In an effort to sustain one of the remaining prominent rain forest regions in Nigeria, over 100 persons in Cross River State have been trained on ways to preserve the forest.
But to ensure such high forest sustainability, the trainees have called for an all embracing empowerment programme to enable them build alternative means of livelihood and keep their claws off the forest.
They were trained in cash cropping, forest value and forest biodiversity during a workshop held recently in Owai Community in Akampka Local Government of Cross River State organised by a non-governmental organisation (NGO), the Wanel-aedon Development Association, and supported by Rainforest Rescue.
The trainees reasoned that why their forest is suffering from deforestation and forest degradation is because of lack of empowerment mostly on the part of the youths and women in the community.
While commending Wanel-aedon Development Association for an eye opening on the importance of the forest, they demanded that their youths and women should be trained on skill acquisition.
A member of the community, Elder Luke Agbor, said that rather than destroying the forest, if youths in the community were empowered, the level of restiveness would be reduced to the barest minimum.
Elder Agbor said, “Youths and women in this community only have the forest to sustain them and that is why we are destroying our forest, but if they are introduced to other means of making money, they won’t go near the forest. They need to be empowered through skill acquisitions and this would also reduce youth restiveness.”
Another member of the community, Mr. Sunday Esira, said some elders in the community have compromised severally in leasing the forest to outsiders who enrich themselves by cutting down trees or clearing virgin forest for farming.
He complained, “We have a law in our community that we should not lease out any part of the community land to strangers; little did we know that the people went through our chiefs, gave them little money and they end up compromising by leasing it out to outsiders who come to enrich themselves by cutting down our trees. When we saw them entering the forest with so many machines, our chiefs told us not to worry.”
Earlier in his training lecture, the Coordinator, Chief Edwin Ogar, advised the community members to practice agro-forestry through cash cropping.
Describing farming as the main driver of the forest, Chief Ogar said planting of cash crops is a means of sustainable agriculture and advised them on the need to maintain already open forest for farming than further destroying virgin part of the forest.
By Tina Agosi, Calabar