The deepening desertification in the front line states of Northern Nigeria is threatnening the livelihood of locals amid migration. In this report, CHIKA OKEKE examines the effect of desertification and writes on the need for more interventions in the affected areas.
Nigeria covers an area of 923,769 km² with 909,890 km² of landmass and 13,879 km² of water area.
Presently, about 105,000sq.km to 136,500sq.km landmass are lost to drought and desertification in the front line states.
The 11 states of Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Bauch, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi states also known as frontline states cut across the North East and North West region of Nigeria.
The front line states with a projected population of about 54 million and 394, 006 landmass are worst hit by desertification.
Aside Nigeria, about 500 million hectares of farmland are lost to desertification worldwide which fundamentally undermine the carrying capacity of the planet.
The farmlands which is more than half the size of China have been completely abandoned due to drought, desertification and poor land mismanagement.
Experts believed that desertification occurred since dryland ecosystems that covered over one third of the world‘s land area are extremely vulnerable to overexploitation and inappropriate land use.
Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing and bad irrigation practices could also undermine the productivity of the land.
While over 250 million people are directly affected by desertification, about one billion people comprising of the world‘s poorest, most marginalized and politically weak citizens in over one hundred countries are threatened by desertification.
Added to these are loss of culture, education, livelihood, languages with increased inter – tribal marriages.
These were some of the major reasons the 21st edition of Conference of the Parties (COP) which took place in Paris, December 2015 produced the landmark 12-page Paris Agreement.
The Paris Agreement is the first International Climate Change Agreement which emerged from a lengthy series of negotiations.
It mandated all 195 negotiating countries to ensure that the increase in global average temperature is limited to “well below 2C above pre-industrial levels” and to make every effort to limit it to “1.5C above pre-industrial levels.”
However , on September 22, 2016, President Buhari signed the Paris Agreement on behalf of Nigeria on the sideline of the UN General Assembly in New York since Nigeria accounted for 0.57% of global emissions.
The signatories to the agreement are expected to achieve the target through the implementation of specific efforts and engagements known as ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).
Recall that in 2009 at Copenhagen and 2010 in Cancún, developed countries committed to jointly raising $100 billion annually by 2020 to help developing countries in resolving issues bordering on climate change.
The money was expected to be raised through bilateral or multilateral, public or private sources, including innovative financing like the French contribution to the financial transaction tax.
Public financing may take several forms like multilateral funds such as the Green Climate Fund; multilateral or regional institutions such as the World Bank; government contributions; and bilateral institutions such as the Agence Française de Développement (French Development Agency, AFD).
The 22nd edition of COP held in Marrakech, Morocco last year provided the platform for world leaders to translate the decisions reached in Paris to actions even as Nigeria submitted its instrument of ratification.
When implemented, this would probably put an end to the use of fossil fuel for energy needs, with a greater focus on renewable energy.
Already, the federal government has identified sectoral action plans for the five main economic sectors in Nigeria such as power, oil and gas, agriculture, transport, and industry.
Given the devastating effect of desertification on Nigeria’s soil, the Great Green Wall (GGW) programme which is an African Union initiative was established to address the challenges of phenomenal land degradation and desertification in the Sahel-Saharan region.
The programme which was launched in 2013 was not only targeted at creating Green Wall of Trees or barrier from Senegal in West Africa to Djibouti in East Africa but for a set of integrated actions in addressing the multi-sectoral problems affecting the livelihoods of the people in African Sahel-Saharan region.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Newspaper, the founder of Fight against Desert Encroachment (FADE), Dr Newton Jibunoh emphasized that the threat of desert encroachment and desertification are assuming frightening dimension especially as it affected the nations arable land mass.
According to him, “This has become a source of threat to food production while it is equally believed that the hostile impact of climate change in Northern Nigeria poses serious threat to national security and poverty alleviation strategies in the country as those mostly affected are the most vulnerable ones in the society that dwell in the villages ravaged by this scourge”.
He suggested the need to look for African solution to Africa problems adding that desertification is currently affecting the rainfall.
“The rains have become acidic as a result of pollution emanating from a number of degradation which is also affecting our life expectancy.
