‘We have discovered 30 indigenous species of trees in Cross River’
Category: Environment Written by Eyo Charles, Calabar
How has the tree planting campaign catching on in Cross River state being a foremost state championing afforestation?
Let me confirm straight away that the state government is very much involved in the ongoing national tree campaign strongly. But it is being anchored by the ministry of environment. They have the complete details about as to what extent they have yet gone in the campaign in the state.
As a commission charged with the mandate to sustain the vast forests in the state, how have you factored into the campaign?
The forestry commission by the mandate given to us by the forestry commission law, our strategy or mandate is to actually care for the forest estate of the state. In order to do that we have structured different things to ensure that such activities are carried out effectively. Here, we have been given the mandate to extend the forest cover of the state and also indigenize the kind of forest cover we are going to have.
How are you able to do this?
Over the years we have partnered with local government councils, communities and NGOs to ensure that we plant trees. As I talk with you presently, we have been able to identify 30 indigenous species of trees, including ‘abura, ‘blakafara’ ‘iroko’, just name them. We have decided not to be too engaged in afforesting our forestry with exotic foreign species but to emphasise on species that are native to the state. And so you will not see us planting melina and such trees.
In your campaign, how many trees do you plant per year, for instance?
We have raised over two million seedlings. Our target really is to plan five million trees per year, and this we pursue vigorously. Between 2011 and last year, we partnered LGCs who were to identify four communities each. And each was supposed to give us some hectares of land in this collaboration to enable us plant these indigenous species of trees. Gradually therefore we are extending to many other communities and are presently encouraging others willing to raise these nurseries should approach the commission for technical support.
We have about 24 forest charges, i.e. field offices, in this state. Each of these offices is mandated to raise specific number of seedlings. In addition to communities and councils, we are partnering with individuals who are willing to raise nurseries. And this is catching on as many people and communities are getting more enthusiastic and innovative in the way they raise these nurseries. We are receiving applications on daily basis from many local government councils who are willing to engage in this process for technical supports. We are seriously trying to raise the profile of forestry in Cross River state.
We have three kinds of reserve in the state: National Park, State Reserve and the Community Forest. We are seriously nurturing these reserves in partnership with the communities. We want to do more if we are given the desired financial encouragement because it is very expensive to raise nurseries. The state government has been very supportive by giving us the leeway to become ‘adventurous’ with our ecotourism drive. And this we hope will affect nearby states positively.
How has the commission been caring for these nurseries and trees?
We are not doing total clearing and planting. We are doing enrichment planting. What we do is to go to where it has been degraded. We go to such places and enrich them with common trees which are indigenous to those degraded places. You may know that in this state we have different eco-zones. And we try to raise and plant nurseries peculiar to these zones. And so, when we have requests for nurseries, we ensure that we give out such that are indigenous to such endemic environment, not ones from other environment.
How do you hope to sustain the state’s leadership in afforestation given the fact that wood loggers in connivance with members of the anti-deforestation committee, are still in business despite government’s clamp down?
You are aware that the government after the 2008 environment summit put in place the task force you have just mentioned. This task force is to see how to minimize the harm done to our forest. Now there is the Cross River State Forest Law which also guides the use of forest resources. However, we are aware that there are still some illegal activities going on. What is more disturbing is the fact that many of those involved in the pilfering of our forest resources are non-indigenes who connive with indigenes to commit this havoc. But be that as it may, the Anti Deforestation Task Force in conjunction with the forestry commission has been doing a lot to ensure that their activities are minimized. We are forming a synergy between the commission, Ministry of Lands and Survey and other MDAs to know what the other is doing in respect to the forestry question.
There is a lot being done to curb activities of these elements. But we realize that people will need wood for their peculiar businesses. This is why effort is being made to get wood from outside the country until such a time that we can stabilize our process. We are discussing with Cameroun so that we can import their wood at a competitive prices. When that is done we think that the damage done to our forest will become minimized since we know that it cannot be completely eradicated.