Colonial Forest Policies and Tropical Deforestation: The Case of Cross River State, Nigeria


Nigeria has lost over 90% of her forest resources due to the hydra-headed and enduring problem of deforestation, hinging on timber logging, establishment of agricultural plantations in hitherto intact forest reserves, construction of highways, mining of solid minerals, approval of taungya farming activities in forest reserves, extraction of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), and dereservation of large areas of certain forest reserves for other economic and development activities. Though colonialism was dismantled in the first half of the twentieth century, its policies on forest nationalization remain unchanged across many independent states in the tropics including Nigeria. The paper assesses the colonial forest policy underpinnings of tropical deforestation in Cross River State of Nigeria. It highlights the weaknesses of forest reservation laws and its impacts on tropical deforestation. The paper concludes by advocating a shift in forest policies in favour of property rights recognition and devolution of forest management responsibilities to forest communities.

Share and Cite:

Enuoh, O. and Bisong, F. (2015) Colonial Forest Policies and Tropical Deforestation: The Case of Cross River State, Nigeria. Open Journal of Forestry, 5, 66-79. doi: 10.4236/ojf.2015.51008.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Bisong, F. E. (1994). Farming Systems, Human Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation in the Cross River State Rainforest of Nigeria. Ph.D. Thesis, Port Harcourt: Department of Geography, University of Port Harcourt.
[2] Brandler, J. L. (1995). Out of Nigeria—Witness to a Giant’s Toils. London: The Radcliffe Press.
[3] Buell, R. L. (1928). The Native Problem in Africa, Vol 1 and 2. New York: MacMillan.
[4] Burns, S. A. (1929). History of Nigeria. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.
[5] Dunn, R. M., & Otu, D. (1996). A Community Forest Inventory for Productive Forest Management in Cross River State, Nigeria. In J. Carter (Ed.), Recent Approaches to Participatory Forest Resource Assessment. London: Overseas Development Institute (ODI).
[6] Fairhead, J., & Leach, M. (2000). Desiccation and Domination: Science and Struggles over Environment and Development in Colonial Guinea. The Journal of African History, 41, 35-54.
[7] Geary, W. M. N. (1927). Nigeria under British Rule. London: Routledge.
[8] Geist, H. J., & Lambin, E. F. (2001). What Drives Deforestation? A Meta-Analysis of Proximate and Underlying Causes of Deforestation Based on Sub-National Case Study Evidence. LUCC Report Series No. 4. Belgium: University of Louvain.
[9] Goncharov, L. (1963). New Forms of Colonialism in Africa. The Journal of Modern African Studies, 1, 467-474.
[10] Guha, R., & Gadgil, M. (1989). State Forestry and Social Conflict in British India. Past & Present, 123, 141-177.
[11] Hailey, L. (1938). An African Survey: A Study of Problems Arising in Africa South of the Sahara. London: Oxford University Press.
[12] Heussler, R. (1968). The British in Northern Nigeria. London: Oxford University Press.
[13] Horvath, R. J. (1972). A Definition of Colonialism. Current Anthropology, 13, 45-57.
[14] IUCN (The World Conservation Union) (1996). Communities and Forest Management with Recommendations to the Inter-governmental Panel on Forests. Washington DC: IUCN.
[15] Koffa, S. N. (2012). Community Forestry: An Epitome of Decentralized Forest Governance in Liberia. The Forest Governance Forum, Monrovia, 29 March 2012.
[16] Magome, H., & Murombedzi, J. (2003). Sharing South African National Parks: Community Land and Conservation in a democratic South Africa. In W. M. Adams, & M. Mullingan (Eds.), Decolonizing Nature-Strategies for Conservation in a Post-Colonial Era. London: Earthscan Publications Ltd.
[17] Mapedza, E. (2007). Forest Policy in Colonial and Post-Colonial Zimbabwe: Continuity and Change. Journal of Historical Geography, 33, 833-851.
[18] McMorrow, J., & Talip, M. A. (2001). Decline of Forest Area in Sabah, Malaysia: Relationship to State Policies, Land Code and Land Capability. Global Environmental Change, 11, 217-230.
[19] Nkrumah, K. (1961). I Speak of Freedom: A Statement of African Ideology. London: Mercury Books.
[20] ODNRI/WWF (1989). Cross River National Park Oban Division: Plan for Developing the Park and its Support Zone. London: ODNRI/WWF.
[21] Okali, D., & Eyog-Matig, O. (2004). Rainforest Management for Wood Production in West and Central Africa. A Report Prepared for the Project: Lessons Learnt on Sustainable Forest Management in Africa. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)/African Forest Research Network (AFORNET)/Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry (KSLA) Project.
[22] Ribot, J. C. (1999). Decentralization, Participation and Accountability in Sahelian Forestry: Legal Instruments of Central Political-Administrative Control. Africa, 69, 23-65.
[23] Sivaramakrishnan, K. (1995). Colonialism and Forestry in India: Imagining the Past in Present Politics. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 37, 3-40.
[24] Stebbing, E. P. (1926). The Forests of India (Vol. 1). London: John Lane.
[25] Vandergeest, P., & Peluso, N. L. (2006). Empires of Forestry: Professional Forestry and State Power in Southeast Asia, Part 2. Environment and History, 12, 359-393.
[26] World Bank (1985). The Distribution of Welfare in Cote d’Ivoire in 1985. Washington DC: World Bank.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.