Script 84.6

Notes to broadcasters

Globally, deforestation has accelerated since 1990. Each year, about 16 million hectares of forests are either burned, cut or simply bulldozed, thereby severely “wounding” the land with reduced rainfall, widespread poor farm harvests, rising temperatures and growing wood shortages.

When forest and tree cover is removed from the environment, the effect of heat from the sun is more direct and sometimes proportionately harsher on the earth’s surface; moisture evaporates more quickly, drying air, soil and water. In particular, the pressures of persistent and wanton bush burning not only remove natural resources in the environment, but also contribute to the “greenhouse effect” and reduced agricultural production.

Vulnerable groups in society who rely on natural resources for subsistence are the most affected by the changing climate around the world. It is estimated that climate change will reduce crop yields by an average of 10% over the whole of Africa. There could be a 33% reduction in maize yields in Tanzania. Millet production could decrease between 20% and 76% and sorghum production between 13% and 82% in Sudan.

In the two-part script that follows, two experts in an interview explain how trees and forest contribute towards reducing the greenhouse effect on agricultural production and the environment. Please adapt the script to your audience. The Tiv wise saying may also be replaced with those more familiar to the audience.

In the first part of the two-part interview, our guests told us how important it is for man and forests to live side by side. In this second part, Dr. Benedicta Utille and Alexander Bua tell us how trees and forests can be raised quickly to help end the rise in temperature, bring more rain, and prevent future wood shortages.

Script

PART ONE:

SFX:
Signature tune fades in and fades out

Host:
The Tiv tribesmen of central Nigeria have a wise saying: “As long as the ailment remains with the patient, doses of medication are necessary for hope.” The hot air around us that has reduced farm yield, shortened rainfalls and caused wood shortages remains, so we must continue in the search for solutions.

I am Sachia Ngutsav, your host on the program. I am here with two guests who know why these harsh changes are taking place. My guests tell me that, in spite of what seems an environmental crisis, the land – the soil, trees and forest around us – can be healed. Now how can that be done? Let’s listen to Alexander Bua, the head teacher of Mhambe Community primary school, and Dr. Benedicta Utille, who teaches forestry at the Makurdi University of Agriculture. Madam and sir, welcome to the program.

Guests respond simultaneously

Dr. Benedicta:
Thank you very much.

Bua:
You are welcome.

Host:
(Cuts in on a humorous note) Dr. Benedicta. Ladies first, isn’t it? So my first question goes to you. This hot air feels like hot steam coming from a cooking pot. Why is this happening in the environment now?

Bua:
(Sarcastically cuts in) The removal of trees and forests around us.

Host:
(Surprised) The hot air we are feeling is caused by trees and forests, and not by the hot rays of the sun?

Dr. Benedicta:
(Amused) There are many causes for the air getting hot, such as the release of carbon dioxide and other gases from burning fuel and from industries. Trees and forests are not the cause of the hot air. But one major contributor to rising temperatures may be bush burning, felling of trees and land clearing for farming.

Host:
Bua, is that so?

Bua:
You know that trees take water from the ground to nourish their roots, trunks and leaves. When they have too much water, trees release some of it as vapour into the atmosphere. That vapour contains particles of cool water that cool the air around the tree, then spread to cool more air in the extended environment.

Host:
(Humorously) Someone told me that the atmosphere is getting so hot because of a “global woman” or something?

Dr. Benedicta:
(Surprised and amused) Glo… what!? (Quickly understanding) Oh! Global warming!

SFX: General laughter

Dr. Benedicta:
Global warming describes a condition where there is too much heating up of the earth by the sun.

Host:
How does that really happen? Bua?

Bua:
For us to understand global warming, let’s quickly mention what scientists call the “greenhouse effect,” which simply means the trapping of heat in the atmosphere.

Host:
(Wonderingly) Heat trapped in the atmosphere?

Bua:
This is a situation in which sunlight warms the earth, but the heat that is generated cannot easily leave or escape from the atmosphere. This has been happening for some time now. That is why the earth is warming up.

Host:
(Repeating the words) Greenhouse effect!

Bua:
The “greenhouse effect” resembles the work of glass panes in a greenhouse. A greenhouse is a house built with glass walls and glass roof. Sunlight passes through the glass to heat up the room. But the same heat is blocked by the glass from escaping, so that the house remains warm. Well, there are no greenhouses in the sky. But, just like when you shut the windows of your car completely and leave it out in the sun, heat enters the inside of the car but cannot escape because it is trapped. The inside of your car will become very hot; the windows may even break, if you fail to leave them open.

