to the abandonment of the park by tourists and even the locals.

When asked why there were little or no tourist visits to the park, Malam Yahaya Barde of Goron-Dutse said: “These sights of attraction are in very bad shape as visitors have reduced drastically. Insecurity in and around Birnin Gwari has made tourism business to drop drastically. To get this place working again, the issue of security must be solved and normalcy brought back to the region,” he said.

In an attempt to assess the current situation in the park, this reporter went there sometime in October, however, he was unable to enter the hinterland due to the security situation.

Forested Area of KNP

A waste of a park?

Nigeria is losing a lot in revenue due to lack of adequate funding of national parks and forest reserves, this is evident in the Karen Hasting’s report on Parks Rating in Africa posted on Planet ware (a travel guide and adventure website for tourists), with no Nigerian park ranked among the best games reserves in Africa published on the website. This, probably, could be attributable to the poor funding of the sector.

Records from the Budget Office of the Federation for 2019 showed that all the seven national parks in the country got an allocation of N2,946,424,316 billion, a paltry sum compared to what is obtainable in other national parks across Africa.

For the year under review, Kamuku National Park got a total allocation of N294,322,493 million. It is worthy of note that most times, not all the budgetary allocation was released.

Meanwhile, poor funding, among other factors, has left the park in very poor condition as the tenders could not use modern technology for park surveillance and monitoring. Training of staff has also remained an issue.

It is estimated that about 30% of the world area is covered by forests. Among all the continents, Africa has the largest forest areas of about 33%, followed by Latin America with 25%. The total global forest area is 8.4 billion acres while the tropical forest is about 4.3 billion acres in terms of land size. (Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO Report 2017).

In Nigeria, according to the FAO, 9.9% or about 9,041,000 of forested Nigeria had 382,000ha of planted forest. Between 1990 and 2010, Nigeria lost an average of 409,650ha or 2.8% per year. In total, between 1990 and 2010, Nigeria lost 47.5% of its forest cover or around 8,193,000ha.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS)’s Gross Domestic GDP report, the forestry subsector under the agriculture sector grew by 2.08% in Q3 2016, 3.89% in Q2 2017, 3.95% in Q3 2017, 3.72% in Q3 2018, in Q4 2018 it grew by 1.73% and in Q1 2019 by 2.19%.

The above data shows the sector has not been harnessed to its fullest while a lot has been left to waste or is underutilized.

Forest composition of the park

Satellite images of the park were acquired by this reporter. They were analyzed to determine the land use land cover changes (LULC) of the park from 1999-2019, a period of 20 years. LULC is a change detection for vegetation across a region. The analysis was divided into three tranches of 1999, 2009, and 2019 to check the change in forest composition of the park.

The satellite image was analysed with ArcGIS 10.5 by this reporter with 4 classification schemes selected, namely: vegetation, water bodies, rock outcrop and bare ground. ArcGIS is a software used for satellite image analysis using the Normalised Differential Vegetation Index (NDVI).

After the analysis, this reporter found out that the forest composition as of 1999 was 45.7% and water bodies, rock outcrop and bare ground made the other percentages. From 2009, that is about a 10 years difference of converting the forest to a National Park, the forest has grown considerably to about 51.8%.

Experts attribute this steady growth to effective management and the policy put in place during the first 10 years of establishing the National Park.

Satellite image analysis of the park as at 2020 showed that the forest composition was 46.2% which showed a drastic reduction, this majorly is caused by illegal felling of trees, poor forest management practices, poor budgetary allocation to national parks, poachers’ activities and encroachment around the park.

Forest classification using the Normal Differential Vegetation Index (NVDI) was used by this reporter to also know the forest composition around the community that borders the park and which has more cases of encroachment.

Using height and density classes, the distribution in meters are as follows: Bugai (489.3), Kakangi (721.42), Mando (453.92), Goron Dutse (653.75), Gwaska (468.88), Doka (744.41). Doka has the highest density height out of the six communities selected. This rich forest is being threatened by deforestation. This reporter’s visit to Doka shows the high production of charcoal there through tree logging.

This caused a sharp decrease in forest composition. Satellite image analysis shows that this decrease is attributed to indiscriminate cutting down of trees and bush burning in the park, most especially from bandits and cattle rustlers, who most times set the forest on fire after their locations have been discovered by security. They then flee to a new settlement within the park.

In other instances, it is due to the activities of poachers and locals encroaching on the forest. This is evident as it is seen in Doka village where charcoal business is thriving. Investigation by this reporter shows that the primary source of wood for the charcoal merchants is from the forested area of the National Park.

“Wood charcoal production quantity (ton) in Nigeria was reported at 4,022,763 tons in 2011”, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources.

Mr. Ya’u Danbaba, a charcoal producer in Doka village, said charcoal is produced using both earth mound kiln and earth pit kiln methods. The major difference between the two methods is that the latter is done by digging a large pit and logs of wood are put into it.

