In spite of their immeasurable benefits to life sustenance, the sustainable management of forest and forest resources in Nigeria is fraught with innumerable challenges such as the conflicting roles of the various stakeholders involved in forest management. Forests have since ancient times played an important role in the lives of people and the environment in general. That is, forests provided and continue to provide numerous benefits to humanity. This has repercussions for the environmental and livelihood patterns on the people especially the poor and the people who depend on the forest. It is in this vein that this study was undertaken to assess the effects of deforestation on the livelihood patterns of the forest fringe communities (farmers) in the Odighi community. The study adopted the case study research design in undertaking this systematic enquiry. This was adopted to help acquire knowledge on the current situation with regards to the phenomenon under consideration. Both primary and secondary data were collected and used for the study. The study employed both qualitative and quantitative data gathering techniques to collect the necessary data and was analyzed in great depth to determine their implications for changing forest cover and livelihood patterns in the study area. The study showed that deforestation has affected crop production in the areas of delayed commencement of planting seasons, pest and diseases infestation, level and quality of crop yields and reduction in the income levels of farmers. The study recommended among other things, the continuous education and sensitization of farmers, strengthening of the public institution stakeholders and promotion of active research that will ensure a decline in deforestation.
- Background of the study
Today forest occupy approximately one third of earth land area, account for two third of the leaf area of plants on land and contain 70 percent of carbon present in living things .Thus, the food and agricultural organization (FAO) of the united nations estimates that in 2000, 38.7 million square kilometer of land on earth is forested. Forest is essential to all human life because people who live within the forest zone depend on them for survival in many ways. These include food, medicine, fuel wood, shelter, clothing, timber, construction materials e.t.c. The forest also clean the air, water, ameliorate the climate, check water and wind erosion (Azeke, 2003). Forest contains roughly 90 percent of the world terrestrial biodiversity.
However, forest is a major causality of civilization as human population have increased over the past several thousand years (with the world population today estimated to number 7.001 billion by united state census Bureau) bringing deforestation, pollution and industrial usages problems to this important biome (forest).The contributions of forests to human well-being can only be sustained if the forests are themselves sustained.(Food and Agricultural Organization, FAO 1994).But Nigeria has lost most of her natural forest cover which is a serious problem, with forest loss occurring at a rate of 3.5 percent per year, which translate to a loss of 350,000 to 400,000 hectares per year (Adedoyin 2001, Aruofor 2000). Since 1990, the country has lost over 6 million ha or 36 percent of its forests cover. Nigeria has been losing an average 11 percent of its primary forest each year. This figure gives Nigeria the highest deforestation rate of natural forest in the world.
Deforestation is the removal of forest stand where the land is put to a non forest use (SAFnet Dictionary). Deforestation results from subsistence farming, commercial farming, road construction projects, logging, mining and dam construction. However, Hazel and Lutz (1998) attributed resources degradation in extensive rain fed farming (characteristic of tropical forest environment) areas to poverty and population growth. Scherr and Hazell (1994) also identified conversion of primary forest to agriculture, with attendant loss of biodiversity, climate change and expose of fragile soil as part of environmental problems emanating from rain fed farming (which cause deforestation).Deforestation could be caused by plantations and commodities and settlements.
1.2 Problem Statement
Forest fragmentation and deforestation remain as central problems in Nigeria, especially the high forest zone of Nigeria due, primarily, to both legal and illegal timber exploitation and arable crop farming (Amisah et al., 2009). The consequence has been a dramatic change in climate and evolution of strategies to sustain rural livelihoods. In most African countries the spate of deforestation has increased over the past four decades, with significant effects on rainfall, temperature, water resources, wildfire frequency, agriculture and livelihoods (Amisah et al., 2009).
In less developed countries, particularly those in Africa, livelihood insecurity remains a major problem (Shepherd et al., 1999 in Tropenbos International, 2005). Forest dependent communities in these countries, rely heavily on their farmlands. Many forest dependent people employ a diversity of means to help meet basic needs: food and cash crop production, forest and tree product gathering and income-earning enterprises both on and off the farm. Often, the poorer the household, the more diverse the sources of their livelihood, as the needs for the year must be made up from various off-farm as well as on-farm natural resources, and often from migrant labouring as well (Shepherd et al., 1999 in Tropenbos International, 2005).
At the beginning of the 21st Century, a third of Nigeria’s land area of 238,533 km2 was covered by high forest whilst the remaining was savannah woodland. Currently, only about 10 percent of this area remains as forested land. Logging, bush fires, agricultural practices, excessive exploitation of Non Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) have been implicated (Amisah et al., 2009). Deforestation rates remain high and will probably increase in the coming years as the population grows and demand for new settlements, wood for construction, fuelwood, charcoal and food increases as a consequence (Amisah et al., 2009).
This frightening spate of forest degradation potentially poses enormous adverse effects on forest reserves. These forest communities exert excessive pressure on forest reserves as many of those living in such communities have their livelihoods predicated on the availability, access and utilization of forest products (Appiah, 2009).
The reasons being that, these forest resources are in a web within a system and any disturbance of one element will dislodge the equilibrium. Besides the imbalances created in the forests’ ecosystem, the depletion of the forest cover poses significant repercussions on the livelihood of people, particularly those in such forest fringe communities who depend heavily on the forest and its resources. It is in this vein that this study is being conducted to assess the effect of deforestation on livelihood patterns on forest communities in the Odighi community.
1.3 Research Questions
- What is the extent of deforestation in the Odighi community over the last ten years?
- What are the causes of deforestation in the Odighi community?
- What are the sources of livelihood in the Odighi community?
- How has the deforestation in the area affected the livelihood patterns in the study area?
1.4 Research Objectives
- Assess the extent of deforestation in the Odighi community.
- Identify the causes of deforestation in the Odighi community.
- Identify the sources of livelihood in Odighi community community
- Examine how deforestation has affected the livelihood patterns in the study area.
1.5 Scope of the Research
The scope of the research shows the coverage of study in terms of the context which also defines or influence the study this study focuses in deforestation in Odighi community in Edo state.
1.6 Significance of Study
Research is advanced in trying to understand the alternative livelihoods of forest communities. This work will go a long way to add to knowledge about the social and economic impacts of forest on the surrounding communities in Nigeria. The study will not only achieve its purpose but will also open up other avenues for further research to be done to add to the body of literature that exist on forestry and livelihoods as well as the impacts of forests have on communities that surrounds these areas in question.
The research is worth undertaking considering the frightening spate at which the country is losing it forest cover. It is obvious that the wave of deforestation is now knocking at the doors of existing forest and exerting maximum pressure on the regulatory processes of forest. The study will provide some useful reasons why we should preserve our forests beside sustainability reasons.
1.7 Organization of Chapters
The report was organized into five chapters. The first chapter which is the background of the study comprises of the general introduction, the problem statement, the research questions, research objectives and purpose, scope of the research, justification and organization of the research report.
Chapter two is basically a literature review on key terminologies and concepts related to deforestation on the livelihood patterns of forest communities in the study area. Findings from the various chapters informed the data needs and requirements for empirical data collection from the field.
The third chapter looks at the methodology and profile of the study region. The methodology considered the data needs, sources of data, types of data, data analysis, sampling technique and sample size among others. The profile of the case region on the other hand showed the physical, social and economic characteristics of the study region which influence or explained some of the findings that were obtained from the analysis.
The fourth chapter dealt with the analysis of primary data collected from the field. Tools such as matrices and charts were used to analyze the data and also, provided quick visual impressions of the findings. The key findings, conclusion and recommendations from the analysis were covered in the fifth chapter of the report.
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