By Inwalomhe Donald
THE government is set to prosecute and punish those encroaching on the state’s forest reserve, especially Ogba Zoological Garden in Ogba Community of the state in line with the recently-adopted United Nations Global Forest Goals to protect, sustainably manage and increase world’s forest area which will be a key focus for his administration. Governor Obaseki has taken cognisance of the six forest goals and 26 associated targets, all to be achieved by 2030, the deadline set by UN Member States for the universal attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDSs), adopted by the UN General Assembly as part of the UN Strategic Plan for Forest 2017-2030, which includes a landmark target to expand the world’s forests by three per cent – an area of 120 million hectares, by 2030. Governor Obaseki is working hard to ensure that Forestry Department in Edo State wakes up to its responsibility of protecting, preserving and regenerating the forests, instead of acting as vendors and agents of forest destruction. He is interested in the agrarian people and non governmental organizations in the Forest Reserves area in Edo State, who depend on the natural resource and its associated farmlands for their livelihood
Forests presently cover 30 per cent of the earth’s land area, or nearly four billion hectares. Sustainably managed forests are healthy, productive, resilient and renewable ecosystems, which provide vital goods and ecosystem services to people worldwide. An estimated 25 per cent of the global population depends on forests for their subsistence, livelihood, employment and income.
Obaseki is interested in the UN forests plan which provides a global framework for actions to sustainably manage all types of forests and trees outside forests and halt deforestation and forest degradation. The goals cover a wide range of issues including increasing forest area and combating climate change, reducing poverty and increasing forest protected areas, mobilizing financing and inspiring innovation, promoting governance and enhancing cooperation across sectors and stakeholders.
Governor Obaseki said his government would focus on reviving the forest reserve in the state because it is the heritage of the people, and his administration is set to draft a bill, which would be sent to the Edo State House of Assembly (EDHA), to institutionalise a Forest Commission, which the state is prepared to set up to revive forest reserves in the state in line with United Nations Global Forest Goals to protect, sustainably manage and increase world’s forest area. He continued that the move to create a forest commission was a fallout of the environment workshop organised by the state government.
“Edo State has barely 15 percent of forest resources, and, as a government, we are committed to rebuilding our forest reserve. We will soon start rolling out our administration’s forestry plan”, he revealed. The governor explained that he had put some modalities in place to boost investments in the forestry business, which would complement the state’s efforts to rebuild her forest reserve. “We will need support and collaboration in this area and institutions that have the experience, knowledge and capacity to ensure we rebuild and re-grow our forest reserve. We have so many areas to partner so that we can bring back standard practices in our forest reserve”.
Edo State is still one of the stakeholders in the left-over forest cover of the country, even though forest cover had depleted to less than 5 percent, contrary to the expected minimum of 25 percent. Research activities in Edo State started over 40 years ago at Sakponba Forest reserve. The institute had established several hectares of research plantations in Sakponba, Ubiaja, Agbede, Uzairue as well as permanent Sample Plots (PSP) and Strict Natural Reserve (SNR) in Urhonigbe, Iguobazuwa, Ohosu and Okomu , purely for research purposes. The forest-related goals proposed by the UN Forum on Forests and adopted by the UN General Assembly that Governor Obaseki wants to key into are:
“Reverse the loss of forest cover worldwide through sustainable forest management, including protection, restoration, afforestation and reforestation, and increase efforts to prevent forest degradation and contribute to the global effort of addressing climate change.
“Enhance forest-based economic, social and environmental benefits, by improving the livelihoods of forest dependent people. Increase significantly the area of protected forests worldwide and other areas of sustainably managed forests, as well as the proportion of forest products from sustainably managed forests. Mobilize significantly increased, new and additional financial resources from all sources for the implementation of sustainable forest management and strengthen scientific and technical cooperation and partnerships.”
“Promote governance frameworks to implement sustainable forest management, including through the UN Forest Instrument, and enhance the contribution of forests to the 2030 Agenda.
“Enhance cooperation, coordination, coherence and synergies on forest-related issues at all levels, including within the UN System and across Collaborative Partnership on Forests member organizations, as well as across sectors and relevant stakeholders.”
Edo State, which was renowned for being home to massive forest reserves spread across 22 communities, has become a shadow of its former self. In the past, businessmen made immense fortune from timber exploitation, including export of forest resources in the reserves located in Okomu, Owan West and East, Ehor, Ebue, Ekiadolor, Ewohimi, Sakpoba, Obaretin, Ohosu, Okhuesan, Urhonigbe, Udo, Ubiaja, Ologbo, GeleGele, Ekenwan, Ora-Iuleha-Ozalla, Ujogba/Ugun, Igubazuwa, UremureYokri and others.
The popular Iyayi Farms and several others in Benin City, were household names in the trade, at the time the state had about 2, 000 sawmills, which serviced local consumption and also processing some for export. However, several years of harvesting these forests resources, coupled with sundry human activities, but without deliberate plans for regeneration, and reforestation have depleted the reserves, bringing about the consequent lull in timber business.
Donald writes from Benin City