Evaluation Of The Impact Of Deforestation On The Environment

Project And Seminar Material For Forestry And Wildlife

Evaluation Of The Impact Of Deforestation On The Environment


In spite of their immeasurable benefits to life sustenance, the sustainable management of forest and forest resources in Nigeria is fraught with innumerable challenges such as the conflicting roles of the various stakeholders involved in forest management. Forests have since ancient times played an important role in the lives of people and the environment in general. That is, forests provided and continue to provide numerous benefits to humanity. This has repercussions for the environmental and environments on the people especially the poor and the people who depend on the forest. It is in this vein that this study was undertaken to assess the effects of deforestation on the environments of the forest fringe communities (farmers) in the Ukwa L.G.A.. The study adopted the case study research design in undertaking this systematic enquiry. This was adopted to help acquire knowledge on the current situation with regards to the phenomenon under consideration. Both primary and secondary data were collected and used for the study. The study employed both qualitative and quantitative data gathering techniques to collect the necessary data and was analyzed in great depth to determine their implications for changing forest cover and environments in the study area. The respondents for the study comprised Farmers, Municipal Meteorological Department, Forestry Commission and Municipal Agricultural Development Units. The study showed that, the farmers in the study area are largely engaged in the cultivation of food crops which are mainly subsistence in nature. It was realized that the farmers practice mixed cropping with slash and burn as the predominant land preparation method. The study showed that deforestation has affected crop production in the areas of delayed commencement of planting seasons, pest and diseases infestation, level and quality of crop yields and reduction in the income levels of farmers. The study recommended among other things, the continuous education and sensitization of farmers, strengthening of the public institution stakeholders and promotion of active research that will ensure a decline in deforestation.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

Forests cover almost a third of the earth’s land surface providing many environmental benefits including a major role in the hydrologic cycle, soil conservation, prevention of climate change and preservation of biodiversity. Forest resources can provide long-term national economic benefits. For example, at least 145 countries of the world are currently involved in wood production (Anon, 2010). Sufficient evidence is available that the whole world is facing an environmental crisis on account of heavy deforestation. For years remorseless destruction of forests has been going on and we have not been able to comprehend the dimension until recently. Nobody knows exactly how much of the world’s rainforests have already been destroyed and continue to be razed each year.

Deforestation is the conversion of forest to an alternative permanent non-forested land use such as agriculture, grazing or urban development. Deforestation is primarily a concern for the developing countries of the tropics as it is shrinking areas of the tropical forests causing loss of biodiversity and enhancing the greenhouse effect (Angelsen et al., 2011). FAO considers a plantation of trees established primarily for timber production to be forest and therefore does not classify natural forest conversion to plantation as deforestation (but still records it as a loss of natural forests). However, FAO does not consider tree plantations that provide non-timber products to be forest although they do classify rubber plantations as forest. Forest degradation occurs when the ecosystem functions of the forest are degraded but where the area remains forested rather cleared (Anon., 2010).

Over the years, sustainable management of forest resources has been of primary concern due to its potential impact on biological diversity and importance in maintaining global ecological functions. In spite of its importance, the natural tropical high forest has continued to diminish rapidly in the African continent, thus dwindling sustainable forest management. Nigeria could face the possibility of timber and fuel wood scarcity towards the end of the century. It has been predicted that within the next fifty years, unless adequate measures are taken, most humid tropical forestland area in Africa could be transformed into unproductive land and the deterioration of the savannah into desert will be accelerated (Hunter et al, 2010).

The level of community nutrition is sometimes linked to fuel wood availability and cost, majority of the people residing in Ukwa local government area of Imo state use fuel wood as their main source of energy for cooking. In many areas, due to increasing population the existing wood resources are over exploited. With extensive deforestation, villagers in Ukwa local government area of Imo state are compelled to walk long distance to fetch fuel wood. This tends to have serious consequences for local agricultural production and productivity because; the rural communities also rely on this substituted resource for improving soil fertility. Apart from the deterioration in the quality of life associated with forest degradation, there are other more insidious effects that endanger the future of humans on this planet.

