Home Uncategorized Stakeholders Decry Deforestation in Cross River, Call for Urgent Government Intervention

Stakeholders Decry Deforestation in Cross River, Call for Urgent Government Intervention

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Andy Esiet, Calabar 

Stakeholders on environment have decried the alarming rate of deforestation of Cross River forest through illegal logging saying the state government and other stakeholders must rise to the occasion. 

In view of this, the stakeholders came together in a one day conference and brainstormed  on the theme : “Multi-Stakeholders Conference on Deforestation in Cross River State” with emphasis on illegal logging put together by “We the People” (WTP) in partnership with “Panacea for Development and Infrastructural Challenges for Africa Initiative” (PADIC-AFRICA) also known as “Development Concern” (DEVCON).

The conference which was the 2nd since inception held on June 14 with stakeholders and participants drawn from community representatives traditional rulers, concerned groups, civil society organisations, the media, as well as relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

The participants in a communique at the end of the conference made available to some newsmen in Calabar at weekend identified challenges facing the highly threatened forest of Cross River to include illegal activities of loggers which has no doubt, drastically depleted the once vast forest cover in the state, posing a serious threat to climate change mitigation and income generating opportunities to forest-dependent communities in the state.

The 37 point communique which was signed by  the Executive Director, WTB, Ken Henshaw; the Chairman, Non-governmental Coalition for Environment (NGOCE), Dr. Odigha Odigha; the Executive Director, PADIC-AFRICA, Dr. Martins Egot; Agba Jalingo Foundation for Investigative and Accountability Journalism, Jonathan Ugbal and others 

also noted that illegal logging has  introduced a new phase of security challenge, as perpetrators now go about their illicit trade fully armed, to resist every effort to stop them by state or non state gatekeepers. 

They stated that “a significant area of the Cross River rain and mangrove forest has been depleted due to illicit or uncontrolled logging. And that the existing legal instruments on forest management are neither strong nor adequate to  protect and conserve the forest, thereby exposing it to persistent degradation.

“Forest communities have been marginalized and excluded from decision-making processes due to government policies, exacerbating the challenges faced in forest protection. Besides, communal armed conflict in some areas have further hampered conservation efforts. That there is an urgent need to develop and implement a comprehensive plan to effectively manage the forest and eliminate deforestation”. 

The conference also identified lack of political will on the part of the authorities (government) to rise up to the challenges accounting largely for persistent deforestation in the state. Worse still, is the fact that government officials allegedly aid and abate illegal logging, that the extent of deforestation and  loss of forest cover in the state raises doubts about its current classification as the home of West Africa’s largest bristle rainforest.

It further stated that continued threat to the forests will not only undermine climate change mitigation efforts but will also deprive the state access to conservation funding from the international community.

To address these challenges, the participants said it is crucial for the new administration in the state to develop innovative forest management policies targeted at reducing deforestation and eliminating illegal logging, as well as protecting and empowering indigenous populations to participate actively in  forest management, protection and conservation process.

While acknowledging that government has a responsibility of checking illegal logging and other illicit activities in the forest, the conference among other things also recommended that the solution lies in “changing the forest structure to also empower forest  communities to participate actively in management process.

“Provide legal recognition and support for community-based forest management initiatives, involving them  in the decision-making processes and resource allocation, foster partnerships between forest communities, government agencies and non-governmental organizations to facilitate capacity building, knowledge sharing, and technical assistance in all forest management activities as well as strengthening forest legislations and law enforcement procedures.

“Reviewing  existing legal instruments to ensure they align with international best practices as they relate to forest management. Enhancing the capacity of regulatory agencies responsible for enforcing forest laws, by way of equipping them with the necessary resources, training, and surveillance technologies.

“Enforcing stricter penalties and sanctions for illegal logging activities, targeting both individuals and entities involved in the illicit timber trade.

Develop and Implement Comprehensive Forest Management Plans to engage stakeholders from various sectors, including communities, academia, civil society organizations, and the private sector, to create room for synergy and collaborations.

“Integrating sustainable land use practices, reforestation programs, and biodiversity conservation initiatives into the plan. And ensuring that such forest management plan addresses both the ecological, social and economic aspects of forest protection, to create livelihood opportunities for the communities”.

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