Documentation:Open Case Studies/FRST522/Assessing non-timber forest products’ use in Vandeikya Local Government Area of Benue State, Nigeria, including environmental and economic aspects

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Globally, about 1.6 billion rural people’s livelihoods depend fully or partially on products derived from local forests, these people live within or adjacent to the forest and have relied on these wild and natural resources to meet their basic needs for survival and livelihoods for many generations[1]. Forests provide food, medicine, construction material, artistic material, cosmetic, fuel wood, and remain an important source of income for the rural community[2].Forests have different meanings to different people in different places, they are valued for various purposes such as their ecological, economical, political and cultural services[3]. Forests use illustrate people's perceptions and how definitions applied to specific purposes vary in the importance of seven criteria: (1) value for timber; (2) value for carbon storage; (3) improving livelihoods of forest dependent people (4) whether forests are natural or planted; (5) whether forests are pre-existing or newly established; (6) whether forest are continuous or fragmented; and (7) whether forests are composed of native or non-native species[4]. In Nigeria, forests are managed by rural communities except in protected areas such as the forest reserves, game reserves and National parks[5].


 Vandeikya local government council is located between latitude 7°5ˈ and 7°15ˈnorth of the equator longitude 9°and 9°6ˈeast of the Greenwich. It has a landmass of 183,939 square meters (0.7 Sq. Miles) with a population of well over 80,288. The indigenous community is the Tiv people who speak Tiv language. The people are a hospitable group and are predominantly Christians with a few herbalists.  Vandeikya is in the South Eastern part of Benue State and shares boundaries with Obudu and Bekwara in Cross River State to the East, Ushongo to the North and Konshisha LGA to the West. There are 12 administrative council wards in Vandeikya LGA. The climate is tropical sub humid with the mean annual rainfall of between 1,200 and 2,000 mm (47 ̎ and 79 ̎) averaging seven months in the year, while the mean annual temperature is 32.5°C (90°F). The wet season is from April to October or November and the dry season is November to March.  Agriculture is the mainstay of the people; with arable lands for sheep, goats and cattle rearing. Over 80% of the population are directly engaged in the peasant farming of virtually all major food crops with concentration on rice, sweet potatoes, cassava, sorghum, citrus, spices, pepper, groundnut and Bambara nuts. Being a principally farming community, the major commercial engagements of the people in the area revolves around agricultural products. Small scale cottage industries in the local government like rice milling, block making, and furniture works are rampant. The settlement pattern is dispersed with thatched round houses[6]. The most dominant tree species found in Vandeikya local government area of Benue State include  Nune (Pakia biglobosa), Kookosu (Anthocleista djalonensis), Hulugh ( Vitex doniana), Ikyuranomso ( Lophira lanceolate), Ikyura kase ( Sarcocephalus latifolius), Akinde-nor ( Morinda lucida), Chiha ( Daniella oliveri), Gbaaye ( Prosopis africana), Ishase-uar ( Uacapa togoensis), Baverkpua ( Antidesma venosum), Yiase ( Afzelia africana) etc. These tree species are used for food, medicine, craft, timber, fuelwood, charcoal, local bridge construction and carvings.

Rural livelihoods are particularly prone to uncertainties, be they related to the vagaries of weather and climate, or to injuries and illness, patterns of crime, or shifts in commodity prices or government policies (World Bank, 2001)[7]. Forests are often identified as a prominent safety-net source, accessed principally by reallocating more household labor to forest extraction[7].

Non timber forests products' use in Vandeikya Local Government Area.

Food and food additives.

