Potential for Participatory Forest Management Structure in Community Forests Conservation in Bayelsa State, Nigeria
Many forest reserves in the country were originally set up in recognition of the importance of forest. However, management of existing forest land is appalling. In recent years, there have been high rate of deforestation in Bayelsa state. There is therefore a need for proper management of forest and its resources. The study analysed the potential for the use of participatory forest management structure in the conservation of forest resources in Bayelsa state using a sample size 150 respondents that were obtained using a multistage sampling technique. Three out of the eight local government areas in Bayelsa state (Ogbia, Yenagoa and Ekeremor) each reflecting the three agricultural zones. Interviewed schedules and structured questionnaire were administered to elicit information from the respondents. Data gotten from both primary and secondary sources were analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics which include: frequencies, means, percentages, probit regression model and likert rating scale. As regard the socio economic characteristics of the respondent, the result shows that majority (66.25%) were male while most(40.8%) of them were in the age bracket of 41 – 50 years, closely followed by 31 – 40 years (23.1%), Also, household size was majorly(40%) in the bracket of 5 – 8, with a mean household size of 7. Educationally, majority (47.0%) attended primary school, while 5.4% attended higher education. The results reveal that the fresh water swamp forest represent the highest concentration of forest in the locality. This was closely followed by mangrove forest (23.1%) and the riparian forest (15.4%). Most of the management practices were not observed, thus leaving the forest in a grave situation. However findings reveal that traditional oriented management was actively practiced although in a limited proportion. As regard the perception of the local people to the use of P.F.M.S for forest management, four out of the nine variables used in the probit regression showed positive and significant contribution to the variation in the perception of the use PFMS. These include; educational status, occupation, benefit from forest and as mechanism for conflict resolution. These factors help in explaining the variability in the perception of the people in the use of PFMS. The other variable; environmental problem and annual income were positive but not significant. In terms of the willingness to pay, three of the eight variables tested showed positive coefficient and were significant. These were, age, forest benefit, and gender. The likert rating scale indicates that some constraints such as lack of funds, insufficient education/publicity, lack of political will, corruption, lack of well trained staffs came out top in the ranking of challenges or constraints to the establishment of PFMS. It was therefore recommended that traditional resources management should be promoted more so as it gives the local people the opportunity to partake in forest management and also the diversification of the economy so as to divert the attention of the rural dwellers on the excessive exploitation of the forest.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY
The term forest embraces a large variety of landscapes vegetation formation and ecosystem (Obot, 1997). Forest contains a number of natural resources which develop their distinctive value, when wisely used and harnessed in a sustainable way or acquire environmental threat characteristic when over exploited. Nigeria forest, like elsewhere in the world are important for the ecosystem services they provide, including watershed protection, climate control, and animal species (Nigerian environmental analysis 2002). This forest also provides valuable commercial timber sources and other commercially harvested products such as resin, spices, rattan and many more. The rural populace also benefit largely from forest resources as a source for fuel wood and building materials and for a myriad of non tree forest products (NTFP) with various uses as food, flavouring, medicines, various domestic use and also in some case for their traditional values.
Before independence, the available forest resources could adequately cater for the country’s requirement, both to meet the export and local consumption. However, after independence, there was pressure on the forest resources to generate income to support the young economy and meet the need of the ever increasing population (EC-FAO 2003). The bulk of the forest and forest resources that remained hitherto relatively undisturbed until the 1980, have been lost in the last two decades. In 1992, forest accounted for only 9.61% (8.874.225.ha) of Nigeria’s total land area measuring about 923,768,000ha. Okonta (1998) noted that during the period 1980, it was estimated that 43.48% of the total forest ecosystem had been converted to other uses as a result of human activities. Current estimates put the rate of forest depletion at 3.3% per year (FAO, 2005). Based on this, it has been estimated that the country will lose all her forest by the year 2020. FORMECU (1994) projected the yield from the forest estates between the year 2000 and 2010, putting it at a total of 8273m2 for 2000 and 7316m2 for 2010, implying that less wood resources would be available from the forest in the future if the current deforestation rate is sustained. Forest production has fallen, creating an imbalance between supply and demand. From its previous status as a significant exporter of forest products Nigeria has become a net importer (Status of tropical forest management, 2003). The continued loss of Nigeria’s tropical forest has taken its toll on the county’s biodiversity resources. Nigeria has a diverse collection of flora and fauna, including 274 species of mammals, 830 species of birds and 5,081 plant species out of which 0.14% of the animal species is threatened and 0.22% is endangered. Similarly, the estimated 70% of the rural poor are in great danger as it has been established that the poorest often suffer most from the consequence of environmental degradation as a result of their immediate dependence on the natural resource base for their necessities (Soussan, 1998).
