THE EFFECTS OF DEFORESTATION ON THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC LIFE OF THE PEOPLE

CHAPTER ONE

1.0    Introduction

Habitat is very important and must be considered in this issue. Habitat is an environment where plants and animals grow and live. Many think of habitat as just a shelter but it also deals with food, water and a place to nurse their offspring. When deforestation occurs, many animals are affected because all those key elements that make up habitat are taken away from them. Since the industrial revolution, forestry around the world has been reduced by 20% (Pfaff, 1999). Deforestation has been practiced by humans since the beginnings of civilization. Fire was the first tool that allowed humans to modify the landscape. The first evidence of deforestation shows up in the Mesolithic was probably used to drive game into more accessible areas.

It has been argued that the lack of specificity in the use of the term deforestation distorts forestry issues. The term deforestation is used to refer to activities that use the forest, for example, fuel wood cutting, commercial logging, as well as activities that cause temporary removal of forest cover such as the slash and burn technique, a component of some shifting cultivation agricultural systems or clear cutting, (Dudley, 1995).

Deforestation defined broadly can include not only conversion to non-forest, but also degradation that reduces forest quality, the density and the structure of the trees, the ecological services supplied, the biomass of plants and animals, the species diversity and the genetic diversity, (Brown and Pearce, 1994). Defined narrowly, deforestation is the removal of forest cover to an extent that allows for alternative land use. The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) uses a broad definition, while the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nation uses a narrow definition.

Forest is a track of land covered by plants association predominantly composed of trees and other woody vegetation. The ‘forest, as plant community often includes mosses, lichens, fungi, bacteria, insects, reptiles, birds and mammals. Other inseparable components of the forest are streams, rivers, rock out-crops and other land forms within it (Etukudo, 2000). Forest represents an enormous valuable resource in terms of the diverse economic products and environmental services it provides (Roper, 1999). The lives of a lot of people depend on the forest (Okojie, 1997).

Of all the environmental concerns facing developing nations in the humid tropics, large-scale deforestation is certainly the cause which has most galvanized world attention, and it is one of the most serious environmental problems facing Nigeria today (Adedire, 2000). One way of solving this problem has been the creation of forest reserves. Forest reserve had been treated as an unwelcome form of land use because the creation of forest reserve led to the loss of land ownership by communities (Osemeobo, 1988).

Deforestation results from removal of trees without sufficient reforestation and results in decline in habitat and biodiversity, wood for fuel and industrial use and decline in quality of life. Since about the mid 1800s the Earth has been experiencing an unprecedented rate of change and destruction of forests worldwide. Forests in Europe are adversely affected by acid rain and very large areas of Siberia have been harvested since the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, according to the FAO, Nigeria has the world’s highest deforestation rate of primary forests. It has lost more than half of its primary forest in the last five years. Causes cited are logging, subsistence agriculture, and the collection of fuel wood.

There is nothing positive to this issue, only negative effects. Some negative effects of deforestation are that the air we breathe is affected, habitats are affected and the soil is affected by erosion and infertility. When deforestation occurs, the trees are cut down and either get burned or decomposed, these releases back the carbon dioxide that it took in back into the atmosphere. With the population increasing rapidly, it is essential that there are enough trees helping to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen for humans to breathe. One country that has been greatly affected by deforestation has been Mexico (Foreman and Wolke,1992). Mexico has lost 7.8 million hectares of forest whether it was legal or not. For every cubic metre of wood taken legally, two cubic metres were taken illegally. Another place that has been affected by deforestation and the most specific place that has occurred, is in the Taiga in Siberia. These countries that are being affected by deforestation have had high carbon dioxide emissions because there are no trees to convert the air into oxygen.

Another important effect of deforestation is the effect the absence of trees has on the soil or the earth. Erosion is a physical and chemical process where soil and rocks are washed away and abraded by different elements such as rain and wind. The purpose of the trees is to prevent erosion of the land but if the trees are clear-cut, they do not perform their job. Wall of trees serve as windbreaks and their roots act like metal rods placed in concrete to act as reinforcement so that the concrete is stronger and cracking does not occur. They help to hold the soil in place so that it is not washed away by rains.

Roper (1999), observed that there are approximately 2,000 million hectares of tropical forest worldwide; representing all enormous valuable resource base in terms of diverse economic products and environmental services they provide. The report stated that eight thousand years ago, at the advent of sedentary agriculture, forest covered approximately 40% of the world’s land area or about 6,000 million hectares. Rowe, et al, (1992) noted that between 1850 and 1980, 15% of the world’s forest and woodlands were cleared. The world forest has now shrunk to 3500 millions hectares as a consequence of human exploitation, most of which occurred in the later half of the 20th century (FAO, 1997).

Today in Akwa Ibom State and in Ini Local Government Area in particular, forests have been reduced to a patchwork of farmlands, cocoa, and other monospecies plantation through the removal of the natural vegetation by man’s activities. Bush burning, subsistence farming, timber logging, fuel wood, general pressures from increasing population as well as urbanization are some of the factors which accelerate the rate of deforestation (Adedire, et al, 2000; Omiyale 2001; Adetula, 2001; and Udo, et al, 2005).

