He recommended that all sustainable development strategies of forest resources must be developed with the widest possible participation of all stakeholders. Stakeholders are therefore all persons or group who are influenced by the community forest project or programme in addition to all those that are negatively or positively affected. Participation of communities in rainforest management according to this author will enable them to influence and share control over decisions about their forest. This process will increase the range of individuals that were committed to the success of environmental sustainability. Of course effective participation of the communities in forest management process must mean collaboration through earliest stages involving planning through making decision, carrying out programmes, monitoring and evaluation of the forest estate. Community participation and sustainability have a natural marriage (Ohiere, 1996).
He maintained that the role of communities in forest management promote ecosystem sustainability since it enhances that they understand the balance of the burden (costs) along with benefits ratios that have been considered for forest conservation. He concluded that when communities are involves in the management of their own forests, it will win them to have confidence in forest management and results commonly in a resolution to work towards the success of the forest estate.
In a paper entitled, Community Participation: A Tool for Sustainable Forest Management, Lah (2001) observed that forest in Nigeria are broadly divided into three categories: National Parks, Forest reserves and community forests. These three categories are represented in Cross River State. The National Park and Forest reserves are under the management and control of the federal and state governments respectively, through their various agencies.
Experience, “working with local communities in Cross River State; to support the development of sustainable community forest management”, she said, has indicated that ecosystems and biodiversity could be preserved if there is agreement among stakeholders example indigenous forest communities users of the forest (P: 55) She postulated that the following steps should be adopted in achieving these laudable results.
– Institutional building and development:
To ensure a successful participation of Cross River State communities forest management, awareness creation through environmental education and technical skills should be developed and passed on to individuals and groups in their communities, in addition to the formation of FMCs. Those volunteers from the communities should be trained in facilitation, management and planning, financial management and conflict management skills. Communities should be sensitized to see the importance of their forest and expressed their willingness to manage their resources in a sustainable manner to ensure that future generations also benefit in the same way.
Okoh, Sunday Edet (January 2006), carried out a study on non-governmental organization and environmental sustainability in Cross River with the sample of 600 respondents drawn from six local government areas of the three senatorial districts of Cross River State. The local government areas covered include, Calabar South and Calabar Municipality (Southern Senatorial District), Boki and Ikom (Central Senatorial Distric), Obudu and Obanliku (Northern Senatorial District). Findings showed that the extent of environmental awareness created by NGOs has significant impact on environmental sustainability.
In their study on Forest and People Research that Makes a Difference, Kainonitz and Cropper (2003) opined that hundred millions of rural families rely on tropical forests for food, fuel, medicines, shelter and cash incomes, that forest habitats house much of the world’s biodiversity, and the carbon they stone serves to slow down global climate change, in their view, tropical forests are rapidly disappearing, thus putting in danger all those who depend on the, in this regard, it is said that ways must be found to slow down this process and to ensure the poorest groups don’t lose access to forest resources Onyelucheya (2003) notes that the primary aim of environmental awareness creation is to rid our minds of the various myths and misconceptions surrounding environmental degradation (which indiscriminate bush-burning is one of it) and the present (the true) state of affairs, the author believes that successful environmental awareness creation programmes need to be clear, consistent and on-going to avoid confusing the target populace or reducing their confidence in such efforts, such programmes should create awareness and interest, and possess a variety of incentives to maintain and increase participation, in conclusion, it is pertinent to note that environmental awareness, though indispensable for environmental protection is not by itself omnipotent, its adoption should be done alongside with other measures such as formulation and implementation of necessary environmental laws and provisions of adequate backup facilities to expedite the transformation gained into desirable action, also, while action is expected on all fronts, faster breakthrough still depend on government and large corporation as a single environmentally sound decision by these would have a greater impact on the health of the forest than even the most determined individual effort
Owor (2011) remarked that that since environment provide human, physical and biological resources that form the basis for any development process, environmental considerations has to be taken into account in any plan of action for development. La-Anyane (1986) stressed that the neglect of environmental problem has had the effort of raising social and economic costs resulting from various development process and pattern. Edet (2004) added that these have had many adverse effects on the entire ecosystem, stressing that the indiscriminate setting of fire to the bush by local hunters and farmers causing the vegetation of the area to be degraded. These environmental problems can be checked by effective environmental education as a tool to discourage bush burning and making the people to feel the importance of forest conservation in Etung.
Other methods of utilizations include the crude or traditional methods of land cultivation such as the land tenure system and shifting cultivation which have led to the widespread exploitation of forest, with the resultant resources destruction in the forest, and equally in the massive ecosystem contamination as well as decimating the local fauna species. The practice of bush burning, which is part of the traditional farming system has for a longtime been known to be detrimental to forest and its resources. Bush burning which is a frequent phenomenon occurs as farmers clear their lands for planting. Also hunters annually burn vegetations causing loss of organic matters and their damages to the environment. According to World Bank (1990) Bush burning causes loss of undergrowth, useful tree barks that are of medical value and soil to used micro fauna and flora. It reduces to ashes the vegetable matter on which insects and soil microorganism live, destroys humus structure, the chances of leaching increases, exposes the soil to rain, sun erosion thereby encouraging oxidation of nitrogen, sulphur and carbon.
At this point, it is also pertinent to consider hunting and poaching activities as one of the underlying causes of degradation of forest resources. Animal species are disappearing due to rapid deforestation resulting from high forest consumption (Anijah-Obi, 2001). Wild animals’ diversities have extinct due to increase forest resources consumption and attendant changes in their natural habitats. In the face of these circumstances, Environmental awareness assumes a position of importance within organized effort with regards to the freeing of human from influence caused through ignorance of the changing nature of the environment. Environmental awareness demand thoughtful observation of process taking place in the environment with a view of making an appropriate intervention within the framework of sustainable development. It is therefore characterized by knowledge of, concern for sensitivity and responsive to environmental issues or problems.
Okpara (1994) observed that ideally the person who is environmentally conscious or aware is suppose to be proactive rather than reactive in his disposition to environmental problems of his locality or nation, as the case may be. According to Inyany-Abia (2005) in Nigeria, environmental awareness is seen by some as:
new phenomenon with epileptic fits, which was abandoned to non-governmental organizations, its origin was traced only to 1930 when Nigeria Field Society was founded by A F B Bridges, and that the society was devoted to the study of plants, animals, environment, people and culture of west Africa with little attention paid to conservation or environmental awareness as we know it today. Within the last twenty years, Nigeria has witness a great increase in environmental awareness.
Anijah-Obi (2001), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Nigeria Conservation Foundation (NCF) have succeeded in laying a permanent foundation of environmental concerns in Nigeria with the establishment of Environmental Education Unit at the University of Calabar and College of Education Ekiadolor, Benin in Nigeria. The Environmental Education Unit so established have gone a long way in creating environmental awareness among Nigeria Populace. It is therefore, mandatory that in order to modify the behavior and attitude of people with regards to sustainable utilization of forest resources, a properly framed educational programme is essential. The fact that it is mandatory for man to exploit forest resources implies that some damage to such resources becomes unavoidable.
It is the view of these authors that forest house great wealth, and that wealth is the source of many conflicts. That there is an urgent need to figure out how to manage these conflicts more peacefully and democratically, and without the powerful groups marginalizing the weaker groups. It is further asserted that finding solutions to these problems are achievable through environmental education.