By Christian Njoku
The Nigerian Conservation Foundation, (NCF) has disclosed that only four per cent of the nation’s forest cover was left.
The disclosure was made by Dr Joseph Onoja, Director General of the Foundation on Saturday in Calabar during a One Day Sensitisation Programme on the adverse effect of unsustainable forest activities in Cross River.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that the theme of the Programme was: “the crisis of forest loss and threats to rural economy in Cross River.
Onoja who was represented by Alhaji Mohammed Boye, Coordinator of the Northern Zone in NCF said it has become expedient to sensitize forest holding communities in Cross River on sustainable ways of interacting with the forest to prevent deforestation.
According to him, in 2024, the foundation plans to train farmers on sustainable farming, a kind of farming that will not impact the environment negatively.
“The way people are harvesting resources in our forests including trees is something that we need to sit down, strategize and find a way for these activities to be done sustainably.
“While I recognise that the forest is a source of livelihood for many, we must also understand that it plays a very significant role in protecting the world against climate change,” he said.
He added that though he was a little disappointed that a lot of resources have been invested by NCF and its partners in the fight to save the forests and the situation had not changed much, they were pushing on to educate and change the orientation of the people.
Similarly, Dr. George Oben-Etchi, Chairman of Cross River’s Forestry Commission said the present administration in Cross River was highly committed to afforestation.
Oben-Etchi said the last time trees were consciously planted in the state as a government policy to revive the forests was in 2003 adding that in collaboration with some Non Governmental Organisations, (NGOs), the state planned to plant five million trees annually.
He noted that the state government had introduced the “permitteeship” system to regulate logging in the state and also employed 300 rangers to help police its forests.
On her part, CP Caroline Olori, Conservator, Cross River National Park appealed to indigenes of forest communities to own the forests and protect them against degradation.
She however appealed to NCF and the government of Cross River to involve more of the youths in the plan to restore the forest adding that they were the major culprits of the deforestation activities in the communities.
His Royal Highness, Obhoro Obio Arong Owai, Clan Head of Esai Clan in Iko Esai, Akamkpa Local Government Area said powerful illegal loggers enter the forests in their community without permission from them.
He added that they were willing to work with the state government in ensuring that only licenced loggers were allowed to log sustainably in their community while appealing that royalties due to forest communities be paid as and when due.