International Journal of Natural Resource Ecology and Management
Volume 1, Issue 2, July 2016, Pages: 58-62

Conservation of Botanicals Used for Carving by the Ijaw Ethnic Group of Bayelsa State Nigeria

Kayode J.1,*, Ihinmikaiye S. O.2, Arowosegbe S.1, Oyedeji A. A.3

1Department of Plant Science and Biotechnology, Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria

2Department of Biological Science, Federal University, Otueke, Nigeria

3Department of Biological Science, Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Nigeria

Email address:

(Kayode J.)

*Corresponding author

To cite this article:

Kayode J., Ihinmikaiye S. O., Arowosegbe S., Oyedeji A. A. Conservation of Botanicals Used for Carving by the Ijaw Ethnic Group of Bayelsa State Nigeria. International Journal of Natural Resource Ecology and Management. Vol. 1, No. 2, 2016, pp. 58-62. doi: 10.11648/j.ijnrem.20160102.17

Received: July 11, 2016; Accepted: July 20, 2016; Published: July 29, 2016

Abstract: A survey of wood used for carving in Bayelsa State, Nigeria was carried out using a rapid appraisal method. The state was divided into three zones and in each zone; three prominent wood carvers were identified and interviewed with the aid of semi-structured questionnaire guide. Also, five communities were randomly selected from each of the eight local government areas of the state. In each community, ten respondents that have maintained continuous domicile for a minimum of ten years in the community were selected and interviewed with respect to their indigenous knowledge on woodcarving. Group interviewed were equally conducted. A total of 39 botanicals belonging to 23 different families were being used to carve 12 different items. Botanicals commonly used for such craft were identified and were mostly timber species. They ranged from hard to soft wood and the species used depended on the item to be carved. The methods use for harvesting the wood was annihilative. Increasing decline in the availability of the species was reported hence strategies that would enhance the continuous supply of the species were proposed.

Keywords: Carving, Botanicals, Indigenous Species, Conservation, Bayelsa State

1. Introduction

Wood carving is still a common craft among the indigenous people of Nigeria. The skills are passed on from father to son through inheritance or by apprenticeship system [2,3,5,11]. Wood carving involves shaping statues, ornaments, utensil, canoes etc out of wood is a common craft among the Ijaw people of Bayelsa State, Nigeria who are well known for adhering to their rich culture. Apart from being Nigeria oil hub, the State is crisscross by numerous creeks and ponds which serve as means of fishing to the indigenous people. Its enormous forest and riparian vegetation create avenue for hunting, wild fruit gathering, wood carving etc.

At present, problem of wood diversity loss is taking its toll on the forest yield in the region; this is not without the knowledge of the indigenous people as they confirmed the continual scarcity of hitherto abundant forest and wildlife resources in the area [1]. Yet, there abounds the constant pressure on the remaining forest. Previous observation revealed that continual timber felling without replacement has been one of the factors responsible for biodiversity loss [8]. Deforestation is gradually scaling down species richness of the forest estate.

In Nigeria, a gross dearth of studies abounds on wood used for carving by the various ethnic groups in the country. Therefore, the study being reported aimed at documenting information on the botanicals used for carving by the Ijaw ethnic group of Bayelsa State, Nigeria as this could serve as the basis for conservation and management planning of useful but endangered species in the State.

2. Materials and Methods

Kayode et. al. [12] had provided the detailed description of the study area and the delineation of the state into three zones. This was maintained in this study. In each zone, three prominent woodcarvers were identified and interviewed with the aid of semi-structured questionnaire guide (after Kayode et. al. [11]). The interviews were carried out with fairly open framework that allowed for focus, conversational and two way communication. Information obtained, with regards to the botanical(s) used for carving, abundance of the botanical(s), carvers’ indigenous knowledge on the species, was documented.

Also, five communities were randomly selected from each of the eight local government areas of the state. In each community, ten respondents that have maintained continuous domicile for a minimum of ten years in the community, were selected and interviewed with respect to their indigenous knowledge on woodcarving. Group interviews, with the intention to determine group consensus on the information provided, were also conducted among the respondents. Three groups, with each consisting of not less than three respondents, were conducted in each community. Key informants consisting of Officials of Forestry Department were identified and interviewed.

The abundant of the species identified was determined within 2 kilometer radius from the centre of each the community sampled by using the time taken to physically encounter the species. Species encountered in < 1hour were considered as very abundant, those encountered between 1 and 24hours as abundant, 24hours to 3days as frequent, those between 3days and 1week as occasional, and those species that were not encountered after 1week of search as rare. Similarity measures in the occurrence of the species in the sampling zone were determined as follow:

1.  Index of Similarity (IS)

IS = 2C x 100 / (A + B)

2.  Jaccard Index (SJ)

SJ = C / (A+B+C)

3.  Sorenson-Dice Index (SSD)

SSD = 2C / (A+B+2C)

4.  Ochoi Index (SO)

SO = C / √(A+C) + √(B+C)

5.  Asymmetrical Similarity (SAS)

SAS = B / (B+2C)

Where A is the number of species in the first zone

B is the number of species in the second zone, and

C is the number of species common to both first and second zones

3. Results and Discussion

Table 1 revealed that respondents used in this study cut across sex, age, religion, occupation, literacy and economic status. All the respondents were familiar with the natural resources in their environment. They were quite familiar with carved wood products in their aboriginal communities. Previous study by Kayode et. al. [9] has observed that rural inhabitants were usually conscious of the resources in their environment.

