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Things Fall Apart?

Things Fall Apart?: The Political Ecology of Forest Governance in Southern Nigeria

Pauline von Hellermann
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 206
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  • Book Info
    Things Fall Apart?
    Book Description:

    Governance failure and corruption are increasingly identified as key causes of tropical deforestation. In Nigeria's Edo State, once the showcase of scientific forestry in West Africa, large-scale forest conversion and the virtual depletion of timber stocks are invariably attributed to recent failures in forest management, and are seen as yet another instance of how "things fall apart" in Nigeria. Through an in-depth historical and ethnographic study of forestry in Edo State, this book challenges this routine linking of political and ecological crisis narratives. It shows that the roots of many of today's problems lie in scientific forest management itself, rather than its recent abandonment, and moreover that many "illegal" local practices improve rather than reduce biodiversity and forest cover. The book therefore challenges preconceptions about contemporary Nigeria and highlights the need to reevaluate current understandings of what constitutes "good governance" in tropical forestry.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-990-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps and Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Maps
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-19)

    In the colonial period the Benin Division of southern Nigeria, the heartland of the former Benin Kingdom, was the showcase of scientific forest management in West Africa. Its rich forests, which for years furnished the bulk of Nigerian timber exports, were protected by large-scale reserves, whilst logging activities and forest regeneration were regulated through comprehensive working plans. In recent decades, however, forestry in today’s Edo State has been in a sorry state. Working plans and regeneration programmes have been abandoned, there is widespread illegal logging, and large parts of its reserves have been converted to farms and plantations. Forests are...

  7. Chapter 1 Ecology and Politics in the Benin Kingdom
    (pp. 20-44)

    The Benin Kingdom is commonly known as one of West Africa’s intriguing forest kingdoms (e.g., Roese and Bondarenko 2003). Benin, Asante and the southern Yoruba city states were all situated in today’s ‘forest zone’ along the West African coast and are historically interesting because political centralisation in West Africa is generally associated with the open savanna areas further north, where it would have been easier to maintain control over large areas and populations. It has therefore been a challenge to historians and archaeologists to understand and reconstruct the process of state building in the rather hostile environment of a rainforest...

  8. Chapter 2 Separating Farm and Forest: Reservation and Dereservation
    (pp. 45-85)

    At 460 square miles, Okomu Reserve was once one of the largest forest reserves in southern Nigeria. Today, however, it has been converted to a range of different uses. Two large expatriate-managed oil palm and rubber plantations take up most of the northwest and northeast of the reserve, and an oil palm and food-crop plantation has been set up in the north by a local businessman. There are also numerous small-scale cocoa and plantain plantations, whilst food-crop farming under the Taungya system is widespread throughout the reserve. Only the heart of the reserve, a national park since 1999, is now...

  9. Chapter 3 Managing the Forests: Logging and Regeneration
    (pp. 86-125)

    Just as large parts of forest reserves have been converted to other uses today, so forest management itself – the regulation of logging activities and tree regeneration – has virtually collapsed in recent decades. Working plans have been abandoned, plantations are not maintained, and logging levels – legal and illegal – are high. Most timber merchants, loggers and forest officers agree that Edo forests are now virtually ‘finished’ and that timber exploitation can only continue for a few more years. In many ways this indeed presents a Nigerian ‘things fall apart’ story: for decades Edo State was the subject of the most intense schemes...

  10. Chapter 4 Reinventing Farm and Forest: The Changing Forms of Taungya Farming
    (pp. 126-144)

    Taungya farming, an agro-forestry system originating in Burma, was introduced to Nigeria by the colonial Forest Department in the late 1920s. Meeting both agricultural and forestry needs, agro-forestry has attracted particular interest since the rise in concern over tropical deforestation in the 1980s, but it was already a widely implemented policy throughout the tropical world in the colonial period. In the Benin Division much hope was put into Taungya farming, which promised to be both a cheap form of afforestation and a means to provide farmers access to good farmland. For some decades Taungya was indeed quite successful; by the...

  11. Chapter 5 Okomu National Park: A Postscript on Conservation
    (pp. 145-161)

    International tropical forestry has undergone significant shifts in recent decades. Historically, its main framework was one of centralised resource management, focusing in particular on timber and fuelwood production. In mountainous and drier regions it also had an environmental or conservation rationale, which emphasised its importance for watershed protection or for combating soil erosion and desertification. But overall the resource framework prevailed, particularly in naturally forested and timber-producing areas such as southern Nigeria. In recent years, however, forestry’s priorities have shifted in that the protection of biodiversity, of flora as well as fauna, has become an equally important agenda. On the...

  12. Appendix. Administrative History of Edo State
    (pp. 162-162)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 163-186)
  14. Index
    (pp. 187-192)