Deforestation And Disintegration Of Health Beliefs And Practices In Nigeria
Volume 3 - Issue 8, August 2019 Edition
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Ikenyei N. Sandra
Deforestation, Disintegration, Health belief model and systemic sustainability. Word Count 250
For years, the forests within many communities in Nigeria were protected by taboos. These taboos were instituted to preserve strategic forests because of their economic value. This indigenous practice prescribed the wholesome and sustainable use of the forest resources. However, as time progressed, the taboos and the use of the forest in regulating health and social order became untenable with the onset of industrial scale deforestation which commenced in 1940. While researchers have documented economic gains and pains of deforestation, there have been few studies on effects of deforestation on indigenous beliefs and practices that protects the forest, thereby, maintaining health and social order. Thus, this work examined deforestation, its disintegrative impact on indigenous beliefs and practices that once sustained health and social order in Sapele, Delta State, Nigeria. Ecological theory provided the framework for explanations of variables. From five major communities that make up Sapele local government area, total of 369 participants were randomly selected: Sapele (91), Elume (85), Amukpe (71), Ozum-Okokporo (61) and Ugborhen (61). The questionnaire collected data on the use of forest in regulating health and social continuity. Five focus group discussions comprising eight participants each, 10 key informants among household heads/traditionalists and 15 in-depth interviews with chiefs/forest custodians were conducted. Quantitative data were analysed using probit regression model at 0.05 level of significance. Qualitative data were content analysed. The mean age of respondents was 52±1.0 years. More than half (55.0%) were male. While 67.0% were Christians, 15.0% were traditionalists and 13.0% were Muslims. Majority (90.0%) endorsed forest and related beliefs as important for maintaining health and social order. The forest remains a significant determinant of beliefs (x2=.27), practices (x1=2) and wellness (x3=.2). Indigenous health practices carried out in the forest included the performance of ritual cleansing, oath taking, invocation of cosmic forces, isolation, exorcism, shaming, fortification with forest relics, restriction of woman under menstruation, conferment of regalia/insignia of authority, festivities, rites of passage, spiritual and funerary rites-internment of endemic bodies in the forest. However, 90.2% indicated perceptions of ongoing changes to these beliefs and practices.
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