In Nigeria, environmental problems that are termed degradation collectively, such as desert encroachment, erosion, flooding and drought etc all have a strong link with deforestation. In some parts of South-Eastern states for instance, escalated soil erosion, flooding, increase in aridity, all of which have strong relationship with deforestation, have affected a significant proportion of the state.

According to (; Chowdhury 2013) academia, scholars and researchers are of the opinion that deforestation risk reduction is a systematic approach of identifying, addressing, and reducing the risks of disaster to a community. Generally, deforestation is caused by a variety of factors. However, (Ajibade, 2012) viewed deforestation as clearing of any area of its natural vegetation cover which is normally lead to decrease in plants population resulting in loss of plant biodiversity Nonetheless, excessive deforestation over a long period has been the cause of many drought like features. Deforestation presents multiple environmental problems in our society today.

In view of the background this study intends evaluate the impact of deforestation on the environment using Ukwa L.G.A of Imo state as a case study.

1.2 Problem Statement

Forest fragmentation and deforestation remain as central problems in Nigeria, especially the high forest zone of Nigeria due, primarily, to both legal and illegal timber exploitation and arable crop farming (Amisah et al., 2009). The consequence has been a dramatic change in climate and evolution of strategies to sustain rural livelihoods. In most African countries the spate of deforestation has increased over the past four decades, with significant effects on rainfall, temperature, water resources, wildfire frequency, agriculture and livelihoods (Amisah et al., 2009).
In less developed countries, particularly those in Africa, livelihood insecurity remains a major problem (Shepherd et al., 1999 in Tropenbos International, 2005). Forest dependent communities in these countries, rely heavily on their farmlands. Many forest dependent people employ a diversity of means to help meet basic needs: food and cash crop production, forest and tree product gathering and income-earning enterprises both on and off the farm. Often, the poorer the household, the more diverse the sources of their livelihood, as the needs for the year must be made up from various off-farm as well as on-farm natural resources, and often from migrant labouring as well (Shepherd et al., 1999 in Tropenbos International, 2005).

At the beginning of the 21st Century, a third of Nigeria’s land area of 238,533 km2 was covered by high forest whilst the remaining was savannah woodland. Currently, only about 10 percent of this area remains as forested land. Logging, bush fires, agricultural practices, excessive exploitation of Non Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) have been implicated (Amisah et al., 2009). Deforestation rates remain high and will probably increase in the coming years as the population grows and demand for new settlements, wood for construction, fuelwood, charcoal and food increases as a consequence (Amisah et al., 2009).

This frightening spate of forest degradation potentially poses enormous adverse effects on forest reserves. These forest communities exert excessive pressure on forest reserves as many of those living in such communities have their livelihoods predicated on the availability, access and utilization of forest products (Appiah, 2009). The concomitant repercussions associated with this forest degradation include exposing such degraded forest communities as well as their farmlands to high risk of erosions and floods. Additionally, forest degradation risks the quality of life in forest communities and beyond, militates against the stability of climate and local weather, threaten the existence of other species and undermine the valuable services provided by biological diversity. Ultimately, these effects affect the livelihoods in such forest fringe communities.

An important location in Nigeria where forest communities have suffered considerable setbacks in their livelihoods due to changing forest cover (deforestation) is the Goaso forest catchment area. The forest loss has occurred as a result of excessive timber exploitation, bad farming practices and other land use activities. Forest communities in the area are characterized by high poverty levels and rely on rain-fed agriculture with little or no access to modern agricultural technology (Blay et al., 2008).

The Imo state is one of the important agricultural regions of Nigeria, especially the Goaso area, and is often regarded as the breadbasket of the country (www.ournigeria.com; accessed 2007). With about six forest districts, the region has a lot of fertile lands and actually serves as the production site for most of the food crops and cash crops in Nigeria. As forest reserves make significant contributions to the development of Nigeria, there is the need to strongly create awareness and understanding of the extent and nature of the endowed forest resource as well as the method of exploitation. The implication of this is the importance and necessity for adequate care of the forest through appropriate planning and management as to the utilization of the forest resources. The reasons being that, these forest resources are in a web within a system and any disturbance of one element will dislodge the equilibrium.

Besides the imbalances created in the forests’ ecosystem, the depletion of the forest cover poses significant repercussions on the livelihood of people, particularly those in such forest fringe communities who depend heavily on the forest and its resources. It is in this vein that this study is being conducted to assess the effect of deforestation on environments on forest communities in the Imo state.

