The Ebonyi State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources has set up a Forestry Community Relations Forum to check incidences of de-forestation in the state.
Disclosing this in an interview with newsmen yesterday in Abakaliki, the Head of Forestry Department, Mr Ferdinand Umeh, said the forum would comprise officials of the ministry and forestry-donor communities.
"These communities know their indigenes and would assist the government in identifying those who engage in various de-forestation activities such as tree-felling. "They would be of utmost importance to us as our forest guards cannot effectively identify these violators," he said.
Umeh said to enhance the work of both parties, the ministry would provide forest produce to the communities to plant and nurture. "We keep the yields of the produce, but most time share them with the communities to bring out the best from them," he said. According to him, the committee will also check the incessant felling of trees for commercial purposes by youths in the communities.
"Most youths, especially from warring communities like Ezza and Ezillo, indiscriminately fell trees for commercial purposes which affects the forest land mass and ultimately the ecosystem. "It is encouraging that the government is creating job opportunities for youths, especially those in the rural areas," he said.
Umeh noted that the ministry had prosecuted over 17 forestation violators, adding that more violators would also be prosecuted. "We have also intensified our enlightenment campaigns through radio jingles and television to dissuade people from engaging in de-forestation activities," he said.