A total of 39 botanicals belonging to 22 different families were observed to be used for carving in the study area (Table 2). The respondents’ perceptions on each of the species are also stated in Table 1. 12 carved items were observed (Table 3). The results revealed that dugout canoe and paddle sticks were the dominant items carved from wood in the study area. Durability of the wood species was the major quality required for caving canoe as water permeation could result to canoe wood deterioration. Species utilized for this purpose included B. nigerica, C. pentandra, C. procera, E. excelsium, E. cylindricum, E. ivorensis, G. angulicarpa, K. anthotheca, L. alata, M. africana, M. stipulosa, N. diderrichii, P. brevipe, P. butryacea, P. oleosa, R. heudelotii, S. gabonensis, T. acuminate, T. ivorensis and T. scleroxylon (Table 2). Paddle sticks were carved using A. boonei, C. englerianus, M. Africana, S. gabonensis, S. globulifera, T. ivorensis and U. heulotii.

Table 1. Socio-economic classification of Respondents in Bayelsa State, Nigeria.

Table 2. Botanicals used for carving by the Ijaws of Bayelsa State, Nigeria.

Table 3. List of wooden items carved in Bayelsa State.

Other carving products in the study area were axe and hoe handles, local board game, local gun handle, masquerades’ masks, decoration materials, mortar and pestle, statues and walking sticks. While the carving of canoes, paddle sticks, axe and hoe handles, mortar and pestle were constantly worked upon by the carvers, carving of other carving products were often based on demand.

Field observation revealed that two kinds of mortar and pestle are carved in the study area, a large type commonly used for pounding yam and Loi loi (squashed cassava), and the small type usually for milling soup condiments/ spices into pulp. The two types are both household food processing instruments. Local board game (Ikiyokoto, obrige) is a leisure game play among people of all age groups in the State. Walking stick (Alor, ugbele) is a supporting and walking aid instrument commonly used by the elderly and also served as traditional fashion during chieftaincy, marriage rite and ritualistic acculturation. Masks and statues are kinds of items scarcely carved in the study area, mask is a symbolic costumed usually wore by masquerades reputed to be sprites of the gods / goddess. Masquerades displays are still common feature of festivals and rites of passage of the King and Chiefs in the study area. Table 4 shows the list of masquerades with carved wood as masks in the study area. Most of these masquerades were concentrated in Bayelsa central zone.

The results also revealed that species preference abounds for carving a specific item, thus supporting the previous assertions of Hawthorne [6], Melissa [13], Kayode [7] and Gordian and Ekiye [5]. Preferences demonstrated were attributed to differences in wood texture, ease of carving (especially when damp), and resistant to rot. 38 of the identified botanicals (that is, 97%) were indigenous species sourced from forests in the study area. Only G. arborea was foreign in origin. Previous study by Kayode and Ogunleye [10] revealed that indigenous species played diverse roles in the livelihood of rural dwellers. Carvers and respondents were conscious of increasing decline in the abundance of the species. The abundance test used in this study revealed 10% and 15% of the identified botanicals were occasional and rare status respectively (Table 5). The similarity indices (Table 6) revealed that the species occurrences in Bayelsa East (BE) and Bayelsa South (BS) as well as Bayelsa West (BW) and BS were quite similar than those of BW and BE. However the values of Asymmetrical Similarity of 0.4 in the three zones used tend to suggest that occurrence of the species was similar in the state.

Information by the respondents revealed that reduction was being observed in the number of mature wood in the study area. Field observation revealed that the increasing scarcity of the species has resulted in the use of immature wood especially in the carving of dugout canoes hence many of the dugout canoes currently in production were plywood-constructed-boat. Many other carved items were easily susceptible to attacks by insects. The depletion in the forest estate of the study area has been a subject of concern in the recent years. Residents of the study area depended heavily on their environment for their livelihood hence deforestation rate had been rapid and unprecedented [4]. This is further complicated by degradation brought about due to the crude oil exploration and exploitation [14]. The mangrove forest of the study area which is reputed to be the third largest in the world and is now equally the most exploited in the world [15].

Table 4. Checklist of Masquerades with Carved wood in Bayelsa State.

Table 5. Abundance of the identified botanicals used for carving by the Ijaw in Bayelsa State, Nigeria.

Table 6. Similarities in species occurrence in the three zones of in Bayelsa State, Nigeria.

Field observation also revealed that the mangrove forest of the study area was mostly populated by the indigenous species. Previous observations by Kayode and Ogunleye [9] and Adu- Agyem et al. [3] revealed that these species reproduced poorly, as most of them are often high light demanders and poorly represented in the sapling stage. Similarly, the methods of harvesting trees to be carved are mostly annihilative. It was also observed that other tree species around a desired species to be harvested for carving purposes are negatively affected during extraction, as such are hew down. Thus supply ad infinitum would be difficult to guarantee. The need to preserve the integrity of the mother plants is now imperative.

4. Conclusion

The mangrove should be conserved through effective legislation and implementation, particularly on the activities of the oil companies. The enlightenment of the populace on the dangers of biodiversity loss should be intensified. Perhaps, some of the mangrove should be gazetted as reserves. These would ensure the continuity of wood supply for carving activities among the indigenous people of the study area.

Conflict of Interest

No conflict of interest involved in the study being reported in this paper.


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