As the effects of the worsening global warming continue to ravage the nation, ALIYU ASKIRA and HAMIDU SABO write on its devastating effects on northern Nigeria
Desert encroachment is a natural phenomenon which can also be caused by man through massive felling of trees.
Most states from northern Nigeria in swampy savannah and Sahel areas live under serious threats from desert encroachment and ecological problems. Those living in Sahel region are the most affected because the weather is harsher there.
Desertification in the north according to experts has been attributed largely to excessive exploitation of the forest resulting in the exposure of dry sandy soil, of the semi arid areas to strong winds during the dry season.
Now because most ordinary homes in the North depend on firewood to cook, the rampant rate at which trees are felled frustrates efforts by states’ forestry and anti-desert encroachment programmes from succeeding or from eliminating the menace completely.
Under the Federal Ministry of Environment Housing and Urban Development, there is a department of drought and desertification amelioration which has a zonal office in Kano with a mandate to check desert encroachment in 12 Northern states.
But what are the adverse effects of desert encroachment on human lives and his environment?
Dr. Suleiman Ahmad of the Kano office of the Federal Ministry of Environment told Blueprint that the effects of desert encroachment on the social lives of people of Northern states are many, lamenting that though the Federal Government from time to time disburses billions of Naira to states for ecological purposes, most times the money is either diverted or mis-appropriated.Northern states like Katsina, Jigawa, Kano, Borno, Sokoto, Adamawa, Taraba, Niger, Kaduna, Kebbi and some parts of Plateau that have ecological and desert encroachment problems, face problems like water scarcity and stress desertification, crop failure, loss of livestock, famine, malnutrition and distress migration.
Dr Suleiman, however, posited that these negative effects can be minimised through sustainable source of water which governments of the affected states are expected to provide. Other measures are strengthening forestation programmes, improved crop production, public enlightenment, effective early warning system and alternative livelihood including building of shelter-belts, massive tree planting programmes and construction of dams for drinking water, irrigation and other purposes.
In Kano, massive irrigation activities are going on year in year out through the Hadejia Jama’are River Basin Development Authority, the state is also fortunate to have large dams, like Tiga, Challawa and host of others; a total of about six major dams and sixteen smaller ones, but yet it cannot feed itself or eliminate cases of desert threats.
A senior officer with the Kano state Ministry of Environment who would not want to be named, told Blueprint that before the advent of oil Northern states did give maximum attention to agriculture, and the whole country then depended on the revenue from cotton groundnut, hides and skin and coal from Plateau state; but since the discovery of oil what northern governors do is to wait for allocation from Abuja to run their states; they have abandoned agriculture including projects that check desert encroachment.
Even in his position, he noted, he cannot give the breakdown of what his state gives his ministry on yearly or quarterly basis. He noted that there is a total neglect of agriculture in the nation and advised that there should be a deliberate scheme to revive the sector especially in the north.
Bala Ibrahim, a lecturer with the Geography Department, Bayero University Kano is of the view that the North should pursue the quest for the revisit of the onshore/offshore oil dichotomy and called for either compensation or special funds to the north from the Federal Government.
“Take Plateau state for instance, because of the past excessive activities of miners, you cannot plant a tree or shelterbelt in some parts of the state especially Jos because the land has become corrosive and cannot grow crops. Since there is derivation for the oil producing areas, there should be revenue concession to most northern states that lost their soil fertility due to agricultural activities of the 70s.
“Today, northerners are poorer than before when they used to engage fully in agricultural activities and the industries that sprang up in the region later, have collapsed. That is why there is insurgency and the only way out is to go back to agriculture, through massive involvement of states of the north and banks that will give farmers soft loans for farming,” Ibrahim said.
Kano state governor has already hinted its desire to set up 44 community banks in the state to boost agriculture.
Similarly, in Katsina, despite the proactive and concerted efforts adopted by the government in fighting desertification and drought, the state is still facing various environmental challenges.
Blueprint gathered that the state, like many other states in the North, is vulnerable to various environmental challenges including the global effects of climate change accompanied with high levels of flood which submerge villages, farmlands and destruction of infrastructures.
