I recently got closely involved in a building project and could not imagine that we have it quite bad as far as getting woods for construction works is concerned in Nigeria. The project is located in the Southwestern region of the country whose vegetation is characterized by lowland rainforest. The implication is that the region represents a hotspot for timber and wood generation for the rest of the country and even beyond.
For a region that is supposed to be a timber/wood hotspot, one would expect that getting quality woods at an affordable price should not be a hard thing to come by. However, the reverse was the case as we laboured very hard to get woods of relatively decent quality at an exorbitant value. Many of the available planks in the market were of very poor quality and did not come cheap as well.
One needs to soothsayer to tell them what has happened, happening, and will continue to happen in the nearest future. Virtually all the economic woods in the forest have been harvested without any form of replacement. So much so that the less economic ones now hold a high value as far as construction is concerned. When the desirable becomes unavailable, the available will have to become desirable. Many of the timber species that one would not go near for their construction work in the past are now being held in high esteem.
Gone are those days when economic timber species like Milicia excelsa (Iroko), Ceiba pentandra (Ayun), Kaya grandifolia, Terminalia ivorensis, Parkia biglobosa, Terminalia superb, Adansonia digitata, and other important timber species litter the horizons of lowland rainforest regions of Nigeria. Many of these tree species have been wantonly and illegally harvested by money-seeking capitalists. Some were actually harvested immaturely as pressure mounted on the available resources from a bourgeoning population.
The implication is that even the lesser economic species are also going into extinction and the few available ones are still being used to generate woods and sold at high prices.
This whole phenomenon got me worried for not just our generation but generations to come. We all know the importance of trees in the ecosystem. They play vital roles in maintaining the integrity of the ecosystem. They protect watersheds, limit soil erosion by wind and water, serve as habitats for a whole of organisms, helps in fixing carbon and purifying the atmosphere, serve as sources of food, wood, drugs, and raw materials for local and industrial use, among many other benefits to both mankind and the ecosystem at large.
I can vividly remember some years back when I got a deep cut from a knife while on the farm and bleeding heavily. It was the latex and bark of Milicia excelsa that stopped the bleeding pending the time that we managed to get to the hospital. I could have bled to unconsciousness before getting to the clinic if we had had no access to the herbal resources.
Construction works here in Nigeria generally still rely heavily on wood and wood products. But with woods fast disappearing in forests, there will not be any option than to seek out the alternatives - the only workable alternative being iron and this will not come cheap in any way.
Granted that there could be alternatives to woods as far as construction works are concerned, the same cannot be said for the other functions that trees/timbers perform. Many of these trees serve as sources of drugs for diseases that are yet to emerge as we all know that pathogens keep evolving. In addition, no sane person will consume irons as food while no other living or nonliving thing can take the place of trees in terms of the ecological functions they perform in the ecosystem.
The bottom line is that the future of human heritage in terms of biodiversity and the functions they perform looks bleak as far as the Southwestern part of Nigerian is concerned. I may not be able to say the same for other regions as I do not have a clear knowledge of the situation over there.
I engaged a user on Reddit about deforestation a few days ago and was alarmed to discover that a similar trend is obtainable over there. Hopefully, something drastic would be done before we cross the rubicon.
Thank you all for reading.
Posted with STEMGeeks