Forest destruction in Cross Rivers State

My neighbour recently returned from Nigeria and told me that the Governor of Cross Rivers (Ben Ayade), who seems intent to act out the caricature of a politician (“A Man of the People“), continues to push the construction of the so-called superhighway slated to cross the Cross River National Park. The proposed 260 km highway – from Calabar to Obudu – will not only mean the clearing of 400 m of land for the road itself but also the logging of community land and forests in the 10 km corridors (compulsorily acquired) on either side of the road. Farm and forest destruction has already begun in these corridors. The Ekuri forest community has started to protest,  and there is a global petition requesting a halt to the highway:

“To President Buhari of Nigeria, Cross State Governor  Ben Ayade and Federal Minister for Environment, Amina Mohammed: As concerned citizens from across the globe, we want to know:- Why is a 260km highway in Cross River State being built through one of Nigeria’s last surviving rainforests? Where is the money to build the superhighway or is this to be paid for by the timber that will be cleared from the 20 km wide right of way? We demand that the Cross River State superhighway be  stopped immediately until a new route can be found that will safeguard the rainforests and the future of the Ekuri people.”




These Global Forest Watch images indicate that the protected areas (shown in blue) are at present under pressure, as are the areas along side the existing road network.

So far the potential damage that could be caused by the highway has not attracted much international attention. Is there a bias towards the Amazon region and south-east Asia and against the forests and community livelihoods in Central Africa?

UPDATE: The London Financial Times [gated] reported on Cross Rivers (MAY 20, 2016), “Nigeria road plan drives fears over last rainforests”, highlighting the tensions between the federal and state governments due in large part to weak forest legislation.





Signing up to defend Karura Forest

karura_rainsThe Green Belt Movement statement: Say No to Land Grabbing of Karura Forest:

“Thank you for your continued interest in the integrity and preservation of Karura Forest.

The Green Belt Movement (GBM) is concerned about proposed development of the Sigiria Block of Karura Forest. Ibis Hospitality Ltd has proposed to develop 25 acres of the Sigiria block for commercial use, which violates the 2016-2020 strategic forest management plan developed jointly by the Kenya Forest Service and Friends of Karura Forest. This plan is currently awaiting signature by the Kenya Forest Service. The unsigned draft is available on the GBM website.

Under the 2016-2020 plan, Ibis has no authority to develop any part of Karura forest and should be prevented from taking any further steps to encroach upon the forest.

IMG_20151024_103706Before any further action is taken, the Kenya Forest Service must account to the Kenyan people. GBM demands that they provide all details, including licensing, tender documents, and any other agreements, if they exist, that relate to the Sigiria Block. We are only asking for that to which we are entitled: Article 35 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 demands citizens the right to access to information and compels the Kenya Forest Service to provide it.

In its statement regarding Ibis’s encroachment, the Kenya Forest Service referred to an unrelated case about encroachment of the Karura Forest, York World Wide Holdings Ltd vs. Kenya Forest Service & another. This case, as well as, Kenya Anti-corruption Commission vs. Gigiri Court Limited, and Ruhangi vs. Kenya Forest Service show that the Karura Forest is constantly under threat, but none of them relate to the Sigiria Block. The resolution of these cases will not resolve Ibis’s attempted land grabbing.

We are demanding information, but we need your help. Public land is the people’s land, and we all have the right to know how it will be used. Please add your voice in support of the Karura Forest by signing our petition“.

I have been a member of the Friends of Karura since the start. These are recent photos of the forest following the rains.

There is currently a survey underway to assess how people value the forest (its ecosystem values):

How do you value Karura?

Deforestation trends

Looking at the Top Search enquiries that bring people to these blog pages “deforestation” & “deforestation trends” or “data” are topics that score highly (although admittedly the blog receives few search enquiries…). I’m more interested myself in the drivers of deforestation, and seeking policy solutions and, as appropriate, those economic instruments that might change the incentives to clear forests or make their management more viable, whether by local communities or companies. But nonetheless here are the results of my own search for more information on deforestation:

First stop, the Beeb on the trends in the Amazon: clear and concise data, and good graphics too. This is an exemplary example of how to get the data and arguments across.

Next: FAO Forestry “Facts and Figures” which is not the most imaginative site but it gives an overview of trends and you can follow the source (the FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005), which can be downloaded – – and includes the global spreadsheet, with data on a country basis, which is really useful if you need to analyse the data yourself:

MONGABAY.COM provide the same data, but presented more attractively, plus lots of other information and news updates. For example, the tropical deforestation data here.

