HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT, PROGRAMME FOUCS AND STRUCTURE
Nigeria is richly endowed with a wide variety of renewable natural plant and animal resources which are rapidly being wasted and depleted due to lack of proper management. Only a small proportion of the Forestry and Wildlife Resources have for example been properly understood and attempts made to improve their management and sustainable utilization. The Universities of Agriculture in Nigeria were created to enable the country achieve self-reliance and self-sufficiency in food and agricultural production in the shortest possible time. Unfortunately, the deforestation strategy adopted in the past programmes to expand agricultural production has been linked to environmental degradation, increased erosion, siltation of rivers, increased floods, pollution of water, extermination of wildlife, erosion of genetic resources, declining land productivity, and lowering quality of life of the ordinary farmer. To address this problem, the University of Agriculture Makurdi is particularly fortunate to be situated in the Benue Valley, and ecological transition zone, where all resources of the humid south and those of the dry north interact in a delicately balanced ecological hybrid. Poor management of the resources is causing rapid environmental degradation as well as decline in biodiversity and poor yield from land.
The unique location of the University of Agriculture, Makurdi provides an adequate environment for both theoretical and practical training of sound manpower for sustainable management of Nigeria’s abundant renewable natural resources. Towards this end, the Bachelor of Forestry Programme was created in June, 1990 and housed with the College of Agronomy by a decision of Senate. The name of the Department was Department of Forestry, Wildlife & Range management. The first eight students were admitted into the programme in the 1990/91 session. More students have continued to join the programme at a very rapid rate both by direct entry and by University Matriculation Examination (UME) (including foreign students).
The staff strength has also increased rapidly during the same period. The Department also mounts courses for the B. Agric programme, as well as Agricultural Education, Home Economics and Biological Sciences degree programmes. The Expanded Bachelor of Forestry programme is serviced by the three (3) Departments: Department of Forest Production and Products; Social and Environmental Forestry; and Wildlife and Range Management.
For a more focused and coordinated research, training extension and suitable management of Forestry, Wildlife, Fisheries, and Range resources, the College of Forestry and Fisheries, with four academic departments, was established and approved by the Senate at its 95th meeting of 23rd December 1997. The pioneer Dean of the College was appointed with effect from the same date and subsequently approved by Senate at its 99th meeting of August 1998. Similarly, Heads of Departments were appointed from first January 1999. The three Departments in the Forestry Programme are: Department of Forest Production and Products; Department of Social and Environmental Forestry and the Department of Wildlife and Range Management. Since then, the Forestry Programme has continued to develop rapidly, especially in staff strength, facilities, and student enrolment.
THE FORESTRY PROGRAMME
The Forestry Programme has three (3) Departments namely:
a. Department of Forestry Production and Products
This Department offers forestry courses that will prepare students for sustainable production, management, and utilization of forest goods and services. The traditional emphasis on timber as the primary objective of forest management is rapidly becoming obsolete, especially in the Savannah and other dry areas that constitute more than 70% of Nigeria vegetation. The training of students to be effective forest producers as well as harvesters and converters of the very wide array of primary forest products into high quality finished goods is one of the major responsibilities of this Department.
b. Department of Social and Environment Forestry
Social Forestry describes the ways by which forest goods and services interact with the lives of people, especially in rural areas, as they participate in forestry activities such as forest production, harvesting, processing and marketing of produce at household or rural industry level. Environmental forestry on the other hand, describes the ways by which trees and forest interact with their environment to conserve resources, and improve biomass yield on sustainable basis. Social and environmental forestry, including agroforestry, offer cheap and reliable means of producing forest good goods such as wood, food, and feed, and providing services such as influencing the hydrological cycle, conserving genetic resources, climatic modification, erosion control, soil fertility conservation, desertification control and watershed maintenance. The Department aims to train students to understand the relationship between forestry and the environment as well as effectively utility the social and environmental conservation roles of forestry to diversity and maximize productivity from land and improve farmers’ wellbeing on sustainable basis. It deals with the management, economics, and extension as well as the uses of forestry principles and practices for environmental conservation.
c. Department of Wildlife and Range Management
The Department of Wildlife and Range Management has the objectives to train students as well as demonstrate profitable and sustainable management of the abundant wildlife resources, which are rapidly being exhausted due to ignorance and poor management. Wildlife is a renewable natural resource, which can reproduce and replace itself, and can be profitably maintained indefinitely if properly managed. A very large number of endangered species of wild plants and animals that occur in the Savannah areas of Nigeria need to be properly understood, sustainably managed, and domesticated. However, although other Universities offer Wildlife and Range Management as a separate degree programme, the UAM has continued to maintain it as a B. Forestry option. It will however translate into a B. Wildlife and Range Management Option in the near future.
Note: At the moment the undergraduate programme is still run under the old programme of the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Range Management. A new curriculum aimed at offering degree programmes in the three new Departments in Forestry is awaiting Senate approval. The postgraduate programmes are however, mounted separately in the three new Departments in the Forestry programme.
The main aim of the academic programme is to offer broad based training of students, farmers and other land users, in both theoretical and practical skills required for effective scientific management of renewable natural resources. At the moment, the Forest Programme offers only one degree namely Bachelor of Forestry but has option in General Forestry, Forestry Production and products, Social and Environmental Forestry, and Wildlife and Range Management.
