Tow in the woods of the Nigerian forest, Egbontoluwa Marigi falls a tall mahogany tree. With a crash he falls into the silent forest. Marigi, equipped with machete and axe, is already looking for the next tree. However, a number of tree stumps around him are a reminder that many trees are disappearing due to illegal logging in the southwestern Nigerian state of Ondo.
Tree felling, whether for timber, for new pasture or farmland, or to meet the energy needs of a rapidly growing population, puts immense stress on Nigeria’s natural forests. At the UN Biodiversity Conference, President Muhammadu Buhari announced that Nigeria had set up a foundation to help the country’s forests recover. However, this initiative may come too late, as the forest is currently rapidly losing area.
The director of forestry for the region in Ondo, Femi Obadun, takes a similar view: “Protecting our forests also protects us. A destroyed forest also destroys humanity.”
Marigi, one of the lumberjacks, knows about the lawsuits. But he tries to get by and finance his life. The father of two children is 61 years old. He would like to fell more wood, but in many regions he can hardly find any large trees. In the last 20 years, Nigeria has lost 1.14 million hectares of forest cover. That’s an 11 percent drop in forests. The initiative Global Forest Watch has calculated that this lack of trees corresponds to 587 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
The loggers transport their goods to the capital Lagos via streams and rivers. After felling, each lumberjack marks his trees and then ties them together into rafts. They are pulled across the water with a motorboat in a long chain. The loggers set up small, improvised huts on the rafts to look after their belongings. During the journey they hardly sleep and make sure that none of the tribes get lost. The team stops again and again to pick up more fellers and their rafts. A single tugboat can pull up to 1000 rafts, each with a maximum of 30 tree trunks.
“In the time of our ancestors, we still had big trees,” says Marigi. “Today we can only cut down small trees and we don’t give them a chance to grow at all.” This year Marigi has 40 trunks which he binds together into rafts. He joined forces with other loggers to rent a tug boat to get the logs from Ondo to Lagos.
The makeshift huts on the rafts protect Marigi and his friends from the weather. They share their food and sing old folk songs to keep the mood going. Your journey ends in the lagoon of Lagos. Wood from all regions of the country comes together here and is processed in the sawmills on site for other users.