Nigeria joined the rest of the world to mark the International Day of Forests on March 21.
This year’s theme, ‘Forest and Energy’, aims at raising awareness on the importance of all types of woodlands and trees and celebrate how they sustain and protect humanity.
Globally, this year’s theme highlighted the importance of wood energy in improving people’s lives, powering sustainable development and mitigating climate change.
However, the celebration in Nigeria was low key. Emphasis by government and non-governmental organisations was placed on tree planting, with the many functions of forests captured in a few instances.
For many people, forests are habitat for wildlife and trees; as against the fact that they (forests) do more in protecting and sustaining their lives.
Unfortunately, Nigeria’s forests have gradually been degraded by activities such as logging, expansion of agricultural lands and converting of forests to other uses, thus leading to a reduction of the forest cover from 10 per cent of the landmass to less than five per cent.
While such activities are crucial to countries’ economic development and the wellbeing of local communities, they may also undermine the valuable services that forests provide, including carbon sequestration, air and water filtration, soil fertility, as well as a source of income and jobs.
Evaluating Nigeria’s use of forests to generate energy, the Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Usman Jibril, lamented the high rate of consumption of fuel wood, which is estimated at about 87 percent with daily consumption rate put at 27.5 million kilogrammes per day.
The situation, he said, was alarming and unacceptable as it far exceeded the sustainable production from both the natural and artificial forests.
Jibril added that the ugly trend had led to a large scale deficit and degradation of forests nationwide in meeting fuel wood supply.
Speaking at an event to mark the day,the minister said: “To enhance the sustainable use of forests, government has put in place strategies such as control of wood exports through the instrument of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna), engagement of wood based industries in reforestation, enhancing conversion efficiency and increased value additions for processed wood before exportation.”
He said:”It is obvious that the national forests alone can no longer sustain the growing need for fuel wood consumption in the country, therefore there is the need for a paradigm shift to alternative sources.”
The alternative sources, according to him, included improved cooking stoves, increased planting of wood lots, putting an end to indiscriminate bush burning and illegal felling of trees and increased urban and rural tree planting amongst others.
However, there are other importance of forests as noted by experts. A UN report estimated that 1.6 billion people use forests as sources of livelihoods and income – for example by gathering building materials, fruits, nuts, mushrooms, honey and medicinal plants, harvesting wood, grazing livestock and hunting game.
Other functions of the forests as noted by the experts include climate change benefits. A complex and old growth forest ecosystem is said to continue to sequester and store high amounts of carbon, thus, sustainable forest management can improve the climate-mitigation functions through the protection of remaining primary forests, by enhancing carbon stocks, and through afforestation and reforestation.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations also noted that wood fuels provide 40 per cent of today’s global renewable energy – as much as solar, hydroelectric and wind power combined, adding that globally, forests hold energy content approximately 10 times that of the world’s annual primary energy consumption. They thus have significant potential as renewable resources to meet global energy demand. -Dailytrust