1.3 Research Questions

Based on the afore-stated problem, the study provided answers to the following questions:

  1. What is the extent of deforestation in Ukwa L.G.A. over the last ten years?
  2. What are the causes of deforestation in the Ukwa L.G.A.?
  3. How has the deforestation in the area affected the environments in the study area?

1.4 Objectives of the Study

The objectives of the study are as follows;

  1. To find out whether there are deforestation activities in Ukwa L.G.A of Imo state
  2. To examine the sources of deforestation in Ukwa L.G.A of Imo state
  3. To evaluate the impact of deforestation on the environment in Ukwa L.G.A of Imo state
  4. To recommend ways for controlling deforestation activities in Ukwa L.G.A of Imo state

1.3 Justification Of The Study

Extensive tropical deforestation is a relatively modern event that gained momentum in the 20th century and particularly in the last half of the 20th century. The struggle to save the world’s rainforests and other forests continues and there is a growing worldwide concern about the issue. In order to save forests, we need to know why they are being destroyed. Distinguishing between the agents of deforestation and its causes is very important in order to understand the major determinants of deforestation. The agents of deforestation are those slash and burn farmers, commercial farmers, ranchers, loggers, firewood collectors, infra-structure developers and others who are cutting down the forests. Causes of deforestation are the forces that motivate the agents to clear the forests.

The impact of deforestation on the environment is devastating. Hence, strategies to prevent and control the menace are being discussed in this study.

1.6 Scope of the Research

The scope of the research shows the coverage of study in terms of the context which also defines or influence the theoretical framework of the study and the second aspect is the geographic scope.

1.6.1 Contextual Scope

The contextual scope revolved around the effects of deforestation on the environments of forest fringe communities, the extent to which deforestation has affected environments and the means of adaptation in forest fringe communities.

1.7 Organization of Chapters

The report was organized into five chapters. The first chapter which is the background of the study comprises of the general introduction, the problem statement, the research questions, research objectives and purpose, scope of the research, justification and organization of the research report.

Chapter two is basically a literature review on key terminologies and concepts related to deforestation on the environments of forest communities in the study area. Findings from the various chapters informed the data needs and requirements for empirical data collection from the field.

The third chapter looks at the methodology and profile of the study region. The methodology considered the data needs, sources of data, types of data, data analysis, sampling technique and sample size among others. The profile of the case region on the other hand showed the physical, social and economic characteristics of the study region which influence or explained some of the findings that were obtained from the analysis.

The fourth chapter dealt with the analysis of primary data collected from the field. Tools such as matrices and charts were used to analyze the data and also, provided quick visual impressions of the findings. The key findings, conclusion and recommendations from the analysis were covered in the fifth chapter of the report.

Chapter Five

Summary of Findings, Recommendations and Conclusion

5.1 Summary of Findings

Major findings on the crop productions and its effect on environments are summarized under subheadings and in line with the objectives of the study. These major findings are presented in the subsequent sub headings.

5.2.1 Extent of deforestation in the study area

The study showed that, there is a significant deforestation process in the study area. This is as a result of the fact that, most of the dwellers in the study area depend on agriculture, especially crop cultivation; which required the clearing and converting of vast forest areas into farmlands. From interviews with some of the farmers, it was pointed out that, the principal way they expand their farm sizes is by clearing additional virgin lands, which are usually forest areas. It was shown in the analysis that, just between 2006-2020 is 64.53 percent, implying an annual forest loss of 6.453 percent. This gives a clue about the spate of deforestation in the study communities. Conversely, the increase in farm sizes has not necessarily resulted in any significant increase in agricultural outputs. This phenomenon is distressing because, going by the current rate of change in the lands under cultivation of food crops alone will increase by 645.3 percent in the next ten years; which as a result, forest cover will experience a similar margin of deforestation.

5.2.2 Causes of Deforestation in the study area

The major causes of deforestation and forest degradation in the study forest communities include bad farming practices such as slash and burn method and clearing of vast forest lands for agricultural purposes. Though some of the farmers indicated that, illegal logging of trees are rampant in their communities; however they could not provide concrete evidence/data on the activities of such chain-saw operators. Additionally, the study showed that, hunting and gathering of NTFPs are other critical livelihood activities in the study area that divests the forest of its resources such as wildlife including game, mushrooms, snails, and among other things.