CIFOR host a Forest Spatial Information Catalog (sic)  a “one-stop access to spatial publications, maps and other documents that will simplify the ability of all levels of visitors to find forestry related data“, which does seem comprehensive; however, the site does not appear to have been updated recently, and I cannot get the maps to open. Much of the data is sourced from the World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

WWF have lots of in-depth information on different forest ecosystems, for example here on tropical & subtropical moist forests, with downloadable images and maps (see for example, below), and detailed descriptions of each “ecoregions” (within which there are further sources to explore).

Remember that deforestation is very much open to interpretation, see for example my earlier post.

Splendid Conservation

Because the lumbermen are wiping out all the timber and never thinking of the future. They are in such a hurry to get rich that they’ll leave their grandchildren only a desert. They cut and slash in every direction, and then fires come and the country is ruined. Our rivers depend upon the forests for water. The trees draw the rain; the leaves break it up and let it fall in mists and drippings; it seeps into the ground, and is held by the roots. If the trees are destroyed the rain rushes off on the surface and floods the rivers. The forests store up water, and they do good in other ways.

    For Zane Grey, born at the height of the cowboy age, the adage “larger-than-life” seems a perfect fit: a world-record holding fisherman, minor league baseball player and – the role for which he is best known – millionaire writer (who true to form later blew most of his fortune). Not only that but he is widely credited for launching the literary genre – the Western – writing dozens of novels, many adapted by Hollywood, taking the imagery of the American West worldwide (his novel “The Lone Star Ranger”, written in 1915, is taken to be the inspiration for the eponymous film & TV hero). He did much to popularise hunting and fishing, and became a champion of the American wilderness. Roll over Hemingway.
    A late-starter at 30, he went on to be a prolific writer and was the best-selling author of his time. “Riders of the Purple Sage” was published in 1912, immediately sold over a million copies, and established the form of the modern Western. Extraordinarily he had only visited the American West a few years earlier.
    Why was he so successful? Principally because he struck a nerve, he was authentic, he was hard working. His stories were firmly grounded in own travels and hunting trips in the West (which would strengthen his own conservationist ideals). His direct writing style was built upon the popular dime stories, and most of his stories follow a straightforward narrative plot often based cycles of captivity, seduction, pursuit and escape for the protagonists, normally strong-minded, individualistic characters, compelled to rebuild their lives in the West, from which they may or may not emerge redeemed. His adventures of those rugged people, conquerors and conquered, are played out against a rugged landscape — its beauty, wildness, fragility and immutable power — and rapid social changes such as the expansion of the frontier, the colonization of the West, industrialisation and the railroads. Grey invokes a simple code of conduct for his characters, wrote sympathetically of Native Americans, and was prescient about the transformation of the so-called wilderness. But just as cowboys were more than gunslingers, so Zane Grey has proved to be more than his caricature. A review of a recent biography (Zane Grey: His Life, His Adventures, His Women, by Thomas H. Pauly) is posted here.
    Remarkably one of his earliest novels “The Young Forester” (1910) has all of this (except seduction: its a story for boys). Its main protagonist goes to Arizona to work as a forest ranger. On arrival the first transformation is a prerequisite: getting kitted out with “Winchester, revolver, bolsters, ammunition, saddle, bridle, lasso, blanket” and buying a horse and pack-pony. Then the adventure can begin in earnest. Its a rippin’ yarn, with an assortment of goodies and baddies – such as the corrupt timber man – kidnappings, gunfights, and bear hunting, with plenty of good forest management advice, which would not be out of place in a modern text book, scattered throughout.

    the Government must own the forests an’ deal wisely with them. These mountain forests are great sponges to hold the water, an’ we must stop fire an’ reckless cuttin’. The first thing is to overcome the opposition of the stockmen, an’ show them where the benefit will be theirs in the long run. Next the timber must be used, but not all used up. We’ll need rangers who’re used to rustlin’ in the West an’ know Western ways. Cabins must be built, trails made, roads cut. We’ll need a head forester for every forest. This man must know all that’s on his preserve, an’ have it mapped. He must teach his rangers what he knows about trees…We’ll give [timber and wood] free to the settler an’ prospector. We’ll sell it cheap to the lumbermen–big an’ little. We’ll consider the wants of the local men first…The head forester must know his business, an’ not let his range be overstocked. The small local herders an’ sheepmen must be considered first, the big stockmen second. Both must be charged a small fee per head for grazin’ … Fire is the forest’s worst enemy. In a dry season like [this Penetier] would burn like tinder blown by a bellows. Fire would race through here faster ‘n a man could run. I’ll need special fire rangers, an’ all other rangers must be trained to fight fire, an’ then any men living in or near the forest will be paid to help. The thing to do is watch for the small fires an’ put them out.

At the end the Chief of the Forest Service declares a new policy for the Arizona national forest: “I call it splendid conservation… It considers the settler and lumberman instead of combating him.”

Thanks to Ken Rosenbaum for telling me about “The Young Forester”.