Host:
Is that how the air around us is warming up?

Dr. Benedicta:
Yes. One way in which the earth heats or warms up is when gases from burning forests and bushes rise in the atmosphere to form something like a blanket. This blanket formed by the huge amounts of gases reflects the heat back to earth instead of allowing it to escape into outer space.

Host:
(Convinced) The picture is getting very clear. But how are trees or forests involved with these gases?

Bua:
Trees and forests store carbon. And carbon – or carbon dioxide if you like – is released when the trees burn up. The carbon dioxide finds its way to the atmosphere and contributes to the thickening of the blanket, which is the greenhouse effect.

Host:
Dr. Benedicta, are there benefits from trees storing carbon dioxide?

Dr. Benedicta:
One advantage of trees storing carbon dioxide is that it helps the trees to make their own food and to send out another very important gas called oxygen. Oxygen is what all human beings need to breathe and to stay healthy. Human beings would die in seconds if they had no oxygen. So you can that see the bond between trees and human beings is one of helping each other to remain alive happily. If that balance of nature is changed as is being done now, climate and weather problems such as we are having now will emerge.

Host:
Listener, you have heard from our guests how removal of trees and forests by burning and other means is causing plenty of hot air around our homes and farms. I hope you have learned much and will act to protect our forests so that the land can be healed. Dr. Benedicta Utille and Alexander Bua will be here again next week to tell us how trees can be planted to store carbon, bring more rain, and end the shortage of firewood.

Thanks to my guests and our partners, Farm Radio International, for information on trees, forest, rain and global warming. Tune in again for the second part of the interview next week. I am Sachia Ngutsav. See you in the second part of “Forests shall heal the land.”

PART TWO:

Host:
Welcome to the concluding part of the program: Forests shall heal the land. Again, I am Sachia Ngutsav, your host. My guests, Dr. Benedicta Utille, forestry teacher at the Makurdi University of Agriculture, and Alexander Bua, head teacher of Mhambe Community Primary School, are back with us. Madam and sir, welcome again to the program.

Guests:
(Greetings)

Host:
You have mentioned that forests and trees can help the environment by storing carbon, by cooling the local environment, and by creating oxygen. Are there other ways in which forests and trees improve the environment?

Bua:
Many! For instance, as you might have noticed, streams, lakes and rivers which used to give us a lot of fish, crabs, crayfish and water itself, have been drying up over the past 20-30 years. It is clear that there are more water shortages in areas where there are no forests and trees. Even the Benue River has dropped its water level by two metres in the past 30 years, according to scientists.

Dr. Benedicta:
That’s correct! Forests prevent water from quickly evaporating. Interestingly, farmers were already aware of this over the ages, and are probably even aware today. Science calls it microclimate control, which means controlling the local environment so that the climate of the area is steady, and does not change unduly. For example, if forests are cut, rainwater will evaporate more rapidly from the ground. Keeping forests in place helps prevent this loss of water to the atmosphere.

Bua:
(Cuts in) Forest canopies can intercept 20-30% of the rain that falls. Falling rain also runs over tree trunks to the ground without damaging the topsoil because of the carpet of leaves that litter the forest floor. The force of raindrops that can cause erosion is controlled and prevented by leaves and tree branches.

Dr. Benedicta:
Cutting forests also increases poverty. People living on the edges of forests use forest resources to survive. When the forests are empty and the poor have nothing left to harvest, they become poorer. You can see that even the quantity and the quality of firewood on sale by villagers have dropped greatly. There is a wood shortage.

Host:
Is it also true that trees and forests give medicines?

Bua:
Forests are the greatest laboratories or medicine-making houses in nature. The chemical formulae in trees can hardly be imagined by chemists.

Dr. Benedicta:
It was the rosy periwinkle, a native plant in the forests of Madagascar, that treated leukemia, a kind of cancer, and quinine from the Amazon forest in South America was used to fight malaria. Even HIV and AIDS may have a cure from the trees of the forest one day.

Bua:
That is why one writer says that burning the forest is like burning a library without checking the content of the books. Everything that could have given you knowledge and information is burned in the books. Continued bush burning is destroying all the medical plants in the forests, and worse still, contributing to climate change.

Host:
This is getting more exciting. Dr. Benedicta, do forests mean so much for our survival?

Dr. Benedicta:
Of course. Forests are called the lungs of nature; they help nature to breathe. If you destroy the forest, nature’s lungs are destroyed. Trees breathe in carbon, which is dangerous to animals, and send out oxygen, which is beneficial to man.

Host:
What can we do so that we do not destroy forests completely?