Bachelor of Forestry Programme Structure
The Bachelor of Forestry (B. For.) programme is offered under the old Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Range Managements. The programme is of 4 or 5 years duration depending on qualification of candidates and the point of entry. The Programme is structured to produce graduates with necessary skills to effectively and efficiently practice sustainable natural resources management. It is designed such that in the first year students take courses in all basic scientific and other skills needed in a changing technological environment.
During the first and second years, students are further exposed to basic and applied sciences as well as the basic principles in Agricultural and Natural Resources Management (Crop, Soil, Animals, Forestry, Wildlife, Food science and Technology, Home Economics and Fisheries). Thus the first two years are spent on basic science, arts and social sciences as well as some introductory courses in different areas of agriculture and natural resources management. This ensures a broad based background for innovation practice in a world of competing sectarian demands on the ecosystem. The third year is spent on courses wholly housed in the College. It is a year of very intensive theoretical work and covers introductory courses in all the natural resources management option.
The fourth year is devoted to practical and field experience. It is divided into two parts. The first semester is spent on campus where the students are exposed to practical aspects of sustainable and efficient utilization of natural resources in various subjects. It includes about 4 months of a northern and southern tour of Nigeria to expose the students and equip them with enough practical knowledge. The 5th year is devoted Seminar presentations by students, project work by students as well as lectures and practicals aimed at equipping the students with skills on solving problems in resources management.
The forestry programme commenced Postgraduate programmes in 2008/2009. The Postgraduate Programmes is focused on developing advanced level expertise in various specialized areas of Forestry and Wildlife range, and ecotourism management to facilitate effective understanding of production processes, management, harvesting and utilization of renewable natural resources. There are four postgraduate programmes namely, postgraduate Diploma (PGD), Masters of Forestry (M. For) Masters of Wildlife (M. Wildlife), and Doctor of Philosophy.
The Postgraduate Diploma programme is designed to prepare non forestry/wildlife degree holders, or experienced HND graduates for more effective professional careers in forestry and wildlife, or for the Masters of Forestry or Wildlife degrees. The Masters of Forestry/Wildlife degrees are an Academic and professional higher degree programmes and entry to it requires a good first degree in forestry, wildlife or good grade in the postgraduate Diploma programme. Non-forestry graduates wishing to enter the programme are required to spend the first year on the postgraduate programme to qualify. Forestry and wildlife graduates with lower grades combined with considerable field experience may also require the postgraduate Diploma to qualify for entry into the Masters programme. Good grades from the Masters degree programme, is the prerequisite for entry into the Doctor of Philosophy degree programme.
University of Agriculture Forestry/Wildlife Park.
Located near Dei Village about 20 Kilometers from the Campus, and between a 2000ha Plantation and 2,500ha Wildlife Park. UAM Forest/Wild serves as a field station with full facilities for practical training of students. It is also a research and extension centre for forestry and Wildlife technology development and applications, especially among rural land users who are predominantly farmers.
A very large piece of natural forest land, more than 2000ha located on the North- West corner of the University has been made available to forestry for teaching, research, extension and development of commercial forest resource management skills. The strategy is to establish as well as manage both natural and plantation forests on ecologically sustainable and commercially viable basis, in addition to maintaining a wide range of research plots and arboretum.
A large number of flora and fauna species in very dense vegetation once occupied the Guinea Savanna region in which the University is situated. The area was once full of fascinating number of animal species and birds which enjoyed the freedom to live and roam about. The current situation is however different as most of the animals have been hunted to near extinction for meat and their habitats destroyed beyond repair for grazing and farming of food and cash crops. Growth in agricultural production for cash to pay foreign debts under heavy currency devaluation in the poor rural economy has logically been on expansion cultivation to the more fertile forest areas and not intensification of the production system. As a result of the need of conserve the remaining native species and to provide a suitable neither own laboratory for research, training and extension, the University senate at its 115th meeting of 5th August 1999 approved the establishment of a 2500ha Wildlife Park, together with associated projects located (between long 08o 36’E 080 41 E and land Lat 07 49 N, 07 52 N) in the North East corner of the 800ha University land. The park is the only one of its kind privately owned and strategically located in the Benue Valley ecologically zone, where no National park has been established. The objective was to restore the original vegetation and maintain natural habitat diversity for sustained higher productivity of plants and animals, as well as provide the ideal natural ecosystems for research, training and extension, on sustainable management of natural Forest and wildlife. It was also to provide a basis for future comparison.
The Honey production (Apiary) Unit was established by the Department of Forest Production and Product to study and improve the science of commercial beeking of bee wax for both domestic and commercial purposes. It is also to provide facilities for both domestic and commercial purposes. It is also to provide facilities for teaching, research, and extension in integrated forestry resources management techniques, as required by the mandate of the University. The Apiary Unit has been supported by the STEP-B Programme in training students in modern Beekeeping techniques.
The Crocodile house of the Department of Wildlife and Range Managementhoused the eight large crocodiles of both sexes to encourage captive breeding and propagation of crocodiles for active research in reptiles. It is also to start up the University of Agriculture Zoological garden, for the role of teaching students and for commercial propagation of crocodiles for hide and skin and its well priced leather. The animal house of the Department of Wildlife and Range Management is stocked with materials for training in animal capture techniques and the cages for small, medium and large rodents (Grasscutters and Giant rats). Research is currently on going on the popular Nile rat (Arvicantis niloticus). The snail farming is proposed and established at the newly acquired forestry building site at the animal core of the University after its completion.
There is a professional association for the Forestry and Wildlife students (FORESTAN) Forestry Student Association of Nigeria; this association takes care of the well being of Forestry students while they remain in the University.