Labode Popoola, national president of Forestry Association of Nigeria (FAN) and vice chancellor, University of Osun, says more than 13 million people are employed in forest sector activities in the formal sector and 40-60 million people can be employed in the informal sector.
Speaking at the 39th annual conference of the association in Ibadan, Popoola tasked the Buhari led government to annex forest and forestry products to rescue the nation out of recession.
“Estimates of the number of people deriving direct and indirect benefits from forests in the form of employment, forest product and direct or direct contributions to livelihoods and income- incomes range between N1billion-N1.5billion globally,” Popoola said.
According to him, worse still, the abuse, misuse and collective damage to which have subjected our forests to be mind bugling. We have continuously treated the forest as if it is an inexhaustible resource, forgetting that though renewable, it is potentially destructible.
“FAN has over the years warned about the imminent dangers of our actions and inactions: inclement environment, which now breeds diseases and pests that pose danger to human existence; the loss of fertile lands, leading to declining agricultural productivity, job losses, rural-urban drift and creation of urban slums, with their attendant security implications to society.
While saying that it was unfortunate that in Nigeria, forests and forestry have been downplayed stressed that forests, forestry and forest resources are unique in the sense that it has the potential of employing close to 60 million Nigerians in the informal economy therefore rescuing the youth unrest occasioned by unemployment.
The FAN president noted that Nigerians and the government have continuously treated the forest as if it is an inexhaustible resource, forgetting that though renewable, it is potentially destructible.
In his keynote presentation, Emmanuel Babajide Lucas, professor of mechanical and wood products engineering, noted that forests have the potential of rescuing Nigeria from recession.
He noted that while petroleum and cooking gas, mined from the tiny Niger delta region has sustained the economy of Nigeria for about 60years and in doing this has inflicted heavy environmental pollution on the country, forests that can be raised almost on every land within Nigeria can take over.
According to Lucas, Nigeria can generate billions of dollars if it encourages the infusion of scientific research in improving the relevance of herbs for healing and preventive measures against ailments noting that Lassa fever may be cured by local herbs and exported to other countries.
He lamented that the present recession is making the health situation much worse with infectitious diseases such as respiratory ones on the increase adding that forests products must be used to promote a healthy populace and improve the economy.
“There are some of the endemic diseases such as Lassa fever that have spread to other countries that may be curable by local herbs. Lassa fever must have been in Lassa, Northern Nigeria for centuries. Lassa that there are yet generations of people from the indigenes and they have not been wiped away may be that there are some local cures that need to be now rediscovered and improved upon.
“The market for herbal medicine is already available both locally and abroad. With more scientific preparations, this market can substantially expand to the benefit of the country’s economy,” Lucas said.
Declaring the conference open, Governor Abiola Ajimobi represented by Adekunle Olatokunbo, special adviser to governor on Agriculture, asked the Federal Government to aggressively fund re-forestation to check the negative effects of climate change on food availability and quality health of Nigerians
He added that the state needs the assistance of forest research in training its staff.