Influence Of Gender On Sustainable Management Of Forest Resources In Abia State, Nigeria

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Influence Of Gender On Sustainable Management Of Forest Resources In Abia State, Nigeria


Abstract


Forest, which is a major source of resources in Nigeria, is currently facing accelerated degradation and depletion. The growing demand for ecosystem services from forests has led to over-exploitation of the resources, resulting in the extinction of some valuable species.This has continued to impact negatively on the capacity of the forests to mitigate climate change, conserve biodiversity, safeguard wildlife, and protect land and watershed.Approaches to forest management in Nigeria have not involved women in their desired perspective, irrespective of their dominant role in collection of forest produce. The influence of gender relationships on access to forests and forest resource management and sustainability has remained a concern to scholars and practitioners. This concern informed the need for this study. The broad objective of this study was to examine the effects of gender on sustainable management of forest resources in Abia State, Nigeria. The specific objectives of the study were to: identify and examine the participation of male and female farmers in the ownership and conservation of forest resources; identify and describe the various forest management practices and to examine the factors influencing the decision of men and women in the adoption of improved forest resource conservation measures. Others include; examine,the level of adoption of forest resource conservation strategies between the male and female farmers; analyze gender distribution of benefits from forest resource exploitation, analyze perceived importance of forest conservation factors among male and female farmers and examine the major constraints militating against forest resource conservation and management.

Relevant data for the study were generated mainly through the administration of structured questionnaire to farmers, randomly selected from 6 LGAs. A total of 240 respondents comprising 120 male and 120 female farmers was drawn from the 410,435 farm families in the state. Information collected include socio-economic characteristics of the farmers, environmental and institutional factors, gender access to forest resource benefits and forest resource conservation factors. Data generated were analyzed using percentages,frequencies, likert rating scale and Tobit regression model.The major findings were that: use of improved forest management practices was almost non-existent as against the traditional management practices that were common; female farmers in the study area adopted more improved forest conservation measures than their male counterparts. Tobit regression analysis showed that the coefficient of gender, land ownership, and dependence on forest for income were negative and significantly (p < 0.05) affected the adoption of improved forest resource conservation practices of the farmers, while credit access and gender discrimination in forest resource exploitation were positive and significant (p < 0.05). The analysis also indicated that forest resource management and conservation is driven by household size, landownership, credit access, gender discrimination and dependence on forest for income and energy.

The study, among others, recommended the pursuit of forestry management plan with emphasis on gender mainstreaming in forest conservation and management; improved extension outreach to forest dependent communities; pursuance of community based training programmes on forest management and conservation, with emphasis on those resources that are facing the risk of depletion/extinction; and the orientation of village heads on their role as custodians of natural resources in their communities.

Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background Information

The contribution of forest to the sustainability of livelihood and environmental quality cannot be overemphasized. Forest resources, namely woodland, shrubland, bush fallow and farm bush and trees on farms, as well as ecosystem dominated by trees (Arnold, 1998), provide households with income, ensure food security, reduce their vulnerability to shocks and adversities and promote their wellbeing. Indeed, forest environment and the 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 the net primary productivity of all terrestrial ecosystems, of which our priceless tropical forest account for about sixty percent (Adegboye, 1992). The rich flora and fauna found in the forest meet the subsistence need of the numerous communities especially those living in the vicinity of the forest (Kailsha, 1993).

Globally, forest resources have been a source of subsistence to millions of people throughout the evolutionary history of our species. Different parts of the forest plants, such as leaf, flower, fruit, seed, twig, pod, stem, root, tuber, bark and exudates and whole plant are used for various purposes. Forests not only provide food, fibre and fuelwood but also supply household articles, construction materials and ornamentals to mankind (Adegboye, 1992, Adger and Brown, 1994; Louis, 1993; Kailsha, 1993; Odoemena, 2006). Forest hard wood has been a source of hard currencies, fuel wood and security for the poor. In fact, research on non-farm rural employment and income shows that small scale production and trading activities in forest products constitute one of the largest parts of rural non-farm enterprise employment (Liedholm and Mead, 1993). It is in acknowledgement of the importance of forest resources for livelihood and environmental stability that its conservation and hence sustainable management has been included in the millennium development goals of the United Nations. In Nigeria, poverty has led to the dependence of over 90% of the rural population on forest for livelihood and economic survival (United Nations, 2002; Chukwuone, 2008).

Again, forests play a profound role in the maintenance of soil fertility. Forest leaves and branches of trees cover the top soil, thereby intercepting heavy down pours of rainfall and high velocity moving wind which would have eroded the soil, thereby rendering it less fertile and unproductive. Similarly, dead and decaying portions of forest trees improve the soil texture and structure thus increasing the water infiltration capacity of the soil and thereby enhancing nutrient recycling.

However, for man to continue to derive these benefits, forests and their abundant resources must be well protected against over exploitation. Unfortunately, this is not so. The over – exploitation of forest resources by both genders represents one of the greatest forces in global environmental degradation (Cock and Kock, 1991; GEO, 2000). Although the net loss of forest is slowing down, deforestation and forest degradation remains an on-going phenomenon, especially in tropical regions.


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