Deforestation in Nigeria
As of 2005, Nigeria has the highest rate of deforestation in the world according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Between 2000 and 2005 the country lost 55.7% of its primary forests, and the rate of forest change increased by 31.2% to 3.12% 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.
In 2005 12.2%, the equivalent of 11,089,000 hectares (27,400,000 acres) had been forested in Nigeria. Between 1990 and 2000, Nigeria lost an average of 409,700 hectares of forest every year equal to an average annual deforestation rate of 2.38%. Between 1990 and 2005, in total Nigeria lost 35.7% of its forest cover, or around 6,145,000 hectares.
Deforestation is a process where vegetation is cut down without any simultaneous replanting for economic or social reasons. Deforestation has negative implications on the environment in terms of soil erosion, loss of biodiversity ecosystems, loss of wildlife and increased desertification among many other reasons. Deforestation also has impacts on social aspects of the country, specifically regarding economic issues, agriculture, conflict and most importantly, quality of life. According to data taken over 2000 to 2005 Nigeria, located in the western region of Africa, has the largest deforestation rates in the world, having lost 55.7% of their primary forests. Mongabay defines primary forests as forests with no visible signs of past or present human activities.
The annual rate of deforestation in Nigeria is 3.5%, approximately 350,000-400,000 hectares per year. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations lists 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. Many aspects of the outline are currently not being met and will continue to have detrimental effects if not quickly addressed.
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. A study conducted from 1901 to 2005 gathered that there was a temperature increase in Nigeria of 1.1 °C, while the global mean temperature increase was only 0.74 °C. The same study also found in the same period of time that the amount of rainfall in the country decreased by 81mm. It was noticed that both of these trends simultaneously had sharp changes in the 1970s.
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% of the total carbon emissions of the country.
Nigeria’s wide biodiversity of 899 species of birds, 274 mammals, 154 reptiles, 53 amphibians and 4,715 species of higher plants will also be strongly affected by the negative impacts of deforestation. The numbers of the rare Cross River gorilla have decreased to around 300 individuals because of poaching by locals and mass habitat destruction. Although much of the motivation of deforestation stems from economic reasons it has also led to a lot of economic problems in an already unstable country. Along with economic issues, deforestation has made it so that the land is incapable of as much agricultural production which is part of many people’s survival. Issues such as these and the subject of the environment itself has contributed to many conflicts in the country and even executions of environmental activists, such as Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
Much of the allowance for deforestation in Nigeria comes from their demand for fuel wood. 90% of the Nigerian population stated that they relied on kerosene as the main energy source for cooking but because it is expensive and often unavailable, 60% said they used 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. There are also incentives to people living in rural areas surrounding the process of deforestation because it is a source of income to many of them. They extremely high levels of poverty in the country are very much connected to the issue of deforestation.
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. 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.
Any solution to the problem of deforestation in Nigeria must be an approach that incorporates and aggressively targets all aspects that are related to the problem. Teach each should include areas of energy alternatives, improved technology, forestry management, economic production, agriculture and security of the locals that are dependent on the land. Energy alternatives include hydro power, solar energy and wind energy. Solar energy is a great option for Nigeria and will have exceptional results due to its geographical location. Nigeria has already implemented windmills in some of its states but the more this approach is taken on the more energy that will be produced in an environmentally sound and efficient way. Each of these proposals is accepted globally as good alternatives to current energy production methods and have been encouraged by many environmental organizations. Improving the technology of cook stoves will be especially effective for Nigeria which currently has many households that require fuel wood for their cooking methods. In 2005 a group of countries, called the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, developed a program to reduce the rates of deforestation that contribute to CO2 emissions. The program is designed for all developing countries with a rainforest. The developing countries receive money upon successful completion of lowering their country’s emissions. A similar concept has been designed by REDD, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries. In REDD the countries are able to receive much more money in the form of carbon credits which can be spent on more environmentally safe practices.
Deforestation all over the globe is threatening the sustainability of the environment but has had especially detrimental effects in Nigeria due to their high rates. Deforestation puts at risk all aspects of the environment, the economy and of the citizens of the country.
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% of Nigeria is protected under IUCN categories I-V.
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