Ethnobotanical Leaflets 10: 113-120. 2006.
Study of Economic Trees: Uses of Trees as Timbers and Fuelwoods in
Abdulrahaman, A. A.1, Fajemiroye, O. J.2 and Oladele, F. A.3
Department of Plant Biology
A survey of the five local government areas that make up Ilorin Emirate in Kwara State, Nigeria, revealed extensive use of economic trees as timber woods and fuel woods. The forest resources are indiscriminately exploited by the poor inhabitants who solely depend on the forest to earn their livelihood. Tree species such as Pterocarpus erinaceus, Parkia biglobosa, Prosobis africana, Trichilia emetica, Anogeissus leiocarpus, Danielia oliveri, Khaya senegalensis, Tectonia grandis, Milicia excelsa and Vitellaria paradoxa are popular among the inhabitants as fuelwoods, with Vitellaria paradoxa being the most frequently used. Among timber woods, Pterocarpus erinaceus is the most highly demanded by artists, casket builders and furniture workers. The hitherto harmonious relationships between the people and the plants whereby the people of a particular culture use plant to cure many inherent diseases and for other natural benefits have been defeated. Presently, the relationships have turned to destruction of many forests and endangering of many species of trees. Thus many forests have been turned to mere woodlands in the study areas.
The definition of ethnobotany varies from author to
author, but major terms stand out in all; people and plants. Ethnobotany is
therefore defined as the study how people of a particular culture and
religion make use of indigenous plants, and how they classify, identify and
relate to the plants (Ford 1978; Veilleux and King 2005). Ethnobotanists
explored how plants are used by the people for such things as food, shelter,
medicine, clothing, hunting, and religious ceremonies. Plants in this view
cater for all the basic, essential needs of human being. But recent events
have shown that too much dependence on the forests had resulted in extinction
of many species of plants and animals alike. As a result of deforestation,
between 50 and 100 (Myers 1991) or 137 (Urguhart et al. 2005) species of
animal and plant are lost worldwide each day. Also other organisms are losing
species they depend upon, and thus face extinction themselves. Of great
concern is the rate which deforestation is occurring. Currently, 12 million
hectares of forests are cleared annually. At this rate almost all tropical
forests could be lost by the year 2050, except for isolated areas in
Oladele (1988) reported that ethnobotany is a field of study in which taxonomists have taken interest in recent years. This can be traced to the fact that, of the tens of millions of species believed to be on Earth, scientists (especially taxonomists) have only given name to about 1.5 millions of them, and even fewer of the species have been studied in depth (Urguhart et al. 2005). Thus, the loss of species will have great impact on the planet Earth. The world is losing species that might show how to prevent cancer or help to find a cure for AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). The use of plants as medicine is not only limited to traditional aboriginal people but according to Myers (1991) as at 1991 over 25% of the world’s pharmaceutical products were derived from tropical plants.
Meanwhile, there is little or no scientific information
on the Nigerian forests that revealed the extent of destruction of forest and
its resources. Based on this, this study aimed at carrying out ethnobotanical
study in some selected LGAs in
Study Areas and Materials
Five out of
sixteen local government areas (LGAs) in
Field Trips and Questionnaire Administration
Field trips were taken to the study areas which include towns, villages and hamlets in these areas. Wood users were the real targets of the researchers. Questionnaires were structured in such a way that data on how forest and its resources were consumed and destroyed by the people were adequately revealed. The respondents to the questionnaire include artists, carpenters, garri producers, artifacts, charcoal makers, house wives, blacksmiths, food sellers, mortal makers, bread bakers, foresters, saw millers, casket builders, furniture workers, tree fellers, farmers, local wine brewers, wood sellers. These categories of people use woods either as timbers and/or fuel woods. A total of 400 questionnaires were distributed and administered but only 252 were returned. Field trips, distribution and administration of the questionnaires covered two months of March and August, 2005.
Frequency of Fuel woods and Timbers
Frequency of consumption of each tree species was determined as a percentage of the number of respondents using it as fuel wood or as timber in relation to the total number of respondents that used fuel woods and timbers.
The 252 questionnaires that were returned showed that male and single respondents are the most active participants in exploitation of the forest resources (Table 3). Though female and married also aid in this act but to low extent. The impact of educational background is also a factor; people with primary and secondary certificates and those without formal education do more harm to the forests than their counterparts with higher certificates. Most people do not realized that they are destruction of forest as any negative effects basically because they are illiterates; lacking basic educational background. Ironically, the exploitation of the forests is done mostly by non-indigenes of the study areas. They constituted about 73.81% as compared to indigenous explorers which constituted just 26.19% (Table 3). These frequencies can be attested to because the indigenes of Ilorin Emirate are predominantly cloth weavers, pot makers and small-scale traders.