The attendant effects of deforestation (natural forest and resources) manifest in environmental problems such as soil erosion, windstorm, erratic rainfall, flooding, siltation of water bodies, water shortages, landslide, desertification, declining soil fertility, habitat loss and threats to extinction of economic trees and other flora and fauna (Udo and Udo, 1999). These adverse effects of deforestation on the environment threatened the sustainability of forests as a source of livelihood of forest – dependent communities.

Based on this background, this study therefore aims at assessing the effects of deforestation on the socio economic life of the people of Ini Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. It will also provide some measures that would help to check deforestation in order to ensure sustainable forest ecosystem and human environment in the area.

1.1    Statement of the Problem

Deforestation presents multiple societal and environmental problems. The immediate and long-term consequences of global deforestation are almost certain to jeopardize life on Earth, as we know it. Some of these consequences include: loss of biodiversity; the destruction of forest based – societies; and climatic disruption. We as human beings may not understand the severity of the possible consequences that deforestation poses. Since deforestation has had no severe effect on us yet, we ignore the problem. Everywhere you go, you see pieces of paper on the ground, people using multiple tissues to wipe their noses, and countless people pulling excessive amounts of brown paper out of the paper towel dispensers in lavatories. What we must realize is that the paper products we use daily could have been a part of a forest which functioned to enrich and hold soil, absorb carbon dioxide, collect and recycle water, release oxygen, and regulate climate.

Many people might not consider the possible consequences of deforestation serious. By clearing forest, flooding will be experienced here and there, the temperature rises, we miss out on a few new medicines, we kill off a few species which we never knew existed in the first place; the soil looses its nutrients. Ignorant people like these do not realize the severity of these consequences.

The lowland forest reserve in Akwa Ibom State at Obot Ndom and Ogu Itu in Ini Local Government Area has a total land area of 422 and 317 hectares respectively (Beak Consultants Limited, 1999). The forest reserve and in deed part of the natural forest in the area are gradually disappearing through deforestation by the activities of man. It is observed that over 95% of the protected forests in the two locations have gradually disappeared over the years. The setting is rural and the inhabitant is predominantly farmers. Bush burning, subsistence farming/fallowing system, timber logging, general pressures from increasing population and urbanization, fuel wood, wildlife poaching, medicinal extraction from plants (roots, bark and leaves, etc), cocoa, oil palm and other mono-species plantations are some of the factors which accelerate the rate of deforestation.

These activities not only result in deforestation but also undermines the very foundation on which economic growth and long term prosperity depend. Deforestation indicators worldwide includes soil erosion and accelerated run-off water from hilly slopes. Other problems manifest in siltation of water bodies, landslides, declining soil fertility, bushes vegetation, decline in number and diversity of wildlife species, scarcity of valuable tree species and valuable Non Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) and some climatic disruption. All these indicators or problems are beginning to show and affect the socio-economic life of the people of Ini.

It is against this background that this research is carried out in Ini Local Government Area to investigate the main effects of deforestation on the socio-economic life of the people.

However, to achieve this, the following questions seem pertinent.

  • What are the main causes of deforestation in the study area?
  • What are the effects of deforestation on the socio-economic life of the people in the area.
  • How would the problems of deforestation (if any) be checked in the study area to ensure a sustainable forest ecosystem and human environments?

1.2    Research Aim and Objectives

The aim of this research is to assess the effects of deforestation on the socio-economic life of the people of Ini Local Government Area. To achieve this aim the following objectives become pertinent.

  1. To examine the main causes of deforestation in the study area
  2. To examine the effects of deforestation on the socio-economic life of the people of Ini Local Government Area.
  3. To determine the aspect of socio economic life of the people which are more vulnerable to deforestation.
  4. To make recommendations based on items (i-ii)

1.3    Significance of the Study

The study is aimed at identifying the effects of deforestation and the level of these effects on the economic livelihood of the people in the study area. It also aims at suggesting ways of ameliorating these effects on the environments of the study area. The significance of the study, therefore, lies in the fact that the result of this work will be of immense value to Government Agencies statutorily involved in forest management especially in intensifying and strengthening effort in forest resource conservation.

It will also assist the public to be aware of the consequences of deforestation on the immediate environment resulting from their activities, and guard against such activities and actions that will lead to further deforestation in the study area and indeed Akwa Ibom State. The study will also enhance the participatory role of the public in finding lasting solutions to deforestation in Ini Local Government Area.

1.4    Scope of the Study

Generally, deforestation poses tremendous effects on the environment-land, water and the air. However, due to shortness of time and the associated costs involved, this study is therefore limited to the effects of deforestation on the socio-economic livelihood of the people of the Local Government Area.

1.5    Research Hypothesis

To guide this research effort, the following hypotheses were formulated.

HO:    There is no significant relationship between (effects of)   deforestation and the socio-economic life of the people in Ini Local Government Area.

H1:     There is significant relationship between (effects of) deforestation      and the socio economic life of the people in Ini Local Government         Area.

Ho:    There is no significant variation in the occurrence of major environmental problems traceable to deforestation across the 6 clans in Ini Local Government Area

HI:     There is significant variation in the occurrence of major environmental problems traceable to deforestation across the 6 clans in Ini Local Government Area.