Nigeria's forests are rapidly disappearing as loggers struggle to eke out a living
Deep in a forest in Nigeria's Ebute Ipare village, Egbontoluwa Marigi sizes up a tall mahogany tree, methodically cuts it down with his axe and machete and, as it falls with a crackling sound, surveys the forest for the next tree.
Around him, the stumps dotting the swampy forest are a reminder of trees that once stood tall but are fast disappearing to illegal logging in Ondo state, south-west Nigeria.
"We could cut down over 15 trees in one location, but now if we manage to see two trees it will look like a blessing to us," the 61-year-old father of two said.
From 2001 to 2021, Nigeria lost 1.14 million hectares of tree cover, equivalent to an 11 per cent decrease in tree cover since 2000 and equal to 587 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, according to Global Forest Watch, a platform that provides data and monitors forests.
"During the time of our forefathers we had big trees, but sadly what we have now are just small trees and we don't even allow them to mature before we cut them," Mr Marigi said.
Cutting down trees for logging, or opening up farmland to feed energy demand for a growing population is putting pressure on Nigeria's natural forests.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari told a COP15 meeting in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on May 9 that Nigeria had established a national forestry trust fund to help regenerate the country's forests. That may not be enough as the country loses forests at a faster pace.
"Protecting the forest means protecting ourselves. When we destroy the forest, we destroy humanity," said Femi Obadun, director of forest management for Ondo state's agriculture ministry.
It's something Mr Marigi knows all too well, but his priority is to eke out a living.
Months after cutting the trees, Mr Marigi returns to the forest to pull the logs together and fasten them into rafts. He has a collection of more than 40 logs.
With other loggers, they have raised money to hire a tugboat to pull the rafts through creeks and rivers from Ondo state to Lagos.
Makeshift shelters on the rafts are made from wood and help shield Mr Marigi and his friends from the weather.
Food is shared while they belt out local folk songs to lift spirits.
"We don't sleep at night during the journey. We monitor the logs and make sure that [they don't] detach from the tugboat," Mr Marigi told Reuters.
The boat stops at several locations to pick up more loggers and their rafts. A single boat can carry up to a thousand rafts, each containing as much as 30 logs.
Mr Marigi's journey ends at a lagoon in Lagos, where rafts from Ondo state and other parts of the country converge and the logs are processed at sawmills and sold to different users.
Reuters
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