Environmental Consequences of Deforestation Trends and Patterns in the Ma’an Sub-Division
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This study sought to evaluate the environmental consequences of deforestation trends and patterns in the Ma‟an Sub-Division which extends to over 50 villages and is located in Vallée-du-Ntem Division in the South Region of Cameroon.
It sought to find out if the increasing environmental consequences of deforestation in Ma‟an are mainly driven by increased forest logging for commercial purposes or as increased demand for agricultural land, and increased population. The study used both quantitative and qualitative techniques of data collection from both primary and secondary sources.
Data analysis was made using both descriptive (frequencies and percentages) and inferential statistics. The chi square test was used to verify the hypotheses of the study by finding out if the independent variables had a bearing with the dependent variables.
Qualitative data was analyzed using interpretative methods whereby, patterns were drawn from concepts and insights raised by informants. Illustrative responses and in some cases, individual (anonymous) responses have been presented to show some of the content of the qualitative data collected.
The field study took place between February 2016 and October 2016. The study adopted the survey research design in undertaking this systematic enquiry. This was adopted to help acquire knowledge on the current situation (trends) with regards to the phenomenon under consideration.
The respondents for the study comprised Farmers, Municipal Meteorological Department, Forestry companies and forestry departmental units and Municipal Agricultural Development Units.
The study showed that, the farmers in the study area are largely engaged in the cultivation of food crops which are mainly subsistence in nature. It was realized that the forestry companies also clear cut forest for commercial purposes without a corresponding reforestation.
The study showed that deforestation has affected water quality, soil degradation, biodiversity depletion and the patterns of rainfall have greatly been influenced with high temperatures than what existed before. It was also reviewed that the exploitation of timber has created employment, contributed to infrastructural development through the construction of roads, hospitals, classrooms in the area.
The study found lasting sustainable measures among other things, the continuous education and sensitization of farmers, creation of a sense of belonging to the communities involved, a more sustainable logging method, an effective forest management strategies, provision of alternative sources of fuel such as gas and kerosene for cooking through subsidies prices, strengthening of the public institution stakeholders and promotion of active research that will ensure a decline in deforestation.
Deforestation is a conventional environmental challenge substantially affecting the resilience and distribution of forests, as well as the livelihoods of forest dependent communities across different boundaries.
In most African countries Cameroon inclusive, deforestation has increased over the past four decades, with significant effects on rainfall, temperature, water resources, wildfire frequency, agriculture and livelihoods (Amisah et al., 2009).
In Cameroon, forest deforestation remains a central problem especially in the high forest zones of South and East Cameroon.
This is due, primarily to; both legal and illegal timber exploitation, population increase, settlement expansion and arable crop farming.
The consequence has been a dramatic change in climate and evolution of strategies to sustain rural livelihoods.
Sometimes confused with forest degradation, deforestation is broadly defined as including not only a loss in the number of trees and conversion of forests to non-forest, but also degradation that reduces forest quality, the density and structure of the trees, the ecological services supplied, the biomass of plants and animals, the species diversity and the genetic diversity (Epule, 2014).
In order to avoid any ambiguity especially of the term degradation and the difficulties of estimating it, this research will start by clearly differentiating between deforestation and degradation such as to clarifying the confusion that often reigns between the two Concepts. In effect, the EU-REDD1 facility distinguishes deforestation from degradation highlighting that;
deforestation occurs when agriculture, mining, urban development or other land uses replace forest, whereas, degradation is a gradual process through which a forest’s biomass declines, its species composition changes or its soil quality declines.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Forest dependent communities in Cameroon rely heavily on their farmlands and employ a diversity of means including:
food and cash crop production, forest and tree product gathering and income-earning enterprises both on and off the farm to help meet basic needs.
Often, the poorer the household, the more diverse the sources of their livelihood, as the needs for the year must be made up from various off-farm as well as on-farm natural resources, and often from migrant labouring as well (Shepherd et al., 1999 in Tropenbos International, 2005).
Bush fires, agricultural practices, excessive exploitation of Non Timber forest Products (NTFPs) are also utilized by forest dependent communities.
These forest communities exert excessive pressure on forest reserves as many of those living in these communities have their livelihoods predicated on the availability, access and utilization of forest products. The concomitant repercussions associated with this forest degradation include exposing such degraded forest communities as well as their farmlands to high risk of erosion and floods.
As observed pre-visits to the study site, an important location in Cameroon where forest communities have suffered considerable setbacks in their environmental conditions due to changing forest cover (deforestation) is the Ma‟an forest area.
Forest communities in the area are characterized by high poverty levels and rely on rain-fed agriculture with little or no access to modern agricultural technology.
In Ma‟an, deforestation rates remain high with the increasing demand for forest products both for commercial and artisan usage and will probably increase in the coming years as the population grows and demand for new settlements, wood for construction, realization of mega projects such as the Memve‟ele energy plant.
Since 2011 when the President of the Republic of Cameroon launched the construction of the power dam, deforestation in the Ma‟an Sub-Division has been on the increase with its consequences on the watershed and livelihood of the communities in the Ma‟an Sub-Division.
This is because new exploiting companies such as BOICAM, SOBOCA and other community forest management units have been authorized to clear cut the forest around this project site so as to give way for the execution of the project. This is term referred to as „Vendre Du coup‟ As forest reserves make significant contributions to the development of Cameroon, there is the need to understanding of the extent and nature of the endowed forest resource as well as the method of exploitation.
The implication of this is the importance and necessity for adequate care of the forest through appropriate planning and management as to the utilization of the forest resources. The reasons being that, these forest resources are in a web within a system and any disturbance of one element will dislodge the equilibrium.
Besides the imbalances created in the forests ecosystem, the depletion of the forest cover poses significant repercussions on the environment, particularly those in such forest communities who depend heavily on the forest and its resources.
It is in this vein that this study is being conducted to assess the environmental consequences of deforestation in the Ma‟an Sub-Division the trends and patterns not forgetting the socio-economic and political implications of forest depletion.
1.3 Research Questions
1.3.1 Main research question
What are the environmental consequences of deforestation in Ma‟an Sub division?
1.3.2 Specific Research questions
- What is the nature and pattern of deforestation in Ma‟an?
- What are the environmental consequences of deforestation in Ma‟an?
- What are the trends and patterns of these environmental consequences of deforestation in Ma‟an?
- What strategies can be put in place to mitigate deforestation and its related environmental consequences?