Effects of Socio-economic Characteristics on Forestland Conversion in Isi-uzo L.g.a of Enugu State, Nigeria


The study was an empirical analysis of the Effects of Socio-Economic Characteristics on forestland conversion in Isi-Uzo Local Government Area of Enugu State. It described the agricultural activities of male and female farmers, problems encountered by both genders during the course of agricultural activities which may be socio-economic dependent. These socio-economic characteristics were identified, examined and linked to their marginal effect on forest neighbourhood. Two hypotheses were formulated to unravel the complexities of these relationships and for better understanding of their effect on the forest environment. Data were collected from the three development councils of the Local Government Area and a total of 160 respondents from the study area were chosen. Their responses were analysed using descriptive statistics, multiple regression, and t-test statistics. The study observed that the agricultural activities in the study area were irrespective of gender. The study further found out that some socio-economic characteristics of the male gender were statistically significant in relation to forestland conversion. None of the female gender socio-economic characteristics was statistically significant. The mean conversion for both genders was insignificant when tested for equality. The study also, found out that ownership of forestland does not influence its management in the study area. Based on these findings, the study concluded that agricultural activities which led to alteration of the forest environment could be more male dependent. Policies which could address the male socio-economic characteristics could have far reaching effect in the stepwise and sustainable utilization of the forest resources in the study area. The study therefore recommended programmes, guidelines and constructs which should aim at addressing the socio-economic characteristics of both genders which should have an ameliorating effect on the forest neighbourhood. It specifically recommends that addressing pronatalists issues of unnecessary increment of family size as a tool for agricultural activities without resounding benefits. Also, efficient institutional constructs (land tenure laws) which could define and allot forest ownership pattern should be enacted in the study area. Creation of jobs, diversification of these jobs and sustainable investments could save our forest and the environments for the benefits of the present and posterity.




1.0       Background Information 

The usefulness of forest in economic development and environmental sustainability is not in doubt. Forest environment and diversity of life, which they harbour, represent an irreplaceable asset to the biosphere and mankind. Ecologically, their function is unquestionable as they provide two-thirds of net primary productivity of all terrestrial ecosystems, of which our priceless tropical forests account for about sixty percent (Umaru, 2005). Also, they serve as natural habitat for a sizeable chunk of world’s plant and animal species, thus providing the basis for biological diversity, which is crucial for the biosphere’s continuity. Forests provide a home for wild animals such as elephants, monkeys, antelopes, and snakes, which are hunted for food, income and revenue when conserved in reserves.

Economically, logging (lumbering) of forest hard wood for hard currencies, fuel wood gathering, and security for the poor rural population when crop fails or, as an income supplement during the lean farming periods are essential provisions of the forest. Furthermore, all these incalculable activities provide about eighty six percent employment opportunities in rural areas of Enugu State (Enugu State Government and DFID, 2003). This obviously is well acknowledged especially in Isi-Uzo Local Government Area of the State, which is commonly known for its farming activities. Hence, the inhabitants are often called the “Uzegus” meaning literally farmers.

Agriculturally, forest leaves and branches of trees cover the top soil, thereby intercepting heavy down pours of rainfall or high velocity moving wind which would have eroded the soil, thus rendering it less fertile and less productive. Furthermore, dead and decaying portions of forest trees improve the soil texture and structure, hence, increasing water infiltration capacity of the soil. Nutrient recycling ability of the forest trees is also worthwhile. It increases organic and mineral matter of the soil without any adverse effect on the ecosystem. Its mineralization capacity, which makes nutrients available, which would have been permanently, lost is quite fascinating (Okonkwo, 1996). Forest trees bind soil particles together thereby enhancing stability of the structure and porosity for effective microbial activities.

The influential property of the forest in microclimate moderation cannot be over-emphasized. It regulates temperature and humidity thereby causing precipitations. Precisely, forest crowns intercept moisture laden winds causing them to rise up, which when cooling down, induces rainfall. Furthermore, cloud formation through transpiration of forest trees is an essential function of these elements.

The earth’s reflectivity (albedo) is enhanced by forest cover Ebo, Okoye and Ayichi (2002) maintained that forest trees manage and protect water sheds which have cooling effects on neigbourhood. Thus, maintenance of hydrological cycle is an essential function of the forest especially in regions characterized with irregular or seasonal variation of rainfall (Umaru, 2005).

Again, the pharmacopoeia veritable of the forest resources cannot be under-estimated (Miller, 1990). Tropical plants provide essential medicine, and genes from forest biodiversity necessary for breeding improved crop varieties and other medications. Also, half of the worlds prescribed medicine has their origin in wildlife species (Salau, 1992).