During the field survey, it was also realized in the study communities that, charcoal production was widespread and thus, serve as another livelihood activity that precipitates deforestation in the study area. During the survey, it was made known to the researcher that; many of the charcoal producers undertake their production in deep forests, which makes it challenging to track and forestall their activities.

5.2.3 Sources of Livelihood for Forest Communities in the Study Area

The study revealed that the crop farmers are engaged in the cultivation of both food and cash crops with a greater proportion of 83.3 percent producing solely food crops. The major food crops which are cultivated include cassava, maize and vegetables such as tomatoes, beans, groundnut, pepper and okro. The cash crops were mainly oil palm and tobacco and were grown on large scales as plantation farming.

It was identified from the study that the farmers cultivate the crops either subsistence or commercial basis or both. The study showed that 32.7 percent and 10.7 percent of the farmers produce crops for home consumption and commercial purposes respectively, while 57.3 percent undertake it for both purposes. Labour intensive was identified to be the major mode of production with family members as the type of labour used. The predominant land preparation method found in the region was slash and burn (80.7 percent of farmers) while ecological farming and tillage were practiced by 6.8 percent and 12.5 percent of the farmers respectively.

The study unraveled that the two farming systems practiced were Mixed Cropping and Mono Cropping. The study revealed that a greater majority of 91.5 percent of the farmers preferred Mixed cropping to Mono cropping. The mixed cropping is considered to be less risky in the face of deforestation and hence the high preference for it. The study demonstrated that access to extension services by the crop farmers in the region is generally low.

5.2.4 Effects of deforestation on Crop Production Decline in Crop Output Levels

Crops yield is one of the major yardsticks in crop production which can be used to assess the effects of changing forest cover on livelihoods. Data gathered from the District Agricultural Development Unit revealed that the yield of most crops including maize, rice, cassava, cocoyam and plantain saw a decline in their production with the exception of yam which increased by 0.01 percent of 13.87 metric tonnes per hectare (refer to table 4.7). The study has demonstrated that, the yield of major crops in the study district have been decreasing over the years while the ones which experienced increases increase at a decreasing rate. For example the yield of maize which is one of the major crops cultivated in the study area experience a marginal drop of 0.74 percent from 2009 to 2020. (Refer to table 4.7 for details of the output levels of the various crops). This trend was similar with all the other crops that are cultivated in the District. The situation was confirmed by the farmers as 84.2 percent of the respondents described the yield or output levels from their farms to be decreasing when they were asked to assess it. This is because; rainfall is one of the major determinants of crop yield in the district due to over reliance on it. However, other factors that might have accounted this situation are: Unpredictability of rainfall patterns and planting seasons

From the literature review, it was discovered that forests play a crucial role in enhancing both microclimate and local weather of an area. The study has confirmed this, as 56 percent of the respondents indicated that, they have observed changing patterns in the period for commencement of farming activities. Figure 4.8 presents more information about the phenomenon. This assertion was further corroborated by the Regional Meteorological Department that the study area has been characterized by erratic rainfall pattern in recent times. The two major rainy seasons in the area starts from April to July and August to November and the farming seasons coincides with the rainy seasons due to the over reliance on rainfall for cultivation. In recent past, due to the erratic nature of the rains, it has therefore affected the planting seasons of the crop farmers in the study area. Due to the difficulty in predicting weather and climate, making day-to-day and medium-term planning of farm operations have become more difficult. It was observed that it was becoming increasingly difficult for the respondents to predict the date for the commencement of farming in the study area which leads to late planting of crops. This late planting according to the farmers has been having negative repercussions such as low and poor quality of yield from their crops.