The recent monumental losses suffered in the state and the extent of destruction of lives and properties through floods calls for sober reflections. Also, there is the need for a quick review of strategies and commitment towards mitigating the devastating effects of climate change in the state.
Records show that about 10 people lost their lives and over 800 houses and farmlands were also lost, while some 30 people were admitted in hospitals across the state between August to date due to flooding and other environmental problems.
Blueprint gathered that, two persons recently died in Mani local government area and over 100 houses destroyed due to flood. Likewise, another two people died earlier in Bindawa town with one man each losing his life in Jibia, Mai’adua and Ingawa.
Environmental experts attributed the increased menace to the artificial lapses on the government side for not taking necessary measures in handling desertification reduction in the state. In essence, government is not doing enoough to stem the tide.
Governor Ibrahim Shema of the state has recently pointed out that flooding is a new environmental challenge that has surfaced in the state and the import of the phenomenon manifested from climate change.
According to Shema, it is the resolve of his administration to address the problem of drought and desertification that led to the creation of a new ministry of environment, saying the ministry was established to harmonise and strengthen the state capacity to respond to the environmental challenges.
He said since the inception of his administration in 2007, it has steadfastly focused attention in providing needed intervention to ameliorate, remediate or mitigate the effects of desertification, variability in climate, prevention of flood as well as provision of succour to victims of such disasters.
The governor went on to say that the state has recorded a good measure of success in its forestry programmes, saying it presently has 99 forest reserves with 33 nurseries that record an annual production yield of 5 million seedlings.
Shema said the state has 512 hectares of woodlots, 193 shelterbelts of 1,518 hectares, and re-beaconing and re-demarcation of eight forest reserves covering an area of 30,870 hectares in its bid to prevent desertification problems.
“Currently, we embark on a pilot programme that entails the planting of 6 rows of trees on the road-sides of 7 former local government headquarters. In addition to the soil and environmental management potential of the programme, about 168 youths were employed in the scheme.”
In a recent interview, Katsina state Commissioner for Environment, Alhaji Aminu Ibrahim Safana, disclosed that government constructed additional 377 refuse collection centres in an effort to make the state clean.
According to him, the state procured 102 waste evacuation trucks, 3 for each local government area and has also employed over 1,200 people to carry out menial cleaning jobs across the state.
Safana said, desilting of drainages has been made a regular feature with sustained funding; noting that the activities of emergency response committee and the strategic hazard demobilisation effort of the state was put in line with the requirement of the federal government.
According to the commissioner, “in Katsina state, baseline survey has been done and a committee for the implementation of the great Green Wall Sahara project has been put in place; the proposed conversion of Kogo forest reserve to a national park has also been focused in our project support provision.”
He said under the project, 6 hectares of land in each of the 34 local government areas will be covered for the planting of Sakara, a super-hybrid tree that matures within 5 years, saying apart from using the project to green up the vastlands, government sees it as an economic venture capable of making the state a wood production hub.
Safana said, to demonstrate a commitment towards desertification control, the state has provided infrastructural support for federal government recycling plant cited at Federal Medical Centre Katsina, and furnished the required office for activities of National Environmental Standards and Regulations Agency (NESREA).
In her recent visit to Katsina, the Minister of Environment, Hajiya Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafiya said premium must be put in place to ensure that state governments and other relevant stakeholders are consulted and involved right from the conception and planning of ecological projects to the implementation stage to enhance their success.
According to her, it is true that federal government alone cannot deal with the magnitude of ecological problems across the nation, since the resources available to the ecological fund are grossly insufficient.
The Minister, however, urged state governors to accord priority to issues that relate to the environment and ecology and make adequate budgetary provisions to cater for selected programmes and projects.
An environmentalist at the Umaru Musa Yar’adua University, Katsina, Malam Garba Bukar said governments at all levels must design a special approach to halt desert encroachment and mitigate effects of climate change through massive re-vegetation and sustainable management of the nation’s forest resources.
He said flood disasters which have become a recurring decimal not only in Katsina state but all over the country, call for serious and concerted efforts on disaster risk reduction to enhance collaboration between emergency response providers at community, state and federal levels. According to him, experience has proved that natural disasters like the recent unprecedented floods are capable of reversing decades of development especially in third world countries like ours.