ASSESSMENT OF COMMUNITY FORESTS MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES IN EKURI, CROSS RIVER STATE, NIGERIA

Author: Umoh Boniface Davis
Department: Environmental Management
Affiliation: Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka

Forest conservation has become one of the most important environmental issues currently facing humanity, as a result of widespread deforestation and forest degradation in the face of climate change. Pressures on the remaining natural forests continue to intensify, leading to high rates of biodiversity loss. Understanding what and how the few communities that still have forests manage them is essential for developing effective conservation strategies. This
study therefore was carried out in order to assess how Ekuri community in Cross River State Nigeria manages their forest resources. The principal aim of the work was to ascertain the traditional forest management measures in use in forest conservation by the community. Using stratified random sampling technique, a total of 353 respondents were selected for the study. The questionnaire was the major instrument of data collection. This was supplemented with personal interview schedule. Variables of interest included were respondent’s attitude to forests, use of forest, perception of the importance of forest, perception of ownership, norms used in regulation of forest use, penalties for norms violations and awareness of norms. These variables were analysed to establish how they were influenced by the socio-demographic characteristics of respondents- age, gender, income, household size, and membership of social groups, education, and duration of residence in community. Other variables captured. Result of the analyses show that there was a very high level of awareness among the respondents on the importance of forest regardless of gender, age, income, household size and education. Eighty five percent of the respondents showed positive attitude towards the forest. The forest according to them is important for income (84 percent), health (81 percent), and education (78 percent). Among the traditional norms used to regulate member’s relationship with the forest are: restriction of use of timber by indigenes for home construction only, restriction of farm land to four kilometre distance into the forest, ban on illegal logging, and exclusion of non community members from timber exploitation. In terms of “access to forest and exploitation of non timber forest products” there was no significant differences along gender, except for bitter kola (44.5 percent) men and (12 percent) for women. Probit regression show that while age (p<0.008), household size (p<.004), and duration of residence in the community (p0.000. Based on the above result, the hypothesis which states that there is no significant difference in attitude of residents towards forest conservation was rejected. It is therefore concluded that the local norms which are driven by ownership incentives and perceived benefits account for the conservation of Ekuri Community forest and this need be adopted as a strategy in forest conservation in Cross River State and other community forest.

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