The world is increasingly being threatened by the effects of climate change – global warming, green house emission, flooding, rise in sea levels, and, rising temperatures which ultimately lead to depletion of marine organisms, desertification, tsunami, deforestation and even pollution. Indeed, while some of what the world experiences today may be natural, others are as a result of sheer mismanagement of the earth by human beings.
In Nigeria, desertification is threatening the source of livelihood of households in no fewer than eleven states in the North and is being tackled through intervention programmes like the Great Green Wall. Erosion also is affecting some states in the north and, especially, states in the eastern part of the country. This is being tackled through series of other interventions, including the Nigeria Erosion and Watershade Management Project (NEWMAP).
But recent happenings including the escalation in farmers/herdsmen crisis and rising poverty especially among the farming communities in the Northeastern part of Nigeria, which is ravaged by the vagaries of insurgency, has further underscored the need to find lasting solution to the shrinking Lake Chad.
Time was when economic activities around the Lake Chad region were booming with farming and fishing activities at their peak. But the scenario has changed completely.
The lake was once the sixth largest in Africa, providing livelihoods for over 40 million people from Niger Republic, Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic and Nigeria.
In the last couple of years, Lake Chad has shrunk by over 90 per cent of its size, from about 25,000sq km to currently 1,350sq km due to different factors including climate change and negligence by the regions it serves. More than anything else, the continued shrinking of the Lake Chad has led to forced migration of farmers and pastoralists in search of alternative means of farming and feeding for their livestock.
Increasingly, more people are left pauperised because their source of livelihoods are being threatened at a rate that is considered abnormal. Of course the shrinking nature of Lake Chad is a constant reminder of the danger of climate change and the need for the world to take urgent action.
But addressing the declining fortunes of the Lake Chad can be done through recharging the lake. Recently, Nigeria hosted an international conference on recharging the Lake Chad. The two-day conference that was attended by presidents and heads of states from Chad, Niger, Central African Republic and Gabon, was convened at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari.
At the conference, President Buhari stressed the need for urgent action to revive the Lake so as to save it from extinction and admonished the conference to share this mission of rescuing Lake Chad Basin with a renewed vigour, determination and international collaboration as inaction or delay will continue to accelerate the deteriorating standard of living of millions of the people in the region with dire consequences.
Basically, the conference sought to create global awareness on the environmental and socio-economic challenges emanating from the shrinkage of Lake Chad and, more importantly, also develop a strategy of saving the lake from going extinct.
Indeed, as far as raising awareness and working out modalities for recharging the Lake Chad is concerned, the just concluded conference achieved that.Among options discussed was the inter-basin water transfer project from the Ubangi River in Central Africa to the Lake Chad, which is estimated to cost $50billion.
Although recharging the lake through water transfer is an expensive venture, researches have shown that it is technically feasible and remains the only viable option to restoring its lost glory. We urge stakeholders and indeed, member states to be resolute in their commitment towards timely realisation of this noble venture.
It is heartwarming to note that member states have collectively committed to dutiful implementation of the agreed road map to restore the lake. The commitment must be backed with action or else the conference will go down in history as just a mere talk shop where participants met, took tea, talked and dispersed! To amply demonstrate such commitment, member states must kickstart the process of mobilising domestic resources.
Now, more than ever before, there is urgent need for concerted efforts to restore the Lake Chad and make it possible for large scale irrigation farming to take place thereby making households gainfully engaged and by so doing, reduce poverty.
Restoring the Lake Chad is synonymous with giving economic power back to the people. Africa cannot afford to let the Lake Chad go into extinction. The time to act is now.