Wild harvested meat and freshwater fish provides 30% to 80% of protein intake for many rural communities. Hundreds of millions of people around the world benefit from low-cost protein, recreation, and commerce provided by freshwater fisheries, particularly in regions where alternative sources of nutrition and employment are scarce. Poor and undernourished populations are particularly reliant on inland fisheries compared with marine or aquaculture sources[8]. Protein from forest wildlife is crucial to rural food security and livelihoods across the tropics. In Vandeikya, eating bushmeat is a matter of survival and a source of protein for poor rural/forest dweller with no alternatives unlike urban dweller with several alternatives and these bushmeat also serve as a safety net for these communities[9]. The harvest of animals such as bush rats, duikers, guinea pigs, primates and larger rodents, birds and reptiles provide benefits to local people in Vandeikya. Other wild edible plants obtained from the forest by the community include, Acacia nilotica, Annona senegalensis, Borassus aethiopum, Bridelia ferruginea, Ficus sur, Prosopis africana, Parkia biglobosa, Strychnos spinosa and Vitex doniana. Also, Snails, Honey, Mushrooms and wild vegetables.


Millions of people rely on traditional medicine that is dependent on biological resources, well functioning ecosystems and on the associated context specific knowledge of local health practitioners. In local communities, health practitioners trained in traditional and non–formal systems of medicine often play a crucial role in linking health-related knowledge to affordable healthcare delivery[10]. Plants used in traditional medicine are not only important in local health care, but are important to innovations in healthcare and associated international trade. According to the WHO, about 80% of the population of the world depends on traditional medicine, mostly herbal remedies, for their primary health care needs, The absence or inaccessibility of modern healthcare services, affordability, cultural acceptance and, under certain circumstances, effectiveness than their modern counterparts has caused a large percentage of the population to rely mostly on plant based traditional medicines for their primary health care needs[11][12].The locals in Vandeikya depend more on herbal medicines than western medicines, Annona senegalensis, Borassus aethiopum, Daniellia oliveri, Ficus sur, Parkia biglobosa, Piliostigma thonningii, Prosopis africana, Stereospermum kunthianum, Terminalia avicennioides, Vitellaria paradoxa and Khaya senegalensis are mostly collected for medicinal values and were used in the treatments for illness, wounds, rheumatic swelling, Diabetes, Ulcer, Typhoid, Yellow fever, stomach ache, snake bite, headache, fever, diarrhoea, Jaundice, toothache, dysentery and blood clothing. Palm wine is also used for the treatment of Chicken pox in this community.

Fuel wood and Charcoal

Approximately 3 billion people worldwide rely primarily on wood for cooking, residential heating and hot water (WHO, 2006). Biomass energy provided about 10.2% (50.3 EJ) of the world total primary energy supply in 2008 (Chum et al., 2011). Of these 50.3 EJ, traditional use of fuelwood along with other biomass residues mainly for cooking and heating in the poorer developing countries, contributed 30.7 EJ (Chum et al., 2011)[13]. Wood fuels are biofuels originating directly or in-directly from woody biomass including fuel wood and charcoal. Fuel wood is the cheapest, the most suitable  and accessible energy  source  in Vandeikya and also a source of cash income for roadside sellers. The most preferred species of wood for fuelwood in the community is Prosopis africana, Afzelia africana and Parkia biglobosa.

Crafts and Local constructions

Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) are wild plant and animal products harvested from forests, savannahs and other natural vegetation types. This definition includes the use of wood for canoes, wood carvings, local house construction, fencing materials and firewood, but excludes industrial timber (Tinde van Andel, 2006)[14]. Acacia nilotica, Piliostigma thonningii, Prosopis africana, Sarcocephalus latifolius, Terminalia avicennioides and Vitex doniana are the most common species used for carving and local constructions in the community.

Some factors influencing supply of NTFPs at household level in the community include;

  • Distance to the forest,
  • change in forest management regime
  • Seasonality
  • Change in rainfall pattern.