The atmospheric purification has lime lighted the crucial importance of the forest in controlling air pollution. The forest biosphere is next biggest sink for atmospheric carbon, hence, the sequestering of atmospheric carbon pollutants by the forest trees is overwhelming (Oyebo, 2002; Umaru, 2005). Thus, this sequestering ability has been the basis advocated for reducing greenhouse effect, and an ultimate clamp down on global warming.

Furthermore, the aesthetic and cultural significance of the forest environment is worth noting. Their values are intangible but real. This non-use value aspect of forest environment is unhidden as people sentimentally disprove its destruction even if they are unlikely to visit the environment.

Despite all these appreciable benefits and unquantifiable resources of forest to mankind, the breaching of forest mantle to make way for systematic agriculture, human settlements, among others have drastically reduced the size of forest and its resources at an alarming rate.

According to a study carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the world lost 450 million hectares of its tropical cover between 1960 and 1990. This is mainly in Latin America and Africa where about 8.2 million and 5 million hectares respectively are annually deforested (Burgess, 1993). Deforestation is mainly the tragedy of the developing worlds as more developed countries (MDCs) are gaining access to replaced forests (Butler, 2005). Pathetically, deforest rated regions do not regain their original splendour especially in the harsh humid climates.

In Africa, the annual rate of change in total forest area from 1990 to 2000 was estimated to be 5.3 million hectares per year. NEMA( 2000) reported that the rate of forest loss in Africa is about half the rate in Southeast Asia.

In Nigeria, Federal Office of Statistics (2005) revealed that 12.2% or about 11.089,000 hectares of the total landscape is forested. 2.9% or roughly 326,000 hectares is primary forest. The rest is made up of secondary forests (reserves) and plantations.

Table 1 below shows forest reserves and plantation in each of the states of the federation.


Tables 1: Area of Forest Reserve and Plantation by State.



Area of forest reserve  (ha) Area of forest plantation (ha) % of forest plantation to forest reserve
Abia 8,700 2,051            25
Adamawa 10,011 2 ,374 24
Akwa Ibom 31,857 25  ,800 80
Amambra 32,457 5 ,332 16
Bauchi 840,280 1,200 0
Benue 60,175 2,234 4
Borno 582,820 432,052 74
Cross-River 610,129 19,000 65
Delta 78,506 2,000 3
Edo 482,047 150,000 31
Enugu 8,524 7,498 88
Imo 1,524 1,160 76
Jigawa 1,525 3,000 3
Kaduna 9,200 6146 1
Kano 613,484 2 ,18 6 3
Kastina 77,702 18 ,900 8
Kebbi 245,100 17 ,150 5
Kogi 540,360 5 ,000 1
Kwara 460,350 6,000 1
Lagos 12,579 2,00 16
Niger 756,906 4,956 1
Ogun 273,118 35,000 13
Ondo 337,336 27,153 8
Osun 86,057 6,381 7
Oyo 336,563 8,031 2
Plateau 402,500 6,800 2
Rivers 25,000 231 1
Sokoto 602,631 10,943 2
Taraba 10,011 1,359 14
Yobe n.a n.a n.a

Source: FOS (1997)

Key = n.a = not available.

This total area was lost at a rate of change (conversion) of 31.2% to 3.12% per annum between 2000 and 2005.In total, about 35.7% or 6,145,000 hectares of forest cover was lost between 1990 and 2005( FOS,2005). On the same dimension, Butler (2005) recorded that Nigeria has the world’s highest and worst case of deforestation data released by FAO of the United Nations. The result of Butler (2005) recorded that about 55.7% of the forest was lost between 2000 and 2005.

From the foregoing, poor tropical countries including Nigeria suffer the highest rate of primary forest loss. Table 2 below shows the worst case of deforestation rate of primary forest from 2000 to 2005 for selected countries.


Table 2: Deforestation for selected countries

S/n Country Percentage (%) rate of deforestation
1 Nigeria 55.7
2 Viet Nam 54.5
3 Cambodia 29.4
4 Sri Lanka 15.2
5 Malawi 14.9
6 Indonesia 12.9
7 North Korea 9.3
8 Nepal 9.1
9 Panama 6.7
10 Guatemala 6.4

Source: Rhett: A Butler (2005), Mongabay.com

In Southeastern Nigeria, it was estimated that forest is decimated (converted) at the rate of 3.5 percent annually, which is higher than the national average of 2.5% (Enugu Sate Government and DFID, 2003). In Nigeria and Enugu State, use of satellite imaging instruments, which can readily monitor forest conversion from space, is an illusion.  This is because the financial cost of these instruments are enormous and thereby making their acquisition difficult. Forest conversion rate is therefore mere estimate especially in Isi-uzo L.G.A. of the state even as noted by Oyekale (2007) that the difficulty in obtaining data on forest cover or deforestation rates often leads to analysis of the phenomenon indirectly through examining the factors explaining expansion of agriculture or other conversion activities – for instance, the socio-economics characteristics of farmers as a link to agricultural activities which exacerbates pressures on forest ecology.

