Out of all the forests and forest reserves in Nigeria that remained relatively undisturbed, significant portions of them have been lost in the last two decades. As these natural forest ecosystems disappear, so do many of the goods, which they provide. In a bid to incorporate local people into the management of community forest, Cross River State became the pioneer state in introducing forest management committees (FMCs) to co-manage the forest resources of the state alongside the states forestry department, hence the spring board for this research. It is aimed at examining the performance of FMCs in the management of forests in Cross River State. Information were obtained from 15 leaders of randomly selected FMCs through interview questions, and 90 other respondents using a set of structured questionnaire. The data were analysed using descriptive statistics, binary probit model, student t-test, and likert scaling techniques.  The intensity of forest management practices was higher in communities with FMCs than in those without FMCs. This showed significance different (t=4.234,p < 0.05) in the two communities. Average household income from forestry/forest products in communities with FMCs, and those without FMCs also indicated significant difference (t=1.972,P < 0.05). The income was significantly higher in communities without FMCs than in those with FMCs. Among the factors influencing the perception of the local people as regard the use of FMC for forest management, five were statistically significant, age P(0.0309), education P(0.0172), income P(0.0378), presence of erosion in the communities P(0.0445) and forest use P(0.0149) showed positive influence on the perception. The Likert scale rating of the constraints encountered by FMCs indicated lack of commitment of members, change in government policies, financial constraints, inter and intra-community conflicts, inadequate support from community leadership and negative attitude of community to forest conservation as the most challenging constraints to the FMCs. Finally, it was recommended that government should initiate policy to encourage communities to organize themselves into groups for involvement in forest management. The initiatives should be tailored towards policies and programs that cut across a review of the land use act, provision of finance, formation of cooperatives and substitution of wood usage among the rural households. This will be effective in the conservation and management of forest through FMCs.       



1.1         Background Information

Forest and tree resources are of extreme importance to mankind. They provide the resources for a multiple of products, which feature in peoples day to day lives (Falconer, 1990). The contributions of forests to sustainable livelihood cannot be over emphasized. Forest which include all resources that can produce forest products, namely, woodland, scrubland, bush fallow and farm bush and trees on farms, as well as ecosystem dominated by trees, provide household with income, ensures food security, reduce their vulnerability to shocks and adversities and increase their well being (Arnold, 1998).

Out of all the forests and forest reserves in Nigeria that remained relatively undisturbed until the 1980s, significant portions of them have been lost in the last two decades. As these natural forest ecosystem disappear, so do many of the goods and services, like timber, fuel wood, water shed, charcoal, pharmaceutics, erosion control and prevention, soil stabilization, food, fruits/nut etc, which they provide.

  Estimates of forest cover range from 9.7 million hectares to 13.5 million hectares in Nigeria (FAO 2005a). This extensive vegetation has over the years reduced as a result of the various human activities. According to FAO (2005a), forest area declined during the 1990s at an estimated annual rate of 2.6% or 398,000 hectares per year caused by agricultural expansion, encroachment, over harvesting, bush burning, illegal harvesting and de-reservation. As a consequence, the benefit which forest bestowed on the people is becoming more difficult and expensive to acquire. Nigeria’s total forest area in 1990 stood at 14,387,000 hectares. But in 1995, it stood at 13,780,000 hectares with a total change, (1990-1995), of -607,000 hectares at an annual change of -121,000 hectares (i.e-0.9%) (Eboh and Ujah, 2000).

Government of Nigeria (1997) noted at the fifth session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development that the bulk of this forest cover is the Savannah woodland type. This is about 70% of the open natural forest, with the remaining 30% closed forest. The closed forest includes mangrove and coastal forest (22%), fresh water swamp (38%) and low land wet forest (40%). It also went further to state that the southern rainforest, the source of the country’s timber resource, covering only two percent of the total land area in Nigeria is divided into lowland rain forest in the south and mixed deciduous forest to the North.  These forest types, although heavily degraded, are the main remaining sources of hardwood timber- meliaceae and leguminosae species such as khaya ivorensis (Lagos mahogany), Entadrophragma spp, lovoa trichilioides (cedar) and Gosweilerodendron balsamiferum (agba) are characteristics of the rain forest area, whereas sterculiaceae, ulmaceae and moraceae species such as Nesogordonia papaveritera (otutu), triplochiton scleroxylon (obeche), celtis spp and clorophora excels (iroko) characterize the semi deciduous forest. These forest areas are being depleted at an annual rate of 3.5 percent. And if this continues the country’s forest reserve might disappear in future (Status of tropical forest management, 2005).

