Forestry in Nigeria: A brief historical overview, phases of development and present challenges
Nigeria is blessed with a large expanse of forest cover but this important resource is not sustainably used, managed and/or conserved. Historically, forestry development in Nigeria began with reservation of forest lands in order to manage, maintain forest reserves and provide a supply of timber. This was followed by exploitation of forest resources to meet both export and burgeoning local demand as well as to earn much needed foreign exchange. With the country’s independence in 1960, development phase of the Nigerian forest resources management began which focus on the development of forest plantations. The records in the Federal Department of Forestry as of 2006 shows that Nigeria has a total of 1,160 constituted forest reserves including 6 National Parks, 20 Game and Wildlife sanctuaries, 13 proposed Game Reserves/Wildlife Sanctuaries and 8 Strict Nature Reserves. These areas which cover about 107,527 km2 are designated for conservation, management, and propagation of wild animals including the protection and management of critical habitats. For about 40years now, Nigeria's forests including the conservation areas have continued to shrink, especially in the north, where uncontrolled commercial exploitation of privately owned forests began in the late nineteenth century. Presently, the rate of deforestation is now estimated at about 3.5% per annum translating to a loss of 3,500–4,000 km2 of forest land per year while current level of demand for forest products outstrips the sustainable level of supply. This situation is expected to deteriorate further in future if adequate conservation measures are not properly introduced. For reliable conservation strategies for forestry sustainability in Nigeria, this study therefore, recommended the following: a review of forest policies, afforestation and reforestation methods, improved enforcement, agroforestry practice and adequate funding, restoration of degraded land, control of bush burning and forest fires, and more importantly adoption of local/traditional knowledge in planning and execution of forestry projects as well as forest monitoring using remotely sensed data.