‘Cross River could lose its forests in 20 years’
Cross River State could completely lose its forests in 20 years if something is not urgently done about the rate of deforestation, Programme Coordinator of Wise Administration of Terrestrial Environment (WATER), Chief Edwin Ogar has warned.
Ogar expressed this fear after an awareness workshop on climate change organized by WATER and supported by the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and Mainyotto Pastoralist Integrated Development Organization (MPIDO), for five forest communities in the state. They were Agoi Ekpo, Agoi Ibami, Etarra, Ekuri and Okokori communities.
Ogar said, “Basically why we are doing climate change awareness creation in these communities is that they are not really aware about climate issues. They have low understanding of what climate is all about and what climate change and that is why the present change of climate is attributed to witchcraftcy whereas it is not so. Climate change is human induced and they have to also intervene and reduce climate change in their respective communities. So we are here to educate them what climate change is all about in a participatory manner. So that the communities will begin to know what are the causes of climate change. From the trainings we have done for five days now, goes to show that the communities are getting to know what are the reasons they are climate change.
“Why the climate has changed is because of deforestation. It is because the forests that are expected to regulate the climate are very, very small and it can no longer help to regulate the climate as it used to be in the last 50 to 100 years. And they know they have contributed to this by cutting down the forest for farming, doing logging business and also doing degradation in the forest. Though they know it is not only logging that causes the problem, on their own they can contribute to the reduction of climate change by doing a land use plan for their community forest as well as trying to regenerate the forest naturally and not by planting trees. Planting trees would not regenerate the forest. There are so many species that make up the forest, so if you are planting and some of these species cannot be planted by humans except through natural consequence. So they realize that the best way to regenerate the forest is to allow it regenerate naturally. So far we have trained 550 community participants in the five communities.
“If measures are not put in place to ensure the protection of our forests and they continue to exploit the forests in an unsustainable manner, in the next 20 years the forests in the state could be lost completely if no effective measures are taken by government and international development partners to ensure that communities have a sustainable livelihood through a diversified income generation activities that would definitely reduce pressure on the forests. Else the forest would not be found anymore in the next 20 years. It would aggravate climate and the impact such as flooding, low agricultural productivity, diseases and so on. It would mean disaster especially for the rural communities that are so poor. So in the next 20 years it would be a disaster if nothing is done to ensure that the forest dependent communities have a diversified income source that will hugely reduce pressure on the forest. The forests will go.”
Clan Head of Agoi Ekpo, Attah-Ikum Oyira Onong, expressed gratitude for the training and expressed the determination of his community o continue to preserve the forests.
A clan head of a community in Agoi Akpama, Chief Ayene Ayitu Akpama, also expressed their resolve to keep the forests intact, but begged the government to provide basic amenities as water and roads for their community, as well as provide alternative sources of livelihood to reduce their dependence on the forests.