Communities urge Cross River government to reverse ban on logging
Worried by the rapid disappearing of forests in Cross River state, 14 communities in Cross River state have called for the cancellation of ban on forest moratorium in the state. The communities, who spoke at an advocacy meeting with Ministries, Departments Agencies (MDAs), Lawmakers and Community Leaders on Moratorium and Cross River State Forestry Law, stressed the need for a sustainable forest governance in the state.
Speaking at the meeting organized by a group of 14 communities in Akamkpa, Etung, Ikom, Yakurr and Obubra local council under the EKIAO Forest Conservation Initiative, the Village Head of Iko Esai and Chairman, EKIAO Forest Conservation Initiative, Chief ObioArong Owai described as unacceptable the ongoing massive logging in the communities in spite of the ban on logging.
“For the fact that we have lost more forests within the period of the moratorium , the very high level of corruption and lack of accountability for forest resource loss as well as lack of incentives for forest conservation, we strongly recommend to the State Government that the moratorium or ban on logging should be lifted and to put in place a workable plan and action for sustainable forest management in the State”, he said. Chief Owai, who spoke on behalf of the communities stressed that a large number of wood have been taken out of their communities without anything to show for it.
He urged the state government to “resuscitate Forest Management Committees (FMC s) or similar institutions in communities to work closely with Forestry Commission to manage our community forests and even the reserves, raise community nurseries, carry out regeneration.He also advocated for the development and implementation of community land use and forest management plans with by-laws in order to empower communities to support forest monitoring especially logging and Non Timber Forest Products (NTFP) removal and deforestation, enforcement of regulations, creation of conservation awareness, development of community nurseries and regeneration while improving land and forest use.
There is need to “Support communities to invest in more environmentally friendly approach to farming and NTFP collection and/or domestication like bush mango and ‘afang’ that will reduce the impact on our forest, reduce cost, and bring us more yield and increased access to market, develop and implement a forest management regime that recognizes and respects local customs and traditions. “Government needs to clarify roles of institutions in forest management with strong recognition for community based institutions like the Forest Management Committees.
“The anti-deforestation task force is militant and did not allow for collaboration and more inclusive and beneficial forest management option is recommended. “The State should explore opportunities for alternative income opportunities to communities that depend on forest ecosystems for a living. This may include ecotourism and agro forestry”, he added.
In a presentation on legal issues regarding forestry in the state, a member of the initiatives, Mr. Obio Bassey Arong said the state forestry law makes provision for communities to benefit from fees and royalties because it says “all fees payable under this Law shall be paid into the special account for this purpose. He stressed that recent development has shown that “the law seems to focus on timber management, rather than the sustainable forest management it seeks to promote.
“Management plan for forest management should be defined. Funding plans (forest trust fund) should be operational. Moratorium should be revoked”, he added.The State Coordinator of REDD+, Mr. Patrick Coco Bassey who represented the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change, Mr. Agbang Akwaji expressed concerns that if nothing is done to protect the forest, in the next five years, the state will record the highest level of deforestation in the country.
He said: “We cannot sit down be blaming ourselves, we need to do something. Our biggest problem is that of enforcement because of the high level of unemployment but we can address all these”.On his part, the State Representative of UN-REDD, Mr. Tony Atah said the moratorium put in 2007, has not stopped illegal logging and the forestry commission law of 2010 has not been reviewed.He stated that the state has lost over 1,064 hectares of land between 2007 and 2014 due to illegal logging in spite of a moratorium in place.