Today forest occupy approximately one –third of earth land area, account for two – third of the leaf area of plants on land and contain 70 percent of carbon present in living things .Thus, the food and agricultural organization (FAO) of the united nations estimates that in 2000, 38.7 million square kilometer of land on earth is forested. Forest is essential to all human life because people who live within the forest zone depend on them for survival in many ways. These include food, medicine, fuel wood, shelter, clothing, timber, construction materials e.t.c. The forest also clean the air, water, ameliorate the climate, check water and wind erosion (Azeke, 2003). Forest contains roughly 90 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. However, forest is a major causality of civilization as human population have increased over the past several thousand years (with the world population today estimated to number 7.001 billion by united state census Bureau) bringing deforestation, pollution and industrial usages problems to this important biome (forest).The contributions of forests to human well-being can only be sustained if the forests are themselves sustained.(Food and Agricultural Organization, FAO 1994).But Nigeria has lost most of her natural forest cover which is a serious problem, with forest loss occurring at a rate of 3.5 percent per year, which translate to a loss of 350,000 to 400,000 hectares per year (Adedoyin 2001, Aruofor 2000).Since 1990, the country has lost over 6 million ha or 36 percent of its forests cover. Nigeria has been losing an average 11 percent of its primary forest each year. This figure gives Nigeria the highest deforestation rate of natural forest in the world. Deforestation is the removal of forest stand where the land is put to a non – forests use (SAFnet Dictionary). Deforestation results from subsistence farming, commercial farming, road construction projects, logging, mining and dam construction. However, Hazel and Lutz (1998) attributed resources degradation in extensive rain fed farming (characteristic of tropical forest environment) areas to poverty and population growth. Scherr and Hazell (1994) also identified conversion of primary forest to agriculture, with attendant loss of biodiversity, climate change and expose of fragile soil as part of environmental problems emanating from rain fed farming (which cause deforestation). Deforestation could be caused by plantations and commodities and settlements. The removal of tress without sufficient reforestation has resulted in climate change, damage to habitat, biodiversity loss and aridity. The carbon lost from the destruction of forest is exacerbated (increase) by gas flaring .Associated to deforestation are air pollution, ozone depletion, land degradation and constantly declining soil fertility and above all declining quality of life (Ewuola & Yomi –Alfred,2000). According, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO, 2000) observed threats posed by economic constraints to sustainable forest management in sub – Sahara Africa as overwhelming. Forest have been held in reverence in folklore and worshipped in ancient religion. Crews (2003) submitted that tress and forest were impacting peoples way of lives and are cultures, languages, mythologies and folklores of peoples living within and around the forest. These belief, attitude and behavior of local people influenced their ways of live and assisted a great deal in conservation of forest reserve. Therefore traditional beliefs influence people value, behavior and perception towards the forest and so help conserve the forest. Among the Benin people of Edo state, many big markets started under Iroko trees. Milicia Excelsa (Iroko) and Bombax Spp are be lived to be abode of spirits, village gods or ancient gods and tales of ten revolve around the tress that are frequently left around the villages. Plants such as Iroko, Bombax Spp, Newbouldia leaves, Kola acuminate, Garcina Kola and so on where preserved. Animals such as crocodile, vulture, tortoise, leopard were also equally protected through traditional belief. In addition sacred groves harbor several medicinal plants, which are of great value in primary health care delivery. Most of Nigeria population still live in rural area which are modern health care, these plants and animals are relied upon, Advance in science and an upsurge of evangelism in Christian and Muslim faiths have greatly reduced the influences of scared groves as method of conservation. Cultural norms and taboos are violated with little of no penalty and sacred groves are increasingly degraded. The Government of today is concerned about deforestation and environmental degradation, which is estimated to cost the country over $6 billion in a year. It has failed to put in place effective measures to curb illegal logging and only 6 percent of the land area is protected. Previous Government have tried to prevent further loss through a ban on log exports, promoting agro forestry and community based conservation scheme and encouraging plantation and reforestation programs. The success was being limited. Thus Kio (2002) suggested radical change in forest policy towards mobilizing the rural population in the interest of sustainable development. Other ways in which to protect and conserve the forest is to create awareness through Environmental Education of the indigenous people and the general public. Also by tracking down illegal logging and bush burning. The paramount concern of this research is on the incidence of deforestation in Odighi Community in Ovia North East Local Government Area, Benin City, Edo State. The community is along Benin – Akure road. The people in the community main occupation are farming and the population is estimated to be above 2,000 people, which regarded as one of the most populated area or community around the axes. The soil here is very fertile which is suitable for growing vast variety of crops like cassava, yam, plantain, vegetable, maize and also forest tress. The forest reserve compartment located in Odighi is surrounded by other neighboring villages namely Igbekhue, Oke, Odiguetue. The landmass of the forest reserve is estimated to be 215 ha. About twenty five years ago the compartment used to be highly forested area with a high biodiversity of species including tress and animals but due to the deforestation, the compartments are now a shadow of its old self with the area totally turned to grassland (bare land). The trend is continued through the presence of cattle searchers in the community who continuously set the residue forest ablaze due to reasons yet unknown. The study tends to investigate the incidence of deforestation, its rate of occurrence and extent to which it has affected the environment and suggest possible measures in controlling future deforestation in the forest compartment in Odighi community.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Deforestation is a serious problem in Nigeria as the forest in Nigeria plays an important role in providing economic, social and ecological benefits as well as provides forest products and services for the people. The forest compartment used to be a vast forested land, what could have been possible causes of loss of forest trees and at what rate does the loss occurs.
Could it be due to population growth leading to expansion of settlements?
Could it be due to subsistence farming by rural or indigenous farmers?
Could it be as a result of illegal logger?
Or could it be caused by a combination of two or more factors and what are the environmental impacts of the process of deforestation in the area.
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