Bua:
We advise careful use of the forest. If we must log trees for timber, we should be selective. If we must clear the forest for farm work, let it be selective clearing, so that we can conserve the creatures of the forest, that are vital to supporting life on earth.

Dr. Benedicta:
We can also intercrop trees with crops, especially legume crops that do not shade the crops too much. This system of farming is called agroforestry. Agroforestry was very popular with our people long ago, and many more farmers will benefit from it, especially as climate becomes less predictable.

Bua:
Many farmers are already intercropping legume crops such as soybeans with citrus trees such as sweet orange. Legumes like cowpea can be grown with crops like maize, sorghum, and cotton, together with cashew trees.

Dr. Benedicta:
Species of cowpea can cover the soil and help prevent erosion, suppress weeds, cool the soil and add compost to the soil with their dropped leaves.

Bua:
Anyway, farmers and other people can use the branches of trees to grow new trees. Simply cut a branch from a tree. As extension workers say, a good size for cutting is about two metres long – about the same height as an adult person. When planting, one-third of the cutting should be below the ground and two-thirds should remain above the ground.

Host:
How can we achieve fast reforestation?

Dr. Benedicta:
Each village community must set aside a portion of land to be planted with trees.

Host:
How do you think this can be done?

Bua:
There used to be a program called woodlot planting, in which every village not located near a forest reserve set aside some land to plant with trees. These trees were owned by the whole community. This program should be brought back urgently where it was followed in the past, and introduced immediately in areas where it was not.

Host:
These will not be the natural trees again.

Bua:
But exotic trees can help, too. If allowed to grow for a long time, they will serve the same purpose as natural trees.

Dr. Benedicta:
As an example, if every one of the over one million school children in Benue State could be encouraged to plant one tree per school term – that’s three trees a year – that would give us 9 million trees in 5 years alone. And this is possible. The student that plants the most trees could be rewarded with money towards their studies.

Host:
But how can people reduce pressures on the forest for firewood? You know they must use firewood.

Bua:
I suggest that government should give free kerosene stoves to communities which live close to forests and which depend on firewood from the forest for their daily cooking needs. Kerosene prices around such communities should also be specially subsidised to encourage them

Dr. Benedicta:
In the past, communities used to leave certain lands uncultivated or fallow for many years. No fire would be set on these forests and bushes. Every member of the community respected this policy, and the forests were protected and enriched with decayed leaves and bushes, animal dung and bird droppings. These were the days of agriculture without chemical fertilizers. The soil was fertile and the crops did well.

Host:
In what other ways can communities be motivated?

Bua:
Towards protecting the forest? We have been celebrating the best farmer of the year. So, if we really feel strongly about the problems of the rural environment – and you can see we must feel strongly – then we should award a prize for the best forester of the year. Let the entire community compete individually and collectively to win by planting and owning a tree or a forest.

Dr. Benedicta:
“Enrichment” planting must be enforced quickly. Enrichment planting is a system in which, for every one tree cut, five or more must be planted to replace it. This should be a standing law to be strictly enforced by forestry officials.

Host:
Will there be enough seedlings for the community to plant?

Bua:
A lot of seedlings of fast-growing species should be raised and distributed to all communities. And experts should monitor all the planting and the tending, to ensure they are being raised as directed.

Dr. Benedicta:
At the beginning, it could be a joint program between the government, community development association and religious bodies.

Host:
It appears the solution to deforestation for which we have been searching is within our reach after all?

Bua:
It is right under the soles of our feet. If we just plant trees and protect our forests, the trees and forests shall heal the land again.

Dr. Benedicta:
And the flowers, insects, animals, snails, fish, and fresh air shall return.

Host:
Listener, you have heard the second and concluding part of the discussion program: Forests shall heal the land. Thanks to my guests, Dr. Benedicta Utille and Headmaster Alexander Bua. Thanks also to our partners Farm Radio International for the materials on forestry which we have adapted in the interview. Many thanks to other sources too numerous to mention at this time.

If you want to keep in touch with my guests on the topic: for Dr. Benedicta Utille, the email ischiautille@yahoo.com. You can e-mail Alexander Bua atazendabua@yahoo.com. Or you can simply write or email the producer of Farming for Life at Radio Benue, P.O. Box 1969, Makurdi, Benue State, Nigeria or email atsachiangutsav@yahoo.com.

Thanks for listening.

Acknowledgements

Contributed by: Sachia Ngutsav, Radio Benue, Nigeria.

Reviewed by: John FitzSimons, Associate Professor, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, University of Guelph, Canada.

Information Sources