As the Federal Government continues the campaign for more Nigerians to embrace agriculture, stakeholders are however concerned over the alarming loss of forest land to agricultural purposes.
This comes against the backdrop of a recent forest inventory report taken in Cross River State that revealed a whooping 167,382 hectares of forest land was lost to agriculture between 2007 and 2014, and over 23,911 hectares lost to other purposes.
Specifically, they are worried that in Cross River, degradation of the forest is increasing at an average of 5,071 hectares lost annually repressing 0.67 per cent.
These formed part of the findings at a high level sensitisation workshop on, National Forest Inventory, organised by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in Abuja.
A Community Engagement Specialist for the UN REDD+ programme, Martins Egot, in a paper presentation on, the Drivers of Deforestation and Forest Degradation (Cross River State experience), pointed out that agriculture is a major driver of forest loss in Nigeria.
He identified other drivers to include forestry like timber exploitation, logging, infrastructure development – construction of roads, mining, and quarrying, adding that the locals also exploit the forest for fuel wood and charcoal.
The Forestry expert noted that the forest is the major source of livelihood of most rural communities, and their food, water, and economy is dependent on it, unfortunately, most of them are into farming, and this in turn leads to loss of forest land.
The lead consultant for the UN REDD+ programme, Tony Attah, who also expressed worry over the massive forest degradation, stressed the need for regeneration, saying, in as much as many hectares of land have been lost to agriculture, government should embark on regeneration to reclaim the forest.
He also identified the importance of taking stock of the forest to include climate change effect, erosion control, lamenting that Nigeria is losing the forest more than it can control, and forest inventory would help take holistic steps to ensure sustainability.
Attah said: “We need to have an inventory of our forest in all the states so that it would be well managed and be protected from indiscriminate degradation.”
He argued that forest degradation affect the natural water source, and food system, as the land would loses its fertility and also result in erosion problem. “The impact of the forest cannot be ruled out because man survival is dependent on the forest,” he added.