On 6 and 7 January 2017, I visited the remote Imugu Omono community in Kogi State, Nigeria. This community has a population of about 800 inhabitants whose main occupation is farming and hunting. There is no electricity or clean water source in the community, the people depend on kerosene lanterns for lightening at night and hand-dug wells for their water needs.
The only available energy for cooking in this community is fuel wood known locally as firewood; the story is the same across Nigeria as 70% of the population is dependent on fuel wood as the main energy source for cooking. It is customary for the Inugu Omono people to measure the strength of a woman by the number of trees she is able to cut down and collect. A young man in search of a bride would look out for the young woman who is strong enough to collect firewood.
The community is bounded by the Shemagale Mountain Forest. This forest contain indigenous trees and harbuors some wild animals such as monkeys, pythons, grass cutters, bush pigs, etc.
The deforestation is threatening the community’s subsistence. The main culprit is logging. I discovered that the community elder’s collect very small amount of money from logging companies to allow them carry out commercial – yet illegal – logging, thus making it very difficult to stop this exploitation of the forest. Another threat to the forest is bush burning which is usually carried out by the hunters to ease their hunting expeditions. This practice destroys the forest ecosystem. I could not measure the size of this forest but according to local hunters, it takes about 7 days for the forest to be burnt down. Cutting trees for use as firewood is also contributing to the ongoing deforestation.
It took me about three hours’ drive from Abuja to get to the bank of the River Benue, followed by a 56 minutes crossing by a small paddled canoe and another 45 minutes journey by bike through a push path to get the community. Upon arrival at 5 pm, I paid a courtesy call to the Chief, the Aguma of Inugu Omono Chief Shegaba Kaura, to inform him of my mission. A meeting was scheduled later that evening with the community leaders, elders, women and youths leaders.