Ensuring that these forest wood trees are maintained requires both intra - and inter generational sustainability. In other words, a sustainable and productive forest reserve resource base can ensure enduring food and environmental security (FAO, 1997).

Forest conservation is defined as actions taken in management of a forest that result in maintenance of the possibilities for future forest related benefits (Wollenberg, Nawir, Uluk and Pramono, 2001). For Forest Wood Trees, conservation means the sustainable management of the species for the products it yields in order to ensure availability in the future. Conservation of forest wood tress and indeed biological resources can be in-situ or ex-situ. In situ conservation of biological resources involves conservation of ecosystem / species in their natural surroundings while ex-situ conservation involves the conservation of components of biological diversity outside of their natural habitat (domestication) (Laird, 2002). As stated in article 8 of the convention on biological diversity, in-situ conservation of forest resources can be achieved, among others, through the establishment of a system of protected areas. Ex-situ conservation can be achieved through the establishment of gene bank, cultivation of species in lots or in agro forestry systems, recovery and rehabilitation of threatened species and for their introduction into their natural habitats under appropriate conditions, among others.

 Conservation initiative will be more successful if the local / indigenous people participate. This is based on the advantages that can be gained by drawing on indigenous knowledge of the forests and forests products, and by building on the sustainable systems, of use that local people often seem to have created (Redford and Mansour, 1996).

     In principle, local people own the forest, but the management and control of forest reserves, which cover around three-quarter of forest area, is rested in the state governments (Status of tropical forest management, 2005). Participatory resource management is often seen as an appropriate solution to reducing resource degradation and it is generally assumed that granting property rights over local commons would ensure the equitable and sustainable use of environment resources. Through local participation, nearby communities would be engaged as stake holders in managing the resources, thus ensuring commitment to long term management goals (Chukwone, 2008)

      In Nigeria, management of forest resources, especially national parks and forest reserves are in the hand of the government and local participation is limited. The first forestry act enacted in 1937, established the forest reserve system under the state governments. A more comprehensive forest law was latter established in 1956- the law of preservation and control of Eastern Nigeria. There are also state forestry codes like the Cross River state forestry code of 1999. However, there is a draft for National forestry act still undergoing approval. Poor management often results, in a lack of control of resource and conflicts among resource users (Olaleye and Ameh, 1999). Some states have enacted specific regulations to monitor and control the reserves, but the continuing high rate of deforestation suggests that overall control has not been effective. Even in free forest communities, government forest commission approve the cutting of timber resources and collect permits even after the exploiter has obtained necessary permission from the community who are owners.

      Community forest as used in this study refers to free forest areas, which are not government reserves, owned and controlled by the communities although government may collect permits from external timber exploiters in these forests, a percentage of which is remitted to the communities. The forests may or may not be under any form of management.

In a bid to incorporate local people into the management of community forest, Cross River State became the pioneer state in introducing forest management committees to co-manage the forest resources of the state alongside the states forestry department in Nigeria. Some intervention agencies such as the Department for International Development (DFID) and Living Earth foundation created the initiative for the indigenous people to form forest management committees to co-manage their forest resources alongside the state forestry department,(Spencer, 2001). These intervention agencies also helped some communities in Cross River state to implement forest management plans. They aid in the training of some community members in cultivation techniques of rubber and Gmelina. Nurseries and micro credit programme to help local people in establishing forests based enterprises; workshops for registered forest management committees, and training on sustainable rattan investing craftsmanship were established under Cross River community forestry project. The first project in Cross River state was the Ekuri community initiative, which began in 1992 and assisted communities to bring 33,000 ha of rain forest under some degree of local management (Wily, 2002). Also, some communities like Ekong Anaku community have organized themselves in the collection and marketing of their forest resources (Enour, 1999). Presently, in Cross River State, there are about 43 registered FMCs (Forestry Association of Nigeria, 2003). In general, in Nigeria 60 communities, involving 10,000 hectares of forest, both reserved and unreserved areas are getting involved in community forest initiative (Wily, 2002). Promoting local participation through forest management committees will facilitate forest wood trees conservation. Furthermore, sustainable management of forest wood trees will help guarantee the needs of the present generation, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

1.2. Problem Statement

      The Federal Department of Forestry (F.D.F, 2001) noted that the forest estate of Nigeria is highly depleted and that the Sahara Desert is encroaching southward at a rate of about one kilometer per year. Forest fires are common and caused by deliberate burning.

 In spite of the importance of forest, their rate of replacement has not been commensurate with removal. Forest wood trees are depleted at an unprecedented rate due to increasing human population pressure, agricultural practices and demand. A greater percentage of Nigeria luxurious vegetation has been removed and some species have gone into extinction (United Nations, 2002). The FDF stated that the annual depletion rate is as high as 3.5%.