Women and Forests: A lesson from Nepal

Women in rural communities are frequently disadvantaged for a range of interrelated cultural, social, economic and institutional reasons in their access to and control over forest resources, and in the economic opportunities available to them. Also, women often have substantial knowledge regarding the identification and preparation of nutritious forest foods to enhance the nutrition and health of their households (FAO, 2012). In addition, income generated from these activities by women can add significantly to their households’ purchasing power. However, women’s roles in value chains tend to be poorly supported by policy-makers and extension services. The perpetual lack of gender disaggregated data hampers the development of policy interventions to address the issue.

With almost 2 million hectares (31 percent of the national forest estate) under management by more than 18 000 registered Forest User Groups involving 1.6 million households (33 percent of the rural population), community forestry in Nepal enabled allocation of forest land to groups for their management, with the groups empowered to use all forest products for their benefit[15]. A policy worthy of emulation by communities to promote Policies and practices empowering women in the forest sector yield significant benefits to food security and nutrition and the sustainable management of forests. Facilitating women’s participation in forest user groups, improving their access to modern sources of energy, and enhancing their access to processing techniques and markets have been found to make a major difference in the livelihoods of forest dependent people and their societies for a range of interrelated cultural, social, economic and institutional reasons in their access to and control over forest resources, and in the economic opportunities available to them[16].

Social and Economic aspects of Non Timber Forest Products' Use

Forests drive a significant portion of the global economy while also providing critical ecosystem services, including massive carbon storage, management of natural water flows, erosion prevention and habitat for 80% of terrestrial biodiversity[17]. Forest dependency is considered people’s economic dependence on the forest, specifically the forest net income and the collected varieties of forest products usually used by people to meet their basic needs such as subsistence[1]. Nontimber Forest Products (NTFPs) play a significant and critical role in improving livelihoods to a large part of the world’s population particularly at the current change in climate[18]. The need to identify the economic value of NTFPs in rural households in the developing countries is gaining importance in both the conservation and development phenomena. NTFPs are reported to significantly contribute to economic benefits of rural households in developing countries in three major ways: first, providing domestic subsistence and consumption requirements for increased disposable income to the household; second, serving as an immediate safety net against experienced climate change adverse effects, constituting an important part of adaptive capacity and, third, contributing to direct monetary benefits through trade[18].

Forest Dependency

Environmental benefits and cost

Forest users had experienced some environmental benefits, as well as hazards and environmental costs by depending mostly on forests. For example, women have been reportedly raped in the process of collecting fuelwood and water for subsistence use. In another instance, Women are more at stake when forests are cut down or when denied access to a forest, this means and require physical efforts and time, restricting their ability to engage in education, paid work or other productive activities. Forest dependence has been solve the problem of buying food or thinking of how to get organic and healthy food, recent study shows the diet of children living near forests are better than those children living in less forested areas. Women have also reported an increase in the productivity of their land due to the flow of forest humus to agricultural land. In Kaski and Dadeldhura districts, people collect leaf litter for livestock bedding and fodder from CFs and then compost them with cow dung[15]. This practice called trade by barter is very common in Vandeikya Local Government Area as well. Other benefits includes,adverse environmental impacts has been noticed.

Recommendations and Conclusions

Wild plant populations are declining, one in every five species is estimated to be threatened with extinction in the wild[10]Overharvesting, habitat alteration, and climate change are among major drivers of declines in commercially important wild plant resources used for food and medicinal purpose. It is recommended that their regeneration and conservation be prioritized using appropriate policies and programs to ensure their continued availability for improved livelihoods, environmental amelioration and sustainability[2]. Improving women’s safe access to fuelwood, supporting the use of healthier, more energy-efficient technologies and equipment (e.g. improved stoves), and enhancing access to alternative energy sources (e.g. solar energy, electricity)[16]. The factors influencing forest dependency among Households should be considered to incorporate and revise the conservation activities in a district forest management plan at community level implementation[1].Forest users want a greater contribution to their livelihoods, rather than just improvements to the condition of forests[15]


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Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
This conservation resource was created by Kwaghdoo Sussan Agber. It is shared under a CC-BY 4.0 International License.