By Funmi Olasupo

Minister of Environment Mrs. Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia has disclosed that 43.3 per cent of the total land area of the country is prone to desertification hence, there is need to protect the resource based ecosystem.

The Minister stated this during the Flag off of the Great Green Wall, GGW programme, in Bachaka Kebbi State. Mailafia noted that, “The Nigerian GGW programme, which is being implemented as a contiguous greenbelt from the northwest to the northeast in the frontline states will rehabilitate about 225,000 hectares of degraded lands, enhance food security, reduce rural poverty and generate employment for about 500,000 people in its first year of implementation”.

According to her, “40 million Nigerians were affected by desertification each year, and this poses serious threats to livelihoods of the citizens. Recent report indicates that 43.3 per cent of the total land area of the country is prone to desertification, with the frontline states facing the greatest hazards.

“The problem is quite alarming and can cripple provision of land resources based ecosystem services that are vital for a number of development sectors. The rate of desertification in the country is reported to be high with the attendant destruction of farmlands and livelihoods, particularly in the affected states. Also, the country is losing about 2,168sq km of range land and cropland to desertification each year and this poses serious threats to livelihoods of about 40 million people.

“The effects of drought are being exacerbated by desertification and the threat of the Sahara desert spreading southwards is considered a major challenge that no single country can tackle it alone. Land resources underpin the livelihoods of billions of people worldwide, and are central to sustainable national development. This is especially true in dry land areas which are experiencing severe pressure from increasing socio-economic impacts of land use and broader global changes.

“Systemic complex issues such as land degradation and desertification, climate change, food insecurity, water scarcity and poverty in the dry lands are receiving greater social, political and scientific attention worldwide. In order to ensure an effective implementation of the Great Green Wall Program in our country, a national strategic action plan has been developed, and work plan and budget for 2013 have been approved for implementation”, Mailafia stated.

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