Gender Participation in Forest Resources Exploitation and Rural Development of the Forest Communities in Cross Rive State, Nigeria
AbstractThe exploitation of forest resources is carried out by both male and female; they do this because they have material gains they make from such exploitation. These gains include both timber and non timber forest products like food especially during shortfall in food supply as safety net, income from the sales of timber and non timber forest products, materials for building houses, medicine for ailments and other diseases and other environmental benefits like soil fertility replenishments. This study set out to assess how male and female participate in the exploitation of forest resources, what they benefits from the exploitation and how this benefits could translate to the rural development of the park enclave communities of the Cross River National Park, Nigeria. Two hypotheses were formulated for the study in the null form. Questionnaire was used as the instrument for data collection, this is divided into section A and B, with section A eliciting respondent’s socio-demographic data, while section B elicits data on gender participation in forest resources exploitation and rural development of the park enclave communities. Using the stage-wise random sampling technique, a sample of 638 respondents representing 15% from the total population of 4249 people within the enclave communities of the park (Okwangwo, Okwa 1 and 2, Mkpot, Abung and Iku) was sampled for the study. The researcher with the help of three trained research assistants administered the instruments and collected same back. Chi square and Pearson Product Moment correlation was used to test the hypotheses at 0.05 significant levels. Both hypotheses tested significant. That there is a significant difference between male and female in forest resources exploitation and there is a significant relationship between benefits from forest resources exploitation and rural development of the park enclave communities. Forest resources exploitation is done along gender disaggregated line with the male harvesting timber and animal products and also harvest few of non timber forest products, the female harvest non timber forest products and very little of animals and timber for fuel wood. The implication of this finding is that both male and female exploit forest resources, the male harvest more of timber forest products and a little of non-timber forest products, whereas the women harvest more of non timber forest products and very little of animals and timber forest products. The benefits derived from gender participation in forest resources exploitation can be used for the rural development of the park enclave communities. Hence benefits from forest exploitation had been used to improve the quality of lives of these communities and also built iron roof houses for themselves. There is increase in the number of schools built by the forest communities with commensurate increase in school enrolment of pupils and students. The study concluded that there is community self help development project executed by community members within the park enclaves and their lives improved, but this development in terms of infrastructural development is limited and relative as compared to other areas where forest resources are protected. It was recommended that government should design sustainable development projects that will better the lives of the rural enclave communities and also provide facilities that will discourage forest resources exploitation. Keywords: gender participation, rural development, forest resources exploitation, benefits from forest resources, enclave communities, and protected areas.