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FG is working assiduously to increase nation’s forests – Minister

The Federal Government says it is working assiduously with stakeholders in the forestry sector to increase the nation’s forest cover to meet international standard.

The Minister of Environment, Alhaji Suleiman Zarma, said this on Thursday at the commemoration of the 2019 International Day of Forests in Abuja.

Zarma was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Environment, Mrs Ibukun Odusote, at the  2019 Global Day of Forests with the theme, “Forests and Education.’’

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recommends that every country must have 25 per cent forest cover to help address ecological challenges.

Zarma said that the ministry partnered with the Association of Charcoal Exporters of Nigeria, Processed Wood Producers and Marketers Association of Nigeria and Tropical Wood Exporters Association of Nigeria to plant trees across the country.

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The minister said the partnership was with State Governments that had agreed to provide land for plantation establishment.

He said the ministry had established a National Forestry Trust Fund which aimed at providing resources to achieve significant increase in forest cover, sustainable production, supply of forest products and services for socio-economic development.

“Similarly, the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria is engaged in developing plantations across the various ecological zones in the country.

“It is also producing improved tree seedlings at production cost only to encourage tree planting and strengthening of the existing and new schools of forestry,’’ he said.

According to him, the ministry has also put in place some administrative procedures to reduce the rate of exploitation and exportation of wood and its products.

“Some of these include the suspension of trade in Rosewood placed by the Convention on International Trade Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

“We are also developing new guidelines for export of wood-allied products from Nigeria,’’ Zarma said.

He said the current 3.5 per cent annual rate of deforestation and its accompanying loss of between 350,000 and 400,000 hectares of land yearly, caused serious flooding, erosion, desertification, biodiversity loss and declining food security.

The minister said that high rate of unregulated exploitation was causing the country huge losses in taxable income and foreign exchange.

Zarma said this was because such unregulated exploitation was not captured in the country’s economic development indices.

The minister, who urged relevant stakeholders to educate Nigerians on the importance of forests, said that forests prevented soil erosion and lowered atmospheric temperature.

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According to him, it also serves as God’s own pharmaceutical store and provides natural foods, especially condiments.

Mr Aromoshood Abiodun, on behalf of Processed Wood Producers and Marketers Association of Nigeria, said that the association had been engaging in planting and replanting of trees to increase the nation’s forests. (NAN)