A Non Governmental Organisation, Neighbourhood Environment Watch, (NEW) Foundation, in partnership with the Women Environmental Programme (WEP), under the Green Livelihood Alliance, has called on communities to resolve, mobilise and resist deforestation.

Dr Kelechi Okezie, Executive Director of NEW-F stated this during a community dialogue on forests management and conservation held at Ohatekwe-Edda community, Abakaliki Local Government Area of Ebonyi.

Okezie said that the dialogue which was aimed at  raising awareness about climate change and forest conservation, also featured training on production of alternative and wood efficient stoves.

The community dialogue brought to the fore the need to conserve the remining forests in the area especially ‘Ndiode and Ofia Eze’ forests.

According to participants the two major forests in the area were seriously threatened due to population pressure on land for agriculture, building materials and fuel wood.

Okezie educated the community on sustainable forest management practices and climate change impact mitigation and adaptation strategies.

He stressed that with climate change, rural communities such as theirs, the elderly, sick, children and women were most vulnerable to climate change impact.

He listed the benefits of forests to include; fresh air and sequestering of carbon dioxide, home to many animals and organisms, provides incomes, herbs for medicines.

The environmentalist said that other benefits of forests include; mitigation in impacts of climate change, serves as revered traditional religious centres with eco-religious memories, prevents soil erosion and conserve soil nutrients among others.

“I charge the community members to be intentional in safeguarding their forests and ensure yearly planting of trees,” Okezie said.

Meanwhile, the traditional ruler of Ohatekwe-Edda, Ezeogo Godwin Nwankwegu, said that changes in the climatic conditions were already affecting the people adversely.

“Our livelihood, health and economic wellbeing are seriously affected by climate change due to impact of the peoples activities through cutting down of trees without replanting and other negative activities of the people,” he said.

The traditional ruler urged his subjects to collaborate to preserve the existing forests in the area and warned against bush burning.

“The existing byelaws that prohibit unauthorised access to the forests and bush burning will be strengthened to punish offenders,” he added.

Another participant, Chief Michael Udenwe, former Coordinator of Enyidda Development Centre, said that the area was once blessed with thick forests canopies and how the people enjoyed all the gift of nature unhindered.

He, however, lamented the extinction of indigenous plant species that provided roots and herbs for their health and wellbeing.

He lamented that lots of the trees had been cut down and that the people were suffering the adverse effect of climate change.

“Now, hunger, malnutrition and poverty have set in due to the unsustainable practices and use of lands in the area,” Udenwe said.

He urged the people to go back to tree planting as a panacea to survive the adverse effects of climate change.

Others who spoke at the occasion stressed the importance of tree planting and shunning all acts that could endanger the remaining existing forests in the community.

Meanwhile, Ms. Cynthia Oru, Gender Communications Officer (GCO) , of NEW-F highlighted the negative health impact of indoor cooking with fuel wood stressing the dire health impact of such indoor cooking.

She stressed that indoor cooking with limited ventilation was a silent killer especially of women and children who are exposed to respiratory diseases such as asthma.

She listed other health effects to include pneumonia, headache, dizziness, heart disease and cancer.

“Cooking in ill ventilated areas especially with the use of firewood should be discouraged,” Oru said.

The highlight of the dialogue was the training of the participants in the use of wood conservative cooking alternatives such as use of rice husks, saw dusts and solar cooking stoves to prepare their meals.

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