it was thought to be a novel, path-breaking intervention when the United Nations declared in the late 1980s that the sustainability of “Our Common Future” ultimately must be predicated on a radical transformation toward development practice “that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs.” But centuries before this public call, the Aboriginal people and First Nations of Canada (Mohawks, Inuit, Métis) were already warning us through their culture of environmental stewardship that “we do not inherit the land from our fathers, we borrow it from our children.” Indeed, across world indigenous cultures, this philosophy of inter-generational responsibility and accounting is common.
This edition of West Africa Insight attempts to capture the extents to which governments in the region are conforming or departing from recent injunctions to restrain the predatory proclivities of elite cadres and curb the destructive trend in the consumption of the earth’s resources. The focus is on the health of our forest environment. We find that deforestation thrives and is continuing a-pace, with devastating consequences for a sustainable future; and that illegal logging for underground export trade serves the interests of the region’s money makers. The search for fossil fuels, more productive grazing land for livestock, large scale agricultural plantations for production of commercial crops are additional reasons why forests are fast shrinking and species interactions in ecosystems compromised. Deforestation reflects the logic of economic consumption that is fundamentally based on short-sighted goals.
Scientific reports confirm that the continuing erosion of forests in West Africa is mounting pressures on biodiversityWest African biodiversity serves as the ecological habitat or sanctuary for 40 percent of Africa’s mammals and roughly 2000 endemic species of plants. Roughly speaking, only 16 percent of the region’s forests is currently identified and technically cordoned off for protection; and merely two percent of this endangered physical environment is marked for biodiversity conservation. West Africa’s forest environment is severely ill, though little is being forcefully said about its fast deteriorating condition in the media within the region and abroad. Governments in the region are not seriously pursuing remedies or providing new enforcement mechanisms to save the forest ecosystem.
Deforestation does more than destroy trees and biodiversity. It disarticulates and disorientates local human communities whose livelihoods are precariously hinged on predictable and guaranteed access to the resources in their immediate surroundings. Internal displacement, aggravated poverty, emotional sense of uncertainty, and rural-urban migration are a few of the severe consequent human costs. In this circumstance, family units are split and the cultural integrity and social heritage of communities face extinction.
Contributors to this volume have elaborated these problems in their appropriate national, cultural, and political contexts. I am persuaded that issues raised and addressed by them will most likely advance the debates on the need for alternative methods of human development and environmental recovery. To gain full flavor of the quality of argumentations and solutions proffered, the reader is advised to follow the stories in the sequence that they are presented.