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Deforestation in Nigeria: 7 Causes, 5 Effects and 6 Ways to Stop It

Nigeria can actually stop deforestation if this article is taken into consideration. According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (UNFAO), deforestation can be defined as the permanent destruction of forests in other to make the land available for other uses.

Deforestation is said to be taking place when forest is being cut down on a massive scale without making proportionate effort at replanting.

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As of 2005, the UNFAO graded Nigeria as having the highest deforestation rate in the world, with about 55.7% of the primary forests (virgin forests) being lost and an annual deforestation rate of 3.5%.


  1. Bush Burning: Bush burning involves the removal of forest by using fire to burn out the existing vegetation. The burning can either be caused by accidental or intentional actions. In most rural areas of Nigeria, hunters set forests on fire in order to force the animals to flee their hiding places, or in some cases this can happen accidentally especially during the dry season.
  2. Unregulated Logging: Logging refers to large scale felling of trees mostly for commercial purposes such as manufacture of paper and furniture. In a regulated environment, this activity would not be much of a problem as loggers are compelled to plant more trees than they cut down. However in an unregulated environment, not only do loggers cut trees down indiscriminately, they also do not plant to replace the felled trees. Unfortunately, research done by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) shows that much of the logging done today is carried out illegally.
  3. Rapid Urbanization: The quest to make more land available for roads, airports, industrial areas and housing to cater for the ever increasing urban population in Nigeria has resulted in the invasion of hitherto virgin forests. The existing vegetation is either cut down or burnt, while the land is utilized for urban developmental purposes. This is most visible in rapidly growing urban areas in Nigeria such as Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt.
  4. Use of Wood as Cooking Fuel: A vast majority of dwellers in rural and semi urban areas in Nigeria depend on wood as their cooking fuel. According to research done by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), this accounts for about half of the trees that are removed from the forest illegally, most significantly in developing countries such as Nigeria.
  5. Droughts and Soil Erosion: Deforestation can occur if the forests are starved of rainfall for long periods of time as this can cause the trees to wither away and die. Severe soil erosion where large portions of soil are washed away can also result in rapid deforestation.
  6. Agricultural Activities: The population of Nigeria has been in a steady increase, and there is a dire need to provide food to cater for this increasing population. This need to provide more food has led to an increase in agricultural activity which in turn puts pressure on the available arable land. A vast majority of forest is destroyed annually either through burning or logging to create more land for food production as well as the creation of ranches and grazing land for cattle. Another significant effect of agricultural activities is that the natural nutrients in the land is depleted and this makes it quite difficult to grow new trees when the farmers move on from the land.
  7. Oil Spillage: The mangrove forests in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria has been devastated since the discovery of oil. Spillages usually occur due to pipeline vandalism, rupture of corroded pipelines and tanker accidents. The department of Petroleum resources reports that since the discovery of oil in Nigeria, about 419 spills have occurred on land, leading to the loss of between 5 to 10 % of the mangrove forest.



  1. Loss of Species and Bio Diversity: The National Geographic reports in deforestation overview indicates that 70% of the plants and animal species on earth live in the forests. The complex nature of the forest ecosystem means that deforestation usually leads to a domino effect, hence driving a reasonable number of species to the point of extinction owing to the destruction of their natural habitat. In Nigeria, it has been estimated that 899 species of birds, 274 mammals, 154 reptiles, 53 amphibians and 4715 species of higher plants will be strongly affected by deforestation.
  2. Erosion: The roots of large trees serve as anchors to hold soil particles together. Removal of these trees due to deforestation would make the soil more susceptible to water and wind erosion.
  3. Conflict: Nigeria has in the recent years experienced conflicts between farmers and herdsmen especially in the North Central region. These conflicts have mostly been related to the tussle for the available land as both parties have been forced to encroach on each other due to dwindling fertile land.
  4. Water Cycle: Forest trees play a significant role in the water cycle by absorbing the rain water as well as release water vapour into the atmosphere. The National Academy of Sciences reports that a slight change in water vapour in the atmosphere can disrupt natural weather patterns.
  5. Release of Greenhouse Gases: Deforestation reduces the amount of trees available to store carbon dioxide (CO2) and also causes the trees to release their stored carbon when they are felled. According to the 2010 Global Forest Resources Assessment, deforestation releases nearly one billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere per annum. This contributes significantly to global warming.


6 Ways to Stop Deforestation in Nigeria?

  1. Reforestation: This will involve an intentional and decisive plan to plant trees in order to replace the ones already lost. This effort can be driven by both the government and private individuals. In 2005, about 1 million hectares of land had been reforested in Nigeria. The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Agency (NESREA) has been empowered by law to tackle this project.
  2. Protection of Existing Forest: The available forests need to be protected jealously. The Government at all levels have a huge role to play in this. Protection of the forest will entail enforcement of logging regulation to restrict logging and implement a compulsory “plant a tree program” for all loggers. The government also needs to equip the existing forest guards with the necessary tools and equipment with which to do their job effectively and efficiently. Strict penalties should also be put in place to act as deterrent to would be defaulters.
  3. Focus on Alternative Forms of Cooking Fuel: The use of alternative cooking fuels such as kerosene should be encouraged in the rural areas to discourage people from using wood as fuel. In November 2014, the Federal Government of Nigeria approved the contract for the provision of 20 million clean cooking stoves to be distributed to rural women over a five year period. This program should be continued and supported. Also the natural gas which is currently wasted through flaring can be processed and channelled to homes as another alternative cooking fuel.
  4. Go Paperless: The use of paper in schools, offices and homes should be restricted to only when it is necessary. Less paper used will result in less pressure on the forest for more wood to meet our requirements.
  5. Eat Less Meat: Sticking to a more plant based diet would reduce the amount of meat consumed, hence reducing the forest area that has to be cleared for grazing and ranching of cattle.
  6. Orientation of the General Public: The solutions discussed above will be most effective if the general public is oriented on the need to preserve the forest that we have and the adverse effects of continuous destruction of the forests.

Your Thought!

What do you think about this publication? Are you in support of the above recommendation to sto deforestation in Nigeria. Do you have other thoughts to add on this? If yes, let’s hear you out in the comments section below.

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Ikponmwosa Aikhionbare

Ikponmwosa Aikhionbare is a Content Developer at InfoGuideNigeria.com. InfoGuide Nigeria is a team of Resource Persons and Consultants led by Ifiokobong Ibanga. Page maintained by Ifiokobong Ibanga. If you need a personal assistance on this topic, kindly contact us.

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