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Sustainable Development Through Nigeria’s Forest Preservation

My first introduction to forestry was when I got admission into the university. Forestry was one of the courses under my faculty – the college of environmental resources management. I was a member of the Nigerian society for environment conservation, a group formed by students studying environment-related courses across Nigeria.

It was my access to that community of environmental scientists and passionate students of the environment that exposed me to the knowledge that Nigeria is blessed with a diverse range of forest ecosystems. Some of which encompass tropical rainforests, savannas, mangroves, and montane forests.

Forests are also home to a wealth of plant and animal species, including endangered species such as the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee, the Nigerian giraffe, and the Cross River gorilla.

Yesterday was the International Day of Forests, a global event that serves as a global platform to raise awareness about the importance of forests and their vital role in sustaining life on Earth.

In Nigeria, where forests play a crucial role in supporting biodiversity, regulating the climate, and providing livelihoods for millions of people, this day holds special significance.

For instance, the Cross River National Park stands as one of the country’s biodiversity hotspots, harbouring a significant portion of its remaining tropical rainforest and serving as a critical habitat for numerous endemic species.

Similarly, the Gashaka Gumti National Park in Taraba state boasts diverse ecosystems ranging from montane forests to savannas, supporting a wide array of wildlife, including elephants, lions, and rare bird species.

Despite their ecological and socio-economic significance, Nigeria’s forests are under increasing pressure from deforestation, illegal logging, agricultural expansion, and infrastructure development.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Nigeria lost approximately 2.8 million hectares of forest between 1990 and 2020, representing a significant decline in forest cover.

Deforestation rates have been particularly high in the southern regions of Nigeria, where agricultural expansion, logging, and urbanization have encroached upon forested areas.

The depletion of forests not only threatens biodiversity but also exacerbates soil erosion, loss of water resources, and climate change impacts such as increased greenhouse gas emissions and altered rainfall patterns.

In response to the challenges facing Nigeria’s forests, various initiatives have been launched to promote conservation, sustainable management, and restoration of forest ecosystems.

One of such initiatives is the adoption of a National Forest Policy in 2006, aimed at promoting sustainable forest management, biodiversity conservation, and community participation in forest governance. The policy emphasizes the importance of balancing economic development with environmental conservation and social equity.

Also worth mentioning is the active participation of Nigeria in the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) program, which seeks to incentivize forest conservation and carbon sequestration. Through REDD+ projects, Nigeria is implementing strategies to reduce deforestation, enhance forest carbon stocks, and improve livelihoods for forest-dependent communities.

Another important initiative is the community-based forest management initiatives which empowers local communities to actively participate in the sustainable management of forest resources.

In Ondo State, for example, the Oluwa Forest Reserve Community Forest Management Committee collaborates with government agencies and non-governmental organizations to protect and restore the Oluwa Forest Reserve while promoting community livelihoods through eco-friendly activities such as agroforestry and ecotourism.

In addition, reforestation and afforestation programs are being implemented to restore degraded landscapes and expand forest cover. The Nigerian Conservation Foundation’s “Adopt-A-Tree” initiative, for instance, engages individuals, organizations, and corporate entities in tree planting activities to combat deforestation and restore degraded ecosystems.

Finally, increasing public awareness and understanding of the importance of forests is crucial for fostering a culture of forest conservation and sustainable land management. Environmental education programs, such as school outreach activities, workshops, and awareness campaigns, play a vital role in building support for forest conservation initiatives among the general population.

As Nigeria continues to commemorate the International Day of Forests, it is imperative to recognize the critical importance of forests in supporting biodiversity, mitigating climate change, and sustaining livelihoods for millions of people. While significant challenges remain, concerted efforts towards forest conservation, sustainable management, and community engagement offer hope for the preservation of Nigeria’s invaluable forest resources.

By prioritizing forest conservation and integrating sustainable land use practices into national development agendas, Nigeria can safeguard its forests for future generations and contribute to global efforts towards a greener and more sustainable future.

Olamide is a communications professional currently based in London, United Kingdom. He can be reached across social media platforms @olamidefrancis and via


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