Trees are life, this is a common saying .If trees are life then; we must begin to view them as such in Africa.
Policy; we’ve never been short of policies in forestry and agriculture. In short, good policy implementation in agro-forestry produced a lot of the trees my generation has come to enjoy especially the economic trees of the Benue belt in Nigeria. These trees provide enormous wealth for families who have managed them over the years. am not very sure of the average life span of these trees, but I strongly believe that in years to come if no deliberate action is taken by all stakeholders to bring back the next generation to the love of growing new trees ,we shall be seeing the last of most of these trees.
Legal ;if trees are life then legal policy on tree cutting and felling can be used to control the in discriminate felling going on especially in and around the Federal Capital Territory(FCT) of Nigeria. The government itself is the biggest criminal and actor in this activity. The FCT being a virgin land, when it was selected to become the new capital of Nigeria; One would have expected the government to develop deliberate policy to save and sustain these trees most of which provided and are still providing the indigenous people and other inhabitants food and income. The government has been responsible for massive clearing of layouts for construction regarded as development.
Institutional frame- work can be effective when it is driven by policy that has legal backing. As such each actor in the framework understands his or her duty and is legally bonded to adhere to rules and regulations. If the major actor overlooks an issue and turns around to force others to do what it is suppose to do, then some is wrong. This has been the bane of Nigeria (where it seems that nothing works except for people of like mind).This is where civil society could come to help, but unfortunately ,most of them own these organisations or partner with those who accept the norm, hence they are the ones striving currently in Nigeria. Any time there is an opportunity, I remember to ask this simple question; why do we have so many development agencies in Nigeria and yet nothing seems to be working. It is time for the International community to re-evaluate itself in Nigeria.
A lot private individuals have taken up planting of economic trees although there is deliberate policy in place where the government is encouraging such. These individuals have observed the massive contributions these trees make to urban food security .year in year, year out famers produce food in rural communities but find it difficult transporting these foods to urban cities.
At individual level, people must accept to go beyond self and embrace tree planting. Through my interaction with people , in trying to encourage tree planting, I have had people tell me that, it will take too long for them to obtain the benefit of a tree they have planted because trees take too long to grow and produce fruits. When are fore parents planted the trees we are enjoying now, they were not selfish in their thinking, this is what the world has become. Selfishness has become a global mentality even with issues of food security.
Culture; we had myths and belief that prevented people from felling certain trees. Culture and tradition can help in changing people’s perception about the importance of trees especially those contributing to food security. Of common interest is the Shea butter tree in the central belt zone of Nigeria, which is a very good firewood and charcoal producer but its economic value at a global level supersedes these local uses , this is also same for the locust bean tree and many others.
Policy driven by institutional framework taking into consideration every actor and stakeholder’s actions and benefits can help to revive agro forestry and food security. When a segment of society is left of policy formation, a common practice with our governments, it becomes difficult for communities to act. The top to bottom approach must change especially when dealing with issues relating to nature, the people closest to nature are at the bottom not the top.
Links and resources:
International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition
FAO Forestry Department
Learning event on Agroforestry