Obviously, as indicated in Table 1 above, Enugu State  has hectares of forest reserve of about 8,524 (FOS, 1997). Table 3 below gives tentatively, the existing forest reserves, the areas in kilometers, hectare and locations in the state.

Table 3: Existing Forest Reserve in Enugu State, Nigeria. 

S/n Country L.G.A. Area (Km2)` Hectare (Ha)
1 Aguobu Owa Ezeagu 8.000 800.00
2 Akwariani Nsukka 2.200 220.00
3 Akpakwume Nze Udi 9.110 911.00
4 Awalaw Isikwe Oji River 7.840 784.00
5 Enugu Enugu 11.390 139.00
6 Enugu Extension Eungu 11.620 1162.00
7 Enug W.H.W. Enugu 1.003 396.60
8 Ifite Amoli Awgu 3.966 4618.00
9 Mamu River Oji River 56.180 4618.00
10 Miliken Hill Enugu 0.940 94.03
11. Oji River Oji River 3.618 361.80
12. Umuabi Udi 11.660 1166.00
13. Ekwegbe Gully Nsukka 3.254 325.44
      Total 12078.17ha

(Culled from Blue print, Enugu State Government, 1995)



Interestingly, Table 3 indicates that there is no forest reserve in Isi-Uzo Local Government Area. Therefore, the area has to rely solely on the primary forest as its resource base for agricultural activities for livelihood.

Imperatively, since the reactivation and provision of motor rail that ply Enugu and Eha-Amufu, increased agricultural activities were recorded in the study area. Crop farming had increased. This increment could partly be attributed to the recent cassava export policy of the nation and the use of cassava flour in some confectionary industries. People, therefore, cultivate more and even infertile lands to meet up with the economic expectation. These cyclic activities had pushed the forest frontiers to an inevitable disadvantage. Furthermore, logs and lumps of wood in disguise of fuel wood are being transported back to the state capital for urban consumption owing to high prices of petroleum products. The unproductiveness of fertile lands had also contributed to cultivating more hectares of land in order to meet up with reasonable yields.

These fuel wood were actually not dead trees in the forest but felled by poachers in order to earn a living. To maintain the food production in the area, conversion of forests to arable crop land and other uses had exacerbated the problem of deforestation in the area.

The societal benefits arising from food production in the area cannot be over emphasized, but means should be sought to sustain the environment for posterity. This has led to the clarion call by Governments, Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), and International Agencies to encourage agro-forestry and other environmental friendly farming techniques as a sure bet to avoid over-exploitation of forests and their resources and to sustain them for posterity. Gallivan (1988) stated that agro-forestry is a practical and successful way to avert the ever deterioration and degradation of Nigerian natural environment. Agro-forestry is a systematic farming practice, which involves inter-planting of tree shrubs with crops or with livestock with the aim of optimizing economic and environmental returns. Current, Lutz and Scherr (1995) maintained that the purpose of the practice is to replenish woody perennials while upgrading land, reduction of adverse effect of erosion, conservation of water and other environmental benefits. Agro-forestry complements and reinforces traditional reforestation effort by reducing the pressure on the remaining natural forests for economic purposes and environmental services.

In Western Nigeria, Gallivan (1988) reported that farmers were adopting agro-forestry techniques. In the study area, agro-forestry practices had been an indigenous knowledge, but the practice is with traditional farming technique. This is because strands of tress, shrubs such as oil palm, figs etc are found scattered in farm plots even through these trees may be uneconomical. Nevertheless, instant pruning of branches or even uprooting trees in order to give adequate sunshine to cultivated crops is practised. Agro-forestry practices in the area needs re-orientation to persuade the rural households to plant economic trees in their individual farm plots although land is usually communally owned.


1.2       Problem Statement

It has been widely acknowledged that forest and its resources are decimated at an alarming rate (2009). In Isi-Uzo, the dwindling of forest ecosystem has been imperative owing to the total dependence of the population on forest and its resources to supplement their living. This has led to various accelerated agricultural activities and practices of men and women in order to earn a livelihood. The traditional shifting cultivation has been reduced to a minimum in certain areas, while in some, cultivation at the fringes of the forest seemed an option to boost yield and increase farm size.

