INCIDENCE OF DEFORESTATION AMONG THE POPULACE AND ENVIRONMENT OF ODIGHI COMMUNITY
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Today forests occupy approximately one–third of the earth's land area, account for two-thirds 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 kilometers 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, fuelwood, shelter, clothing, timber, construction materials e.t.c. The forest also cleans the air, water, ameliorate the climate, check water and wind erosion (Azeke,2003). Forest contains roughly 90 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity.
However, the forest is a major causality of civilization as the human population has increased over the past several thousand years (with the world population today estimated to number 7.001 billion by the 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 forest cover. Nigeria has been losing an average of 11 percent of its primary forest each year. This figure gives Nigeria the highest deforestation rate of natural forests in the world.
Deforestation is the removal of forest stand where the land is put to a non – forests use (SAFnet Dictionary). Deforestation results from subsistence farming, commercial farming, road construction projects, logging, mining, and dam construction. However, Hazel and Lutz (1998) attributed resource degradation in extensive rain-fed farming (characteristic of tropical forest environment) areas to poverty and population growth. Scherr and Hazell (1994) also identified the conversion of primary forest to agriculture, with attendant loss of biodiversity, climate change, and exposure 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.
The removal of trees without sufficient reforestation has resulted in climate change, damage to habitat, biodiversity loss, and aridity. The carbon lost from the destruction of forests is exacerbated (increase) by gas flaring. Associated with deforestation are air pollution, ozone depletion, land degradation, and constantly declining soil fertility, and above all declining quality of life (Ewuola & Yomi –Alfred,2000).
According to, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO, 2000) observed threats posed by economic constraints to sustainable forest management in sub –Sahara Africa as overwhelming. Forest have been held in reverence in folklore and worshipped in ancient religion.Crews(2003) submitted that trees and forests were impacting people's way of lives and are cultures, languages, mythologies, and folklore of peoples living within and around the forest. This belief, attitude, and behavior of local people influenced their ways of life and assisted a great deal in the conservation of forest reserves. Therefore traditional beliefs influence people's values, behavior, and perception towards the forest and so help conserve the forest. Among the Benin people of Edo state, many big markets started under Iroko trees. Milicia Excelsa (Iroko)and Bombax Spp are be lived to be the abode of spirits, village gods, or ancient gods, and tales often revolve around the trees that are frequently left around the villages. Plants such as Iroko, Bombax Spp, Newbouldia leaves, Kola acuminate, Garcinia Kola, and so on were preserved. Animals such as crocodile, vulture, tortoise, leopard were also equally protected through traditional belief.
In addition, sacred groves harbor several medicinal plants, which are of great value in primary health care delivery. Most of Nigeria's population still live in rural areas which are modern health care, these plants and animals are relied upon, Advance in science and an upsurge of evangelism in Christian and Muslim faiths have greatly reduced the influences of sacred groves as a method of conservation. Cultural norms and taboos are violated with little or no penalty and sacred groves are increasingly degraded.
The Government of today is concerned about deforestation and environmental degradation, which is estimated to cost the country over $6 billion in a year. It has failed to put in place effective measures to curb illegal logging and only 6 percent of the land area is protected. Previous Governments have tried to prevent further loss through a ban on log exports, promoting agroforestry and community-based conservation scheme, and encouraging plantation and reforestation programs. The success was being limited. Thus Kio (2002) suggested a radical change in forest policy towards mobilizing the rural population in the interest of sustainable development.
Other ways in which to protect and conserve the forest is to create awareness through Environmental Education of the indigenous people and the general public. Also by tracking down illegal logging and bush burning.
The paramount concern of this research is on the incidence of deforestation in Odighi Community in Ovia North East Local Government Area, Benin City, Edo State. The community is along Benin – Akure road. The people in the community's main occupation are farming and the population is estimated to be above 2,000 people, which regarded as one of the most populated areas or communities around the axes. The soil here is very fertile which is suitable for growing a vast variety of crops like cassava, yam, plantain, vegetable, maize, and also forest trees.
The forest reserve compartment located in the Odighi community is surrounded by other neighboring villages namely Igbekhue, Oke, Odiguetue. The landmass of the forest reserve is estimated to be 215 ha. About twenty-five years ago the compartment used to be a highly forested area with high biodiversity of species including trees and animals but due to the deforestation, the compartments are now a shadow of their old self with the area totally turned to grassland (bare land). The trend is continued through the presence of cattle searchers in the community who continuously set the residue forest ablaze due to reasons yet unknown.
The study tends to investigate the incidence of deforestation, its rate of occurrence, and the extent to which it has affected the environment and suggest possible measures in controlling future deforestation in the forest compartment in the Odighi community.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Deforestation is a serious problem in Nigeria as the forest in Nigeria plays an important role in providing economic, social, and ecological benefits as well as provides forest products and services for the people. The forest compartment used to be a vast forested land, which could have been possible causes of loss of forest trees and at what rate does the loss occurs.
Could it be due to population growth leading to the expansion of settlements? Could it be due to subsistence farming by rural or indigenous farmers? Could it be as a result of an illegal logger? Or could it be caused by a combination of two or more factors and what are the environmental impacts of the process of deforestation in the area?
1.3 RESEARCH QUESTION
1. Is there any occurrence of deforestation in Odighi Community in Ovia North- East Local Government Area of Edo State?
2. How often does deforestation occur in Odighi Community?
3. What are the possible factors responsible for deforestation in the forest reserve in Odighi Community?
4. How knowledgeable are the people of the Odighi Community on the environmental impact of deforestation?
5. What are the possible measures put in place to solve the problem of deforestation in the forest compartment in the Odighi Community?
1.4 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The study is aimed at investigating the deforestation rate in the forest compartment and factors that cause deforestation in the particular area.
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The study of the incidence of deforestation in forest compartment in the Odighi Community is to determine the extent to which deforestation occurs or has occurred in the environment and how its occurrences do not only affect the people in the community but also the general public at large. The study will stimulate other researchers to carry out more studies on deforestation.
1.6 DELIMITATION OF THE STUDY
The study will be conducted among the indigenes of the Odighi Community in Ovia North – East Local Government Area, Edo State.
1.7 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
This study adopts a survey research design using data that already exist to draw a conclusion and infer. To this end, the extent of generalization of findings from this study is limited..