Out of all the forests and forest reserves in Nigeria that remained relatively undisturbed, significant portions of them have been lost in the last two decades. As these natural forest ecosystems disappear, so do many of the goods, which they provide. In a bid to incorporate local people into the management of community forest, Cross River State became the pioneer state in introducing forest management committees (FMCs) to co-manage the forest resources of the state alongside the states forestry department, hence the spring board for this research. It is aimed at examining the performance of FMCs in the management of forests in Cross River State. Information were obtained from 15 leaders of randomly selected FMCs through interview questions, and 90 other respondents using a set of structured questionnaire. The data were analysed using descriptive statistics, binary probit model, student t-test, and likert scaling techniques. The intensity of forest management practices was higher in communities with FMCs than in those without FMCs. This showed significance different (t=4.234,p < 0.05) in the two communities. Average household income from forestry/forest products in communities with FMCs, and those without FMCs also indicated significant difference (t=1.972,P < 0.05). The income was significantly higher in communities without FMCs than in those with FMCs. Among the factors influencing the perception of the local people as regard the use of FMC for forest management, five were statistically significant, age P(0.0309), education P(0.0172), income P(0.0378), presence of erosion in the communities P(0.0445) and forest use P(0.0149) showed positive influence on the perception. The Likert scale rating of the constraints encountered by FMCs indicated lack of commitment of members, change in government policies, financial constraints, inter and intra-community conflicts, inadequate support from community leadership and negative attitude of community to forest conservation as the most challenging constraints to the FMCs. Finally, it was recommended that government should initiate policy to encourage communities to organize themselves into groups for involvement in forest management. The initiatives should be tailored towards policies and programs that cut across a review of the land use act, provision of finance, formation of cooperatives and substitution of wood usage among the rural households. This will be effective in the conservation and management of forest through FMCs.

1.1        Background Information
Forest and tree resources are of extreme importance to mankind. They provide the resources for a multiple of products, which feature in peoples day to day lives (Falconer, 1990). The contributions of forests to sustainable livelihood cannot be over emphasized. Forest which include all resources that can produce forest products, namely, woodland, scrubland, bush fallow and farm bush and trees on farms, as well as ecosystem dominated by trees, provide household with income, ensures food security, reduce their vulnerability to shocks and adversities and increase their well being (Arnold, 1998).

Out of all the forests and forest reserves in Nigeria that remained relatively undisturbed until the 1980s, significant portions of them have been lost in the last two decades. As these natural forest ecosystem disappear, so do many of the goods and services, like timber, fuel wood, water shed, charcoal, pharmaceutics, erosion control and prevention, soil stabilization, food, fruits/nut etc, which they provide.

Estimates of forest cover range from 9.7 million hectares to 13.5 million hectares in Nigeria (FAO 2005a). This extensive vegetation has over the years reduced as a result of the various human activities. According to FAO (2005a), forest area declined during the 1990s at an estimated annual rate of 2.6% or 398,000 hectares per year caused by agricultural expansion, encroachment, over harvesting, bush burning, illegal harvesting and de-reservation. As a consequence, the benefit which forest bestowed on the people is becoming more difficult and expensive to acquire. Nigeria’s total forest area in 1990 stood at 14,387,000 hectares. But in 1995, it stood at 13,780,000 hectares with a total change, (1990-1995), of -607,000 hectares at an annual change of -121,000 hectares (i.e-0.9%) (Eboh and Ujah, 2000).

Government of Nigeria (1997) noted at the fifth session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development that the bulk of this forest cover is the Savannah woodland type. This is about 70% of the open natural forest, with the remaining 30% closed forest. The closed forest includes mangrove and coastal forest (22%), fresh water swamp (38%) and low land wet forest (40%). It also went further to state that the southern rainforest, the source of the country’s timber resource, covering only two percent of the total land area in Nigeria is divided into lowland rain forest in the south and mixed deciduous forest to the North. These forest types, although heavily degraded, are the main remaining sources of hardwood timber- meliaceae and leguminosae species such as khaya ivorensis (Lagos mahogany), Entadrophragma spp, lovoa trichilioides (cedar) and Gosweilerodendron balsamiferum (agba) are characteristics of the rain forest area, whereas sterculiaceae, ulmaceae and moraceae species such as Nesogordonia papaveritera (otutu), triplochiton scleroxylon (obeche), celtis spp and clorophora excels (iroko) characterize the semi deciduous forest. These forest areas are being depleted at an annual rate of 3.5 percent. And if this continues the country’s forest reserve might disappear in future (Status of tropical forest management, 2005).

Ensuring that these forest wood trees are maintained requires both intra - and inter generational sustainability. In other words, a sustainable and productive forest reserve resource base can ensure enduring food and environmental security (FAO, 1997).

Forest conservation is defined as actions taken in management of a forest that result in maintenance of the possibilities for future forest related benefits (Wollenberg, Nawir, Uluk and Pramono, 2001). For Forest Wood Trees, conservation means the sustainable management of the species for the products it yields in order to ensure availability in the future. Conservation of forest wood tress and indeed biological resources can be in-situ or ex-situ. In situ conservation of biological resources involves conservation of ecosystem / species in their natural surroundings while ex-situ conservation involves the conservation of components of biological diversity outside of their natural habitat (domestication) (Laird, 2002). As stated in article 8 of the convention on biological diversity, in-situ conservation of forest resources can be achieved, among others, through the establishment of a system of protected areas. Ex-situ conservation can be achieved through the establishment of gene bank, cultivation of species in lots or in agro forestry systems, recovery and rehabilitation of threatened species and for their introduction into their natural habitats under appropriate conditions, among others.

Conservation initiative will be more successful if the local / indigenous people participate. This is based on the advantages that can be gained by drawing on indigenous knowledge of the forests and forests products, and by building on the sustainable systems.....

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Item Type: Postgraduate Material  |  Attribute: 67 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
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