On the effect of insurgency in the project, he added, “The insurgency in North East of Nigeria is affecting the GGW programme and not much will be achieved in that zone until the region is safe.
On his part, the Director -General, National Agency for the Great Green Wall, Mr. Goni Ahmed said that the agency is committed at improving the livelihood of over 25 million people in the region by the year 2020 adding that it would rehabilitate and green about 22,500sq. km of degraded land in the dry region of the country within the framework of
He revealed that the programme is also determined to implement natural resources conservation and development, climate change mitigation and adaptation, strengthening of social infrastructure especially in rural areas as well as diversification of economic activities and improvement of living conditions of the rural communities.
According to him, “Since 2013, Nigeria has been able to provide sources of clean water to over 1 million people in the affected areas through the drilling of boreholes with reticulation facilities, animal drinking troughs in 157 communities along the GGW Corridor, establishment of Shelterbelt, community woodlots and community orchards”.
Goni further revealed that out of 550 farmers selected for pilot project on Farmers’ Natural Regeneration (FMNR) that 55 undertook a study travel to Niger Republic for exchange of ideas and to further appreciate the value of the natural regeneration programme in terms of increasing the productivity of farmland and combating land degradation.
Speaking further on the impact of GGW projects, the DG noted that the agency has built 5 skills acquisition centres for skills development and empowerment adding that it would soon be furnished for effective take off.
“We have trained 200 rural women in different off- farm skills such as knitting, soap making, perfume making, fabrication of energy saving cooking stoves to enhance their livelihood; distribution of 1,000 improved wood stoves to rural women to reduce deforestation activities.
Worried by series of environmental challenges in the country, the International Center For Journalists (ICFJ), United Nations foundation organised a 2-day webinar on Climate and Migration for Nigerian journalists.
In his presentation titled Sustainable Development Goals, a lecturer in Journalism at Hunter College, Mr Adam Glenn noted that Paris Agreement finalised a process for industrialised nations to finance low developed nations to reduce global warming.
He quoted UN as saying that 12 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) is about taking action on climate change which he said reflected the complex nature of climate change.
The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, Monique Barbut stated that over 135 million people risk permanent displacement by desertification and land degradation in the next few decades.
Barbut noted that if young people and unemployed failed to migrate that they may likely join extremism group that would exploit and recruit the vulnerable ones.
Land and environmental degradation, food insecurity and poverty are the key causes of migration and development challenges.
Aside insurgency, one of the underlying causes of migration is desertification.
This has resulted to increased family separation as men forcibly abandoned their wives and children in search of cultivable lands and other sources of livelihood in urban areas.
According to International Organization for Migration (IOM), rural-rural migrants are mainly engaged in agriculture and other extractive activities, while rural-urban migrants are usually gainfully engaged after an initial period of joblessness.
In 15 years, the number of international migrants worldwide rose from 173 million in 2000 to 244 million in 2015.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that about 21.5 million people have been forcibly displaced by weather-related natural disasters, like floods, storms, and wildfires annually.
The Head of Communications at the UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Nigeria) Samantha Newport noted that poverty, lack of government investment and climate change were responsible for the disappearance of Lake Chad.
She was optimistic that climate exacerbates humanitarian crisis adding that UN is working closely with National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and other agencies to ensure that UN support are in line with government plans.
The UN Environment is working with other UN agencies on the 2018 Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
The Compact is supposed to develop a new international framework for the management and protection of migrants and displaced people, which is expected to be a watershed moment in the international management of migration.
Lending his voice, the UN Environment Executive Director, Erik Solheim stated that land degradation affected human habitation by making their livelihood untenable particularly the poorest and most vulnerable.
Also, the Disasters and Conflicts expert with UN Environment, Oli Brown revealed that having examined the root causes of displacement, environmental change or degradation that better environmental management should be part of the solution.
Population (projected 2011)
% of Nigeria
4, 944, 033
2, 765, 286
3, 674, 992
5, 515, 303
2, 775, 400
5, 041, 491
11, 087, 814
6, 740, 479
3, 847, 793
4, 301, 896
3, 802, 526
54, 497, 013
Source: Annual Abstract of Statistics-2016
Ebenezer journal on desertification -2015