In an attempt to bring to a halt, the deplorable state of forestry in Nigeria, forest reserves were constituted in the early twenties and communities in the past never tempered with the reserves as they obeyed and respected the law that forbade any form of encroachment into the reserves (Amika, 1993). This was partly due to low population density. But with increased local population, migration, land hunger, cash squeeze, food scarcity and awareness, people’s attention turned to the forest. Together, the national parks cover about 22,592 km2, which is about 2.5% of the country’s landmass. They are owned and managed exclusively by the federal government hence, leaving no room for local participation. However, Ezealor (2002), Aminukano and Marguba (2002), stated that protection of habitats and species has long been practiced by various cultures in Nigeria through their preservation of groves and other distinctive habitats for religious, ceremonial and hunting purposes. Marguba (2002), further reported that Nigeria’s first modern forest reserves were created in 1887. The first forestry act enacted in 1937 established the forest reserve system under the state government. A more comprehensive forest law was latter established in 1956 – the law of preservation and control of eastern Nigeria. By 1950 forest reserves covered about 8% of the country’s land area and gradually rose to 11% by 1980. Thereafter, an apparent inability to formulate policies and implement led to the current situation whereby even protected areas are being de-reserved. Also these forest reserves have been seriously neglected and received little or no improvement in terms of investment and management.
Failure of most conservation schemes necessitates scholars and policy makers’ reconsideration of the role of community in resource management, as there is a real danger of worsening social conflict and degradation fueled by over exploitation of natural resources. The tropical timber organization defines sustainable forest management as the process of managing forest land to achieve one or more clearly specified objectives of management with regards to the production of a continued flow of desired forest products and services without undue reduction in its inherent values and future productivity and without undue undesirable effects on the physical and social environment (Babier, 2005).
Current discourse governing community based conservation policy emphasizes the role of community in bringing about decentralization, meaningful participation and effective conservation (Fisher, 1999). Hence there is need to evolve resource management mechanism that could arrest the decline in future of resources and for the mechanism to attained full objectives, they must be community based. Feyerabrand and Taronwski (2005), argued that participatory management is a partnership among social actors with legitimate interest, capacities and commitment regarding the natural resources of the state with term of partnership specifying management factors of all the component body.
In Nigeria, Enugu and Cross River States have taken giant steps to combat deforestation by establishing a forest management committee involving local communities in the management of reserve areas. Wily (2002), stated that the first initiative was the Ekuri community initiative which began in 1992 in Cross River State. Both reserved and unreserved forest is getting involved in community forest initiative.
Ogar (2008), asserted that the concept of participatory forest management committee in Cross River State is yielding significant results. However, the same cannot be said of Bayelsa State which bestrides much of Africa’s largest wetland, and Nigeria’s thriving petroleum business but has no formalized properly managed forest or wood industry (Azaki, 2003). The forests are extensive and are often regarded as inexhaustible with the result that little attention is given to conserving of these resources. Ogon (2006), states that natural resources found in the region presently suffers from the well known “tragedy of the Commons” as the right of access is collectively shared creating room for competition without rules of engagement. It has been estimated that about 50% of mangroves in Nigeria have been lost as a result of deforestation (World Resources, 1990). Hence, there is need for government and other stakeholders to work together so as to salvage the forest from total extinction.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Many state forest reserves in the country were originally set up in recognition of the importance of many tree specie and the associated flora and fauna around the country. Within these forest reserves are many endemic plant and some that are commercially valuable like Mahogamy and other hardwoods. Most of these forest reserves are now mostly protected on paper as they continue to be subjected to official and unofficial unsustained logging, and virtually unrestrained firewood and plant collection.
Nigeria’s 2000 – 2005 deforestation rate was about 3.3% per year implying that it lost an average of 410,000ha of forest annually (FAO, 2005). Management of existing forest land is at a parlous state because many of the forestry department saddled with the responsibility of managing the forest and its resources are becoming increasingly incapacitated due to dwindling resources in terms of funds, manpower, logistic and poor data.
Even when concessions are granted legally for harvest, they have no inventory data to backup the sale licencing, (Akindele, 2003). According to Sanwo (2005), 70% of the total timber extracted in high forest states in Nigeria is stolen, with no record kept. Not only is poor storage of timber common, but the dearth of technical information on other tree species. Thus some species such as well known Iroko, Obeche, Mahogamy etc are over exploited while the non popular ones maybe intact. To worsen issues, forest conservation initiative in Nigeria, for instance, National forestry programme are not all embracing. Little has been done in involving rural people in the management of forest resources or even evolving policies to help them to initiate forest management plans for their community forest (Chukwuone, 2007).
