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Experts worry as climate change, insecurity, pandemic threaten Nigeria’s forests

Stakeholders in the forestry sector have expressed concerns over the impact of climate change, worsening security challenges and Covid-19 pandemic on the safety of forests…

Stakeholders in the forestry sector have expressed concerns over the impact of climate change, worsening security challenges and Covid-19 pandemic on the safety of forests across Nigeria.

They lamented that terrorists had taken over many forest reserves in the country, making Nigeria’s forests to be one of the most threatened on the planet.

The experts spoke at the 8th biennial conference of Forestry and Forest Products Society (FFPS) tagged ‘Forestry and the Challenges of Insecurity, Climate Change and Covid-19 Pandemic in Nigeria’ and held recently at the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN) in Ibadan, Oyo State.

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In his address, Director-General, FRIN, Prof Adeshola Adepoju, said insecurity had become worrisome and more complex in recent times that it had constituted a cog in the wheel of progress of forestry research, administration and development.

He said, “The forest that serves as a field laboratory for the forest scientists, forestry practitioners, environmentalists, ecologists and all stakeholders in the broad field of forestry is no longer safe. To worsen the situation, forest reserves, national parks, strict nature reserve and biospheres are now hidden abodes for the kidnappers, bandits and robbers.

“The forest sector in Nigeria has been severely impacted by the country’s high prevalence of insurgency. Another major challenge facing the world today is climate change with its attendant problems of global warming, high carbon emission, rise in sea level, unpredictable rainfall, low agricultural productivity, incessant occurrence of forest fire and host of other negative effects.”

However, the FFPS President, Prof. S.O Akindele, said the society is committed to research towards sustainable forest management and wise utilization of tropical forest products, adding that the theme of the conference was carefully chosen in order to draw attention to “three major issues that have impacted our forests and the ways they are managed in recent years.”

“This conference is coming up in a post-Covid-19 pandemic era and a time when insecurity in Nigeria is very alarming,” Akindele added.

The keynote speaker, Prof Paul Folorunsho Adeogun, emphasized that forestry practice in Nigeria had become endangered in recent times due largely to widespread incidences of killings, raping and kidnapping for ransom by armed men who have taken over many of the forest estates in the country.

“No wonder therefore, the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) declared Nigeria forests as one of the most threatened on the planet because of high population growth rates, conversion for subsistence, industrial agriculture and illegal logging and unsafe environment,” Adeogun said.

Adeogun, who lectures at the University of Maiduguri, Borno State, said the trend, coupled with climate change and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, had affected the economic growth, foreign exchange earnings and stability of the country.

He stated, “We all know that forestry is rural based, hence the prevailing situation in most part of Nigeria rural areas does not favor practice of forestry and agriculture and if care is not taken the downward economic growth will continue and this will not augur well for the wellbeing of the citizenry.

“The change in climate has affected the durations and intensities of rainfall which has resulted into runoffs and flooding in many places in Nigeria (Enete IC, 2014). While n the southern states the precipitations have continued to rise, the northern states particularly the front-line states are experiencing intermittent drought which has made forest or plantation establishment a real challenge in these vast lands.

“The most devastating effect on forest that could ever be is the forest fire. Fire is better not set or allow to enter a plantation than to mitigate it. Its effect is always permanent and costly in a plantation except it is used deliberately as a management prescription. Therefore, fire is a big challenge to our forest either in the south or in the north of Nigeria.

“In 2020, the global pandemic caused a world-wide uproar in the health sector which reverberated so much in the forestry sector.  There was a ban on the movement of people from one place to another. This impacted forestry activities.”

The speaker maintained that there is a need to strengthen all aspects of social lives such as provision of adequate security for forest guards and forest estates, mitigating the effects of climate change through development, provision and support of mitigation practices.

“There should also be adequate sensitization on the need to get vaccinated against any kind of current or emerging epidemic diseases,” he added.

The Oyo State Governor, Mr Seyi Makinde, who was represented at the event by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Mrs. Modupe Adeleye, described forestry as the bedrock of agriculture which “not only provides food security and nourishment but also serves as the primary source of livelihoods for millions of people in the rural and urban areas.”

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