Sustainable management of the Nigerian forests for poverty alleviation
Nigerian forests have played very important roles in the economy of the nation. Forestry was a major contributor to the foreign exchange earnings of Nigeria which assisted in various developmental projects in the country. Nigeria has a land area of 99.3 million hectares of which about 10% are estimated as forest when compared with Ghana’s - 41%, Liberia’s 48%, Senegal’s 39% and Sierra Leone’s 26%. In Nigeria, conservation is well below the FAO’s recommendation of at least 20-25%. The major cause of poverty in Nigeria is poor management of resources. The Nigerian forest is made up of over 500 species of trees which attain a height of 12m and a girth of 60cm. The forest ecosystem contains many valuable plant species which are of considerable value in providing food, shelter, drugs and fibres. It has been suggested that there may be over 6000 Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) species in Nigeria. Forests are remarkable assets which if properly managed could perpetuate their usefulness. The people must be seen as important stakeholders and hence be involved in the decisions that affect the sustainable management of the forests. The success of all the efforts aimed at the sustainable management of the forest resources, especially the NTFP species, depend on the combined efforts of the stakeholders. This paper examines the resources of the Nigeria forests, the past and the present status of the resources and the roles these resources have played and continue to play in the lives of the people if managed sustainably.
Key words: Nigeria, forest, sustainable management, poverty alleviation