In addition, there have been several incidents of diseases and pests, especially alien ones as a result of change in temperature and humidity and long droughts was identified as one of the most obvious impacts of the climate change on crop production. The prevalent pests identified are aphids, beetles, birds, cockroaches and rodents among others. The commonest crop diseases which were found are black spot, blast, maize dwarf, mozaic, root rot and stem rot among others. The attack by these pests and diseases causes damage to the crops which reduces the quality and quantity of their yields the study unraveled. Low income levels

The study indicated that the average monthly income of the farmers in the district is N100.00 lower than the National Minimum Wage of N150.00. From the various interviews held with some of the farmers, their low income levels are attributed to the low yields of crops and the profuse application of fertilizers to restore soil fertility of their farmlands, which is very expensive to them. Thus, as a cycle they are unable to save enough money to help them get proper and variety of seeds and seedlings for their farming activities. This shown that, only 43.3 percent of the farmers are able to save an average of N5.00 per month. The study further reveled that moneys saved by farmers are often invested in the education of wards and petty training which are considered to be the adaptive and alternative livelihood mechanisms by the farmers.

5.2.5 Adaptation strategies to the changing forest cover in the study area

As the forest communities under study are conscious and actually experiencing the effects of the changing forest cover on their livelihoods, various coping strategies to salvage their livelihoods, have been devised and employed to put up with this unfavourable situation. The study showed that, 50.93% (refer to table 4.8) of the farmers interviewed apply fertilizers excessively to their farms in order to restore the loss soil fertility so as to boost the yields of their crops. From the survey, one of the farmers intimated that, “previously, he was not applying any fertilizer to his farm and yet, get enough crops to feed his family and also, make enough income from the sale of the remaining. However; nowadays, he applies substantial amount of fertilizer before he can reap enough crops like the previous days that he was not applying any fertilizer”. Again, some of the respondents (25.33%) are now engaged in livestock production whiles those who are into it already have scaled up their livestock rearing activities to supplement their crop productions. Furthermore, some of the farmers too are engaged in snail and grass-cutter rearing, which are all fetching them some guaranteed source of income, which is now acting as a backstop to the dwindling problem in crop productions.

5.3 Recommendations

Based on the findings of the study, a number of recommendations are being made to help reduce deforestation and its effects on crop production and productivity and consequently livelihood alternatives in general. The recommendations have been offered to serve as explicit examples of strategies and measures that can be adopted to reduce deforestation and its impacts on crop production.

5.3.1 Education and Sensitization of Farmers

The respondents should be seriously educated about the rules governing the forest reserve, methods of tree production, sustainable forest management practices, conservation and livelihood based approaches. There is the need to introduce the extension services which is undertaken by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to educate the farmers. These extension officers will educate the respondents about forest conservation practices, how to sustain the forest reserve, good practices in handling of tree crops and the rules governing the use of forest reserve. The extension should be stationed in each of the communities in order for the person to easily accessible to the respondents.

5.3.2 Diversify the Local Economy through Training of the Respondents in Alternative Livelihood Ventures

The farmers should be trained in other alternative livelihood approaches such as Beekeeping, grasscutter and snail rearing, garry processing and mushroom farming. This is so because of the high demand for honey, grasscutter, snail and mushroom in urban centers across the country. That is there is easy market for these products. For a start, five people each from the fringe communities should be selected, they should be giving training about bee-keeping, grasscutter rearing, garry processing and mushroom farming. The members who are willing to be trained are grouped in batches of fifteen and they are giving the necessary training. This should be a partnership between the community and the forestry commission. After that the trainees are helped to set up a business of their own through the revenues that are accruing from timber. The progresses of the trainees are monitored at least twice a month to see how they are faring. When this is done the respondents will become less dependent on the forest reserve for their survival and this will diversify the local economy.

5.4 Conclusion

In conclusion, the study established that deforestation imparts the life’s of respondents in many areas including affecting crop production in the areas of delayed commencement of planting seasons, pest and diseases infestation, level and quality of crop yields, access to water for irrigation farming and reduction in the income levels of farmers. Although several efforts have been initiated to mitigate these impacts the study revealed that they have been thwarted by challenges such as low institutional capacity, unavailability of funds, unfavorable farming methods and low educational background of farmers. Given the critical role crop production in the livelihood of the residents as well as economy of the region, it is imperative that pragmatic measures are adopted to mitigate the negative impacts that deforestation is having on it. In this regard the study recommended continuous education and sensitization of farmers, strengthening of the public institutional stakeholders and promotion of active research as some of the ways for mitigating the impacts of climate change on crop production.

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