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‘Less than 5% of Nigeria’s land area has forest cover’

‘Less than 5% of Nigeria’s land area has forest cover’

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Maureen Ihua-Maduenyi

Less than five per cent of the country’s total land area is afforested, the Acting Director-General, Nigerian Conservation Foundation, Mr. Joseph Onoja, has said.

According to Onoja, who spoke on the occasion of the World Forest Day 2018, even the sparse forest remainders are under threat with land use pressures from agriculture, infrastructure, housing and resource-harvesting, which are critical drivers of deforestation.

Onoja stated, “The global celebration of forests provides an opportunity to raise awareness on the importance of all types of woodlands and trees, and celebrate the ways in which they sustain and protect us.

“Unfortunately, there is an under-appreciation of forests by governments at all levels in Nigeria, not just for their important ecosystem functions, but even for human survival and sustainability as carbon sinks and oxygen pool, together with the numerous other benefits they offer.”

He explained that forests and trees store carbon, which helps mitigate the impacts of climate change in and around urban areas; improve the local climate, helping to save energy used for heating by 20 to 50 per cent; while strategic placement of trees in urban areas could cool the air by up to eight degrees Celsius, reducing air conditioning needs by 30 per cent.

Other uses of tree, according to him, include air filtration, and reduction of noise pollution, as they shield homes from nearby roads and industrial areas, among others.

Onoja stated that well-managed forests and trees in and around cities provide habitats, food and protection for many plants and animals, and help to maintain and increase biodiversity.

He added, “Forests in cities and surrounding areas generate tourism, create tens of thousands of jobs, and encourage city beautification schemes, building dynamic, energetic and prosperous green economies.

“Urban green spaces, including forests, encourage active and healthy lifestyles, improve mental health, prevent diseases, and provide a place for people to socialise.

“Government at all levels therefore, must ensure that urban planning incorporates green and woodland spaces at all stages of development. While developing a comprehensive reforestation strategy, we must, however, develop a national database of tree species indigenous to Nigeria, understand the status and plan a wholesome intervention.”

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