Despite the increased agricultural activities in the area, the socio-economic statues of the rural household have been deplorable. For instance, the daily wage for rural women varies between N80 – N150, while that of men is N300 – N600.00 depending on the season and mode of operation. This low earning made savings difficult and resulted to inability to purchase farm inputs in order to cultivate in an environmentally friendly manner and/or diversify into other occupational opportunities. Furthermore, the increase in population and the quest to own a land in the area has exacerbated further pressure on forest and its ecosystem.

Again, in the study area, that the male heads a household does to exclude females within and outside the household to own a farm plot. Instead, male heads may have access to resources more than women. Women then, carry out their agricultural activities where they can, implying that both genders are involved in agricultural activities. Therefore, there is gender bias on forestland conversion in the study area. This is because both men and women carry out agricultural activities irrespective of their gender and sex role. Thus, the argument lies on whether agricultural activities of women are more destructive than those of men or the reverse, or that both genders contribute as much on forestland conversion in recognition of their socio-economic statuses.

A related study on the issue by Onweze, Arene and Okpukpara (2006) in Nsukka L.G.A. concluded that no significant differences on forestland conversion existed between both genders. But care should be taken in homogenizing Nsukka and Isi-Uzo, as Isi-Uzo is unique and different from Nsukka in all ramifications. For instance, geographically, the Isi-Uzo LGA is dominated with dense forest vegetation of primary origin. Also, the Isi-Uzos were known as the “Uzegu” people, meaning true farmers- the population depended on farming for livelihood sustenance. Meanwhile, no available record has shown any documentation on gender activities or forestland conversion in the study area.

Thus, the study is an attempt to investigate the effects of socio-economic characteristics of men and women in forestland conversion in the study area. The following questions were in conformity to the outcome of this study:

(a)        Do agricultural activities of men differ from those of women?

(b)        Do the socio-economic characteristics of men differ from those of women?

(c)        What are the determinants of forestland conversion by men and women in the study area?

(d)       Are constraints or problems of agricultural activities the same for both genders?

(e)        If both genders are actually involved in forestland conversion, what is the magnitude of this conversion with respect to each gender?

(f)        Does ownership of forest influence its conversion management?


1.3       Objectives of the study

The primary objective of this research was to examine the effect of gender agricultural activities on forestland conversion in Isi-uzo L.G.A. of Enugu State.

The specific objectives are to:

  1. Describe agricultural activities by men and women in the study area.
  2. Describe the forest land ownership and management practices in the study area
  3. Determine the magnitude of the forestland conversion effects with respect to both genders.
  4. Describe, determine and analyze the influence of socio-economic status (characteristics) of men and women on forestland conversion.
  5. Identify gender problems of agricultural activities in relation to forestland conversion in the study area.


1.4       Research hypotheses

Ho1:           The magnitude of forestland conversion among the gender is insignificant.

Ho2:           Socio-economic status (characteristics) of men and women farmers do not significantly influence forestland conversion


1.5       Justification of the Study

Forest conversion has been a worldwide phenomenon. It’s drastic consequence and deterioration of the global environment has led to setting up of committee of International co-operation in managing the global common. This draws attention on world’s tropical forest because of global services provided (Vosti, Witcover, and Carpentier, 2002).

Environment and its sustainability has been the central theme for researches in sub-Sahara Africa nowadays (Salau). First, land mass is fixed, and the deplorable socio-economic status of converter agents (rural households) if not adequately addressed may worsen deforestation. Further, as inevitable as forest is made for man’s use, a more effective approach may be to manage it in a sustainable manner.

Therefore, an empirical data on the effects of socio-economic characteristics of men and women resulting in forestland conversion is necessary to know who converts the forest more. The study would then be justified in that it will unravel the complexity underlying forestland conversion and its proximate causes and the economic agent thereof in the study area and the magnitude of this conversion with respect to the economic agent. Also, using appropriate instruments and analytical tools, the effects of the socio-economic characteristics and agricultural activities of men and women were tested.

The findings from the study would be of immense benefit to the following stakeholders – the government (policy makers), international agencies, academia, and researchers, and rural dwellers. To policy makers, it would serve as an impetus in policy formulation thereby addressing the economic agents responsible for the problem (deforestation). To the International Agencies, and NGOs, it would attract workshops, donations, investments, and grants, which will improve the socio-economic status of the economic agents and overall reinforcement to the neighbourhood. Further, researchers would utilize the findings as a study reference manual and as a model for further research in future. Finally, the rural dwellers would benefit from the recommendation of principle of sustainable agricultural activities and implications of forestland conversion as it affect them presently and for posterity.


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