The Edo State government has decried the conversion of forest covers in the state to farmlands, noting that government has taken inventory of its forest reserves with a view to design a roadmap that will ensure sustainability of the existing forest resources.
Special Adviser to Governor Godwin Obaseki on Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security Programme, Prince Joe Okojie, said this after the two-day assessment of the forest reserves alongside experts from Germany and Proforest Africa.
Okojie expressed regret that much of the forest covers have been degraded and turned into farmlands, adding that it was worthwhile to assess forest covers still standing in the state, as government intensifies plans to set up a Forestry Commission.
“The governor wants to set up a Forestry Commission that will be responsible for managing our forest. So, we decided to take a physical inventory of what we have left and design a roadmap for their efficient management. Climate change is one of the greatest threats to mankind and preserving our forests can help stabilise the climatic effects. The forest regulates the ecosystem and promotes biodiversity. That is why we are doing this,” he said.
Some of the forest reserves visited were Iguobazuwa Forest Reserve, Okomu Forest Reserve and the National Park in Ovia South West Local Government Area as well as Odighi Forest Reserve in Ovia North East Local Government Area of the state.
He said actions would be taken to regenerate the reserves as well as decide on the fate of the farmers, who have converted parts of the forest to cocoa and cassava farms.
According to him, “It has been quite an interesting experience seeing the different forest reserves in some parts of the state. There are still heavy forest trees in some parts of Okomu reserve, but the forest covers in some parts of Iguobazuwa and Odighi are badly degraded.
“What we are looking at is what we can do with the portions that have been deforested. We have brought in experts to see if we can reforest some parts of the degraded forests.”
Africa Regional Director, Proforest, Mr. Abraham Baffoe, said that about 35 to 40 per cent of the forest covers are still left in the forest reserves assessed, and could still be preserved and maintained.
He said the state government would need to come up with implementable laws to protect the existing forest and adopt reforestation strategy.
“There is hope for reviving our forests. People have been doing the wrong thing for the past couple of years. We need to stop people from converting the forests into farmlands. When we have people, who have settled in the forest reserves and we cannot drive them away, we need to work with them to help us protect the forests,” he said.