He said: “The kiln is lit and left to burn slowly for up to one to two weeks and in some cases three, depending on the tree species used. Once satisfied with the outcome the charcoal is then removed and bagged to be sold to merchants who sell to individuals for domestic use.”

When asked the source of wood for charcoal production in the area, Mr. Danbaba admitted that it was mostly from nearby bushes, and when asked if they had to encroach on the park to get wood, he said no.

Meanwhile, satellite image analysis shows that there has been encroachment on the park. When the coordinates taken by this reporter were geo-referenced with the satellite images, it shows that the same part where the forest is depleted on the ground is the same as what is obtainable on the satellite images.

According to a 2009 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, “Studies have identified charcoal production as one of the main drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in Africa.”

“Charcoal is the major source of carbon monoxide and it depletes the natural content of the environment; its implication is not only on the environment but has health implication for those producing it and the surrounding environment,” says Osho Abimbola, co-founder of Climate Change and Environmental Research Group (C-CERG)

Dr. Aisha Abdullahi of Safe Health Foundation, an NGO engaged in environmental health hazard sensitization when asked about the health implication of charcoal, noted the environmental problem it causes.

“Charcoal creates air pollution which in most cases causes respiratory diseases. The small particles penetrate deep into the lungs which in turn increase the users’ risk of respiratory infections”.

She went further by advocating for clean energy saying, “People should know that even if all this source of fuel comes cheap, the implication on their health is enormous. They are advised to adopt a clean and safe method in cooking and other domestic uses.”

Satellite Image Analysis of Vegetation Spread among communities

Status of plant and animal species

Structural attributes like tree height, water bodies, density and species composition that were recorded from sample plots were used to characterise the forest community of KNP, most especially among communities visited by this reporter.

There are several flora species that the reporter found in this area. Based on the highest IVs, the principal species are Isoberlinia Doka woodland, grassland, gallery or riparian vegetation and shrubland composed of trees.

Others are Uapacamonotes Afornosia association (V-togoensis, M. Kekrstingi afzelia Africana etc. In the low ground near Numanshi stream which stretches into the park serving as a source of water for animals during the dry season, this reporter found terminalia Pseudocederela Mitrogya association with; Terminallia macrotera, Mitragyna inermis, philiostigma inermis.

Insecurity as a challenge

Despite its proximity to the Nation’s capital, KNP has been faced with security challenges over the years. Tourists could not travel to the park for fear of insecurity. The forest resources are also not spared as bandits now have unhindered access into the park.

KNP shares boundary between Kaduna and Zamfara states and insecurity has made it nearly impossible for rangers to even carry out routine surveillance in the National Park as bandits and cattle rustler activities are on the increase. This has affected the vegetal cover drastically as proper forest management practices could not be put in place by the management according to the reconnaissance survey carried out by the reporter.

Malam Ya’u, a driver in his mid-50s, who plies the Kaduna-Birnin Gwari road, narrates his huddles in the hands of bandits to this reporter. “I have lost farm, house and cows to bandits. Some of my relations have to relocate to a safer town due to insecurity.”

It was noticed that most houses on the road are without occupants, as the inhabitants have all fled for their lives.

his reporter also visited Kakangi, a town at the southern part of Bugai District of the park. “Kakangi has become a ghost town. Kakangi prided itself as the biggest producer of maize, millet and sorghum in Bugai district but is now deserted with only a few inhabitants seen around,” Malam Rufai Kakangi, an octogenarian, told this reporter while recounting his losses due to banditry.

“Cattle rustlers came to our village, took away our cattle and ran straight back into the park. The park that was once a blessing to the community is now turning into a curse, he lamented.

Forested area of Kamuku National Park

Expert speaks

A natural resources specialist, Dr. Mairo Mohammed of the Department of Geography, Federal University of Technology Minna, called for more protection for the park.

“In developing countries (Nigeria inclusive), natural resources in protected areas are being destroyed not through bad planning, greed, or even ignorance. Attention in managing protected areas should go further than design to manage protected areas in a socially aware manner; they cannot survive their purpose unless the rest of the environment (biosphere) is maintained and conserved,” she said.

Mr. Theophelous Parkwat, a retired ranger,  who works with the National Park advised the management to gear up security.

“There is a need for the management of Nigeria National Parks to increase the security status of parks by employing more game guards and rangers, procuring security facilities such as firearm and communication gadgets and imbibing good maintenance and management cultures. One of the best ways of guaranteeing effective and efficient facilities and park resources is the employment from the host communities.”

He recommended that “the various agencies responsible for the provision of facilities and delivery of services should be brought together for effective coordination of the facilities and services within the park, and constant dialogue and collaboration between the park authority and community leaders.”

He maintained that the Nigerian government should enhance biodiversity protection by incorporating biodiversity concerns into development planning, expand and consolidate protected area networks.

Efforts to talk to the Conservator-General of National Park Services, Dr. Ibrahim Musa Goni, on the issues were not successful.

Support for this report was provided by the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) and is made possible through funding support from the Ford Foundation