     Although Nigerian government established some forest reserves for the conservation of forest resources, these forest reserves have for sometime been seriously neglected and have received little or no improvement in terms of investment and management (Chukwuone, 2008). Adequate manpower, equipment and funds are not provided for proper implementation of sustained forest management. The states normally regard the forest reserves as source of generating revenue without investment for sustained production.

 While many forest reserves were intensively managed in the past for timber production, a significant number has also been almost completely deforested while retaining the designation, leading to the apparent contradiction of non-forested forest reserves.

Timber concessions are awarded by state governments, which receive all timber royalties. In theory, a proportion of forest revenues should go to the local communal land owners and traditional institutions, in practice, however, the funds often get diverted. For this reason, local communities have little incentive to prevent illegal logging and often collude with illegal loggers because they derive greater benefits that way. According to Sanwo (2005), 70% of the total timber extracted in high-forest states in Nigeria is stolen, with no records kept. The state forestry departments have been unable to protect the forest estate adequately from extensive encroachment. Makela (1999), suggested that any resource being commonly owned and managed by a group of people will inevitably degrade and even cease to exist. People use their freedom to overexploit the resource and to maximize their own short term utility; “free riding” at the expense of others’ benefit becomes a dominant type of behavior and those involved continue to follow strategies that destroy the very resource that is potentially capable of yielding valuable use- units for generations to come (Ostrom, 1990).

It has become obvious that National government have widely failed to control and conserve forest and to enforce the related laws. Several factors according to Makela (1999), are responsible for these neglect, for instance, structural adjustment has led to strong pressure on government for reducing direct spending in all areas including forest management. Government is thus looking for alternative mechanisms to the State led management of resources. Besides, forest conservation programs in Nigeria, (for example, National Forestry Programme) are not participatory. Little has been done in involving rural people in the management of forest resources, hence the birth of forest management committees an initiative of the Cross River State Government. Community forest initiative, that is, management of forest resources by the communities who owned them was not promoted until recently, when some states, example Cross River and Enugu states established Forest Management Committees (FMC) involving local communities in the management of reserve areas mainly to control timber exploitation. Moreover, research gaps exist as regards the performance of management systems, although considerable work has been done on the Non-Timber forest product sector especially in Cross River state under the previous Overseas Development Association (ODA) assisted forestry project (1992-1996), Ogar and Ojatin (2003) provided an overview of community forestry and forest stakeholders’ participation in sustainable forest management. Living Earth Foundation also compiled some amount of information on community-based management of forest resources in their project site in Cross River state. However, little has been done on assessment of the performance of these management systems especially in relation to the use of FMCs in the management of community forest resources. This study hopes to fill this knowledge gap.

    This study will also present the background considered important for understanding community-based management regimes, notably the features of local institutions and organizations towards the acceptance of community-based approaches to development and conservation of forest resources.

 The purpose of this study is therefore to assess the performance of community forest management committees in the management of forest wood trees.

1.3. Objectives of the study.

The broad objective of this study is to assess the performance of forest management committees in the management of forest wood trees in Cross River state.

The specific objectives are,

1.  identify and describe forest management committee structure, composition and management practices in the study area.

2.  compare the intensity of forest management practices in communities with FMCs and communities without FMCs.

3. compare household income from forestry between communities with FMCs and communities without FMCs.

4.   determine the perception of the local people as regards the use of forest management committee in management of community forest.

5.  describe the constraints encountered by FMCs in the management of forest in the study area.

6.  proffer recommendations based on the findings.

1.4. Research Hypotheses.

Based on the stated objectives of the study, the following null hypotheses will be tested

1H0.There is no significant difference between the household incomes from forestry in communities with FMCs and those without FMCs.   

2H0.There is no significant difference in the intensity of forest management practices in communities with FMCs and those without FMCs.

1.5. Significance of the Study

The initial goal of community forestry is to improve the income and welfare of the poor rural household. This study will create awareness on the community on eliciting the community participation in,

(i). waging war against illegal exploitation of wood within and around the community

(ii). helping in the conservation of the environment by stemming the tide of degradation of the environment

            (iii). contributing to forest establishment through planting of trees and its sustainable management so as to make some stocks available for future consumption and,

             (iv). reducing the rate of over-exploitation.                                                                              

    The result of this study will be useful to the ministry of environment especially in the review of the national forest policy, for formulation of policies for conservation of forest resources and in making forest management programmes participatory. Also, the national Draft forestry Act is under review, thus, the findings of this research will be valuable in updating the draft Act. The result of this study will also be useful to NGOs involved in environmental management. This is because; NGOs will find it easier to formulate environmental conservation projects especially those involving local people.




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