Forests ecosystems are a dynamic, constantly changing community of living things, interacting with non-living components. Forests are valued on social, environmental, cultural and economic factors.
We need forests. They provide wood and non-timber products and services, play a key role in the fight against climate change, make an important contribution to our economy through supporting regional communities, as well as providing excellent opportunities for recreation and tourism.
Forests provide us with essential products. From house poles/frames to floorboards, furniture to newspapers, forests are necessary to everyday life. Not only do forests supply timber for our needs and employment for local industry, they are also animal habitats, provide us air and regulate water quality. Plus they provide for a myriad of recreational opportunities; from bushwalking, camping and bird watching and adventure sports.
Forest on a daily basis, trap, absorb and store carbon to stabilize the climate beneficial to all. Other tangible or direct non-carbon benefits of the forests include firewood, vegetables, agricultural implements, thatching grass, bush meat, fodder, medicinal herbs, wild fruits, seeds and honey. Also, the forest provide us ropes, stones for construction, grazing, erosion control, fresh water, and commands aesthetic values.
The forests also provides us social non-carbon benefits – improved relationships with governments, NGOs, donors, political empowerment which includes training and skills that have also strengthened local governance and advocacy mechanisms. These are part of political and social capital benefits and are particularly important in terms of empowering the poor to voice their needs in any forum
In order word, forests are the super engine of life without which human being survival on the planet is zero. No matter your status in life, you need the forests more than the forests need you because without the forests, you are doomed!
Considering the values and inestimable benefits the forests hold for mankind, how sincere and committed are we to the protection, conservation, management and regeneration of forests? This question is very crucial because some have left the substance to pursue the shadow by paying lip service to protect the forests. Some exercise exclusive knowledge, power and arrogate the management of the forests as a personal property that others shouldn’t be involved. Some see the forests as an opportunity to make fortunes and wretch it without any remorse. Others see the forests as an obstacle to development and consciously devastate it for commercial agriculture, for mono-plantations or other selfish motives. Some connive with outsiders for peanuts to cause havoc to the forests. Others just look away while crimes are being committed against the forests, the very foundation and livewire of human being’s existence. Some others portray a nonchalant attitude to any crime against the forests as they erroneously and strongly believe that they have arrived educationally, socially, economically and politically so have no need for the forests.
There are still several examples of man’s injustices against the forests but, unfortunately, forests cannot talk, cry, complain or seek redress in court as often by human being. However, the anger of the forests against these injustices are the underlying factors to the inglorious climate change and global warming with attendant effects of floods, wildfire, heat, tsunamis, loss of lives and property, food insecurity, poverty and what have you! Climate change has affected everybody in one way or the other and the worst scenario is coming if nothing substantial is done.
In spite of the above, there are no concrete efforts and commitments to reverse loss of forests, biodiversity, habitats, wildlife and ecosystem services. Taking 10 years ago as a baseline, the size of forest loss in Cross River State within this period is astronomically the highest. This is because forest fragmentation is mirrored by social fragmentation between individuals, groups, NGOs and government as each has self-mundane interest but not collective interest for the overall long-term survival of the forest. We can reverse this by abandoning self-interest, work as a team, not in disarray but collectively to protect and increase hectares of lands under forest through regeneration. It is only then that we can consider ourselves of having achieved!
- Extract from a presentation by Chief Edwin Ogar of the Wise Administration of Terrestrial Environment and Resources (WATER) delivered at the recently held 6th IUCN World Parks Congress (WPC) in Sydney, Australia, where countries committed to expand protected areas in their domain. Ogar used to be with the Ekuri Initiative, a conservation programme that manages a 33,600-hectare community forest in Cross River State, Nigeria