Presently in Cross River, there are about 43 registered FMC, (Forestry Association of Nigeria, 2003). Conversely, Bayelsa state is yet to follow this noble path of establishing, local forest management committee to jointly supervise the extraction of forest resources in the state in spite of its significant role in rural poverty amelioration and most importantly in its ability to reduce the severity of flooding and erosion in the riverine community as well as biodiversity conservation.
The general management and conservation of the ecosystem in the Niger Delta nay Bayelsa has been very limited. Indeed very little attention has been paid to the conservation and management of the mangrove ecosystem (Azaiki and Nkasiosido 2002). There is no organized plan for proper management of forest resources even as there is also no national forest reserve in the state. The major problems, which militate against good management of the mangrove vegetation, include frequent oil spillage as well as the uncontrolled exploitation of the mangrove species. There is also the inaccessibility of the mangrove forest by state official due to the remoteness of the forest thus offering huge opportunities for illegal logging.
Powel (2000) noted that the forestry department in Bayelsa state is ineffective. This is corroborated by a 2008 report of the Bayelsa State department of forestry which states that the forestry guards are only three (3) in number, which is rather too few to cover the entire state. Also, the acute shortage of forest superintendents and other allied staff of the forestry department has led to inadequate and ineffective monitoring of the forest thus resulting into massive exploitation of timber trees and non timber forest products (NTFPs) e.g. cane rope, chewing sticks. Records have it that between 1970 and 1999 the major petroleum exploitation and exploration activities has accounted for about 3-6% of the mangrove forest depletion in River, Bayelsa and Delta, (Azaiki, 2003). Futhermore, oil companies’ operational roads have provided easy access for logger of timber both for felling and evacuation, numerous escape routes for timber trafficking (Amaruo, 2000). These have caused an incalculable reduction of the natural resources base and a progressive decline of the productivity capacity of the reserve ecosystem. These indications are manifested in the steady economic regression and stunted infrastructural development of the stakeholder communities. Worried by the imminent displacement from their fragile means of livelihood, youths have often resorted to violence as an expression of resistance to extinction.
There is therefore, the need for the official involvement of local people in protecting the remaining land within and outside the reserves in Bayelsa state. This study hopes to assess the potentials for such initiatives in the state.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The broad objective of this study is to determine the potential of participatory forest management structure in the management of community forest in the state.
The Specific Objectives are;
- describe the socio- economic characteristics of the respondents, types of forest and deforestation pattern in the study area.
- describe the forest management practices in Bayelsa State.
- determine factors affecting the perception of local people to the use of community based forest management committees.
- determine factors affecting the people’s willingness to pay for community based forest management committees.
- identify constrains to the establishment of participatory forest management committee.
- make policy recommendations based on findings of this study.
1.4 RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS
Based on the stated specific objectives of the study, the null hypothesis will be tested as follows:
Ho: Socio economic variables do not influence the perception of the local people to the use of participatory forest management structure.
Ho: Socio economic factors do not significantly influence the local people willingness to pay for community based forest management structure.
1.5 JUSTIFICATION OF THE STUDY
Economist now recognizes that, along with physical and human capital, the natural and environmental endowment of a country should be viewed as an important economic asset, which is referred to as natural capital (Babier, 2005).It is worthy to note that the management of this natural capital stock which is a major component of environmental economics is critical to the country`s ability to achieve sustainable economic development.
Bayelsa State, endowed with rich forest has over the years lost some of its forest land due to deforestation. As such, the livelihood of the rural population who depend mostly on the forest for survival has been visibly impaired by excessive exploitation of forest resources. In most developing countries participative forest management initiative has been adopted in an attempt to address the issue of environmental sustainability .This has largely come about due to an increasing recognition of the ineffectiveness of the state to achieve such sustainability. Recent policies have been drafted that aim to achieve these outcome, which strongly articulate the need for the participation of local people in the management of forest resource both within communal and on state owned forest (Michelle, Anthony, Isla, 2005).
The result of this study will be useful to the department of forestry in Bayelsa state and state government for formulation of policies for conservation of forest resources and in making forest management exercise participatory. Also NGOs will benefit tremendously from this study as it will be easier for them to develop projects in this sector. Finally, it is hopeful that the result of this study will inspire other researchers to research more into forestry economics/management as there appear to be dearth of information in this direction in Bayelsa state.
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