Nigeria has rich biological diversity in its forests that is being threatened by logging, oil industry encroachment, and a growing population. The deforestation rate in the country is about 3.5% per year, or 350,000-400,000 hectares of forest land per year. The remaining forests represent only about 10% of Nigeria’s original forest land, and they lost 21% of their forests between 1990-2005 alone.
One organization working to protect Nigeria’s remaining forests and plant more trees is the African Research Association (ARA). ARA “has been tackling forest degradation and environmental degradation which are the key drivers of climate change, promoting environmental governance and provision of alternative livelihood in the tropic forests and Savannah grassland areas of…Nigeria.” ARA’s main work is their rural community action project, Development in Nigeria (DIN). ARA’s research in poor rural communities has convinced them of the deep connection between poverty (resulting from lack of opportunities) and forest degradation (in areas where poor communities are reliant on the forest for their livelihood).
So how do they achieve poverty reduction and reduce forest degradation? By working with the people who depend on the forests, and incorporating programs into the community. “Activities… are focused on sustainable natural resource management through reducing poverty, promoting sustainable alternative livelihoods, adaptation to climate change impacts and capacity building through activities such as providing adult literacy services and farmer field schools.” Check out their Community Forest page for more information.
Two organizations working on preserving the diverse life within the forests of Nigeria -and, thus, the forests themselves- are Cercopan and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Cercopan was started in 1995 and works on conservation issues in Cross River State, Nigeria, particularly on primate rehabilitation, environmental education, community rainforest conservation and research. Their Community Rainforest Conservation programs were started in 1999 and are based largely on “establishing mutual trust and respect, and putting gin place economic incentives through training, establishing royalties and community development funds, and employment.” To learn more about the goals of the programs, see photo galleries and read community newsletters, check out the page.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) states that Nigeria’s forests and savannah parks and wetlands “Rank among the continent’s most important.” Their current work involves developing a “community-led model for protected area conservation in the Mbe Mountains and continu[ing] to identify and monitor remaining gorilla populations.” According to WCS, the forests need to link together in order to provide an ideal habitat for animals like gorillas, chimpanzees and elephants. The booming population and expanding agricultural and timber farmsmake these forest connections very difficult to maintain. For more information, check out their website with links to articles about their efforts.