Almost all dry-woods are used as fuel, but some are more preferred probably because of certain qualities they possessed. Tree species such as P. erinaceus, P. biglobosa, P. Africana, T. emetica, A. leiocarpus, D. oliveri, K. senegalensis, T. grandis, M. excelsa and V. paradoxa are the used fuel woods in Ilorin-Emirate Areas. The latter is the preferred, used by almost all fuel wood users; it constituted about 75% frequencies of the total fuelwoods used in the study area (Table 4). Earlier studies by Oladele and Yisa (1989) and Ogunkunle and Oladele (2004) also confirmed this. The former presumed that this may be due to its (V. paradoxa) high burning capacity and efficiency, being an oily plant that produces the commercial sheanut from which shea butter is extracted. The bread bakers, food sellers, garri producers, charcoal makers, house wives and host of other fuel wood users confirmed this fact while maintaining that V. paradoxa burns well with considerable heat and produces a lot of charcoal, less ashes and smoke. In the same vain, charcoal obtained from V. paradoxa had been emphatically selected as the best. Apart from like of formal education, continuous and persistent use of wood as fuel may due to high level of poverty of the ordinary people, and high cost of kerosene, gas and electric stove. It is cheaper and easy to fetch and use wood as fuel than the alternatives.
On the other hands, the artists, wood carvers, casket builders, furniture workers and mortal makers preferred to use P. erinaceus, A. Africana, T. grandis, D. oliveri, G. arborea, K. senegalensis, M. excelsa, I. doka, A. leiocarpus, C. pentandra, and P. africana as timbers. These species are categorized as being of grade based on their properties like durability, attractiveness and resistance. Species such as L. lanceolata, H. acida, T. emetica, P. biglobosa, A. lebbeck and V. paradoxa are seldom used as timber woods (Table 5). P. erinaceus is the most frequently used timber. Heavy demands for paper products by establishment such as Nigerian Paper Mill, Jebba, a government-owned, had consequently affected availability of timber species particularly G. arborea in the study areas. Meanwhile, about ten species have been identified as most endangered species in Ilorin-Emirate (Table 6) because of frequency at which they are removed from the forest. Though governments gave permission to some tree fellers, there are some illegal tree fellers called “payapayaba”. These group of fellers destroyed many immature trees on daily basis. The most painful aspect of this act is that the tree planting is too low in comparison to the rate of tree felling. Carter and Gronow (1992) and Ogunkunle and Oladele (2004) attributed this attitude to the unavailability of time and land, lack of knowledge in tree planting, sex barriers, age barrier, availability of trees in abundance in the natural forest or bush, no remuneration for planting tree and so on, in studies in Dolakha and Dhankuta districts of Asia and Ogbomoso in Nigeria respectively. Meanwhile what remain as forests in Ilorin-Emirate Area are in the rural area, the metropolis are without forests any more. The problem is much that some species are endangering (Table 6), and if care is not taken they may go into extinct.
The major function of ethnobotany, as identified early, is to draw a kind mutual relationship between the people in an area and the plants. The plants provide for the people the three basic needs of man namely food, cloth and shelter while the people on the other hands jealously guide and protect the plants against destructions. But as the world populations keep increasing especially in the third world countries, the rate of illiteracy and poverty are concurrently increasing too. These are therefore recognized as the prime factors that changed the mutualism between human and plants to that of parasitism whereby man took all from the forests with little or no any form of replenishment. Though, many laws and by-laws are promulgated forbidding indiscriminate removal of forest resources. These measures have little or no effect at all on the activities of the forest destroyers. The authors of this paper rather suggest that more attentions should be paid to improvement of economical status of the people, and ensure provision of accurate, effective and sustainable education of the populace. If these are vigorously pursued, there will be strict compliance to the governments’ laws and regulations regarding felling and planting of trees.
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Table 1. Urban, semi-urban and rural settlements in the study areas.
H= Headquarters; LGA= Local Government Area
Table 2. List of economic tree species commonly encountered in the study areas.
F = Fabaceae
Table 3. Biodata frequencies of the respondents to the questionnaires.
Table 4. Frequency of the fuelwoods used in Ilorin-Emirate Area of Kwara State, Nigeria.
Table 5. Frequency of timber woods used in Ilorin-Emirate Area of Kwara State, Nigeria.
Table 6. Frequency of most endangered tree species in Ilorin Emirate Area of Kwara State, Nigeria.