Don urges governments to fund forest conservation

ForestWith sustainable conservation of forest ecosystems being undermined by social-cultural and economic factors, a university teacher, Prof. Gbadebo Osemeobo has urged the governments to adequately fund forest conservation practices in the country.

The Professor of Conservation Biology, Bell University of Technology, Ota, Ogun State, in an inaugural lecture, noted that conservation programmes have often treated local people as opponents rather than allies and partners.

He lamented that the rate at which the natural resources ecosystems were being depleted was daunting. For example, over 75 per cent of the natural habitats in Nigeria were lost by 1985. Yet the remaining 25 per cent of the natural habitats exit in pockets of forest, which were inadequate to conserve unless intensive management techniques were adopted.

Osemeobo suggested that a people oriented forest policy with 40per cent input from rural landowners, 30per cent input from state governments, 20per cent from the federal government and 10per cent input from the public.

According to him, the stakeholders in forest management in the country lack the required partnerships or working alliances with various other sectors of the economy, which are necessary to achieve lasting results in conservation programmes.

He noted that involvement of private sector in conservation activities for example, is visibly absent and this conforms to the exclusionary practices of forest conservation.

Osemeobo said the restriction of traditional landowners from resources use in protected forests, displacement of indigenous settlers from enclaves created for them during the era of forest reservation without adequate resettlement schemes, and lack of understanding of the surrounding settlements around protected forest by forest managers as some of the numerous problems with conservation within the protected model in developing countries.

The don further recommended that forest laws should be revised to reflect the realities of forest management and all international conventions to which Nigeria is a signatory should be domesticated to make them enforceable”.

He observed that researches on forest became important as a result of its enormous benefits to the society such as provision of food, shelter, genetic resources, medicines and energy among others to humanity.

Forests prevent erosion by reducing the raindrop impact on the soil surface and by absorbing water and not allowing it to directly run-off and remove topsoil”.

Accordingly, the Professor of conservation biology said smallholder farmers in the rain forest live in rural areas and their economy is land-based, hence, they sustained themselves from five major income lines, which forests provide.

He stated further that these include food and cash crop agriculture, forest products, livestock production of small ruminants-goats and sheep, non-farm activities like labour supply and trading as well as cultural practice such as worshiping of deities, performance of ceremonies and festivals adding that government should support them in terms of equipment and high breed of seedlings and species of animal.

The lecturer also urged people to develop environmentally friendly practices while also gearing up supports for government policies in forest management for the benefit of all.

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