Nigeria’s administration at the federal, state, and municipal levels should be concerned about UN reports that the country has the greatest rate of deforestation in the world.
The systematic reduction of forest cover as a result of human activity and natural disasters is known as deforestation.
The numbers are ominous and terrifying. The UN estimates that Nigeria loses 3.7 percent of its forest annually.
Nigeria, which has lost more than half of its primary forest in the last five years, is ranked as having the world’s greatest rate of primary forest deforestation by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).
According to the report, Nigeria lost 55.7% of its primary forests between 2000 and 2005, and the nation will have lost 97.8 kilohectares of natural forest by 2020.
According to the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), 96 of Nigeria’s indigenous forests have been lost to deforestation.
A lot of factors account for this problem. A primary factor is the pressure mounted on the natural forest cover by a galloping population. From just 45 million at Independence in 1960, Nigeria’s population has exploded in the past three decades to surpass the 200 million mark, and is estimated to hit 400 million by 2050 and put the country as the third most populous behind only India, and China.
Expectedly the quest for food security meant that more and more forest cover is being cleared for farming and other agricultural activities. This in addition to the fact that agriculture still follows the traditional farming practices requiring more land and less yield. Due to rapid urbanisation and industrialization, the pressure on the forest cover for more space and wood for housing needs, manufacturing, and construction of infrastructure for social amenities like hospitals and schools among others have been even more significant. Also, more than a half of the Nigerian population live below the poverty line, with most households unable to afford clean energy sources like gas, kerosene and electricity for cooking and largely depend on wood. Practically all the bakeries in Nigeria run on wood. The activities of logging companies and individuals are another factor, which is linked to weak enforcement and corruption. Natural factors like erosion, drought and desertification contribute their quota to the whole problem. Desert encroachment is a clear and present danger confronting 11 states in Nigerian’s North East and North West states, with many communities already overtaken by sand dunes. Nigeria is estimated to be losing 350,000 hectares of land to desert encroachment every year.
Encouragingly, the country has attempted to halt the rate of deforestation by introducing a number of policies, with an unclear success rate.
In 2021, Nigeria launched the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) strategy to curtail deforestation in the country with assistance from the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility of the World Bank as well as the United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN-REDD) programme, with technical assistance from other bodies such as the FAO, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), all in an attempt to tackle the wanton destruction of forests.
The government also gave paramilitary status to the National Parks Service (NPS) to strengthen its actions against poaching and trespasses on forest reserves.
With the latest data showing Nigeria is still the country leading in deforestation, it is doubtful if the government’s pledge at COP26 to end deforestation by 2030 will be kept.
One thing the government can do in the battle to stop deforestation is to create awareness among the citizenry about the problem, how it can affect them personally, and why and how they can contribute to solving the problem.
It will also be worthwhile to promote sustainable agricultural practices by adopting better and more modern farming practices and eschewing archaic land clearing activities like indiscriminate bush burning and promoting conservation agriculture, agroforestry, and the use of improved seeds and fertilisers. There is also the need to encourage sustainable forestry practices such as controlled logging, reforestation, and afforestation.
Borno State government’s goal to plant five million trees in 2023 to fight deforestation and desertification, as well as the project’s inclusion of schools. We think that other governments can use this model to change this dismal figure.
Governments at the federal, state, and local council levels can also assist organizations fighting for environmental protection and encourage efforts by people and organizations to plant trees.