Nigeria, Niger and Chad are working on a joint trans-border agroecosystem project aimed at the restoration of livelihoods and rehabilitation of the Lake Chad Basin.
Director-General, National Agency for the Great Green Wall, Dr Bukar Hassan, disclosed this to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) after an international conference on desertification on Sunday in New Delhi, India.
The 14th Conference of Parties (CoP 14) to UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was held at India Expo Centre and Mart from Sept. 2 to Sept. 13.
He said that since environmental issues did not recognize national boundaries, the partnership would help to rehabilitate agricultural system, restore degraded land and livelihoods of people in Lake Chad basin.
According to him, the project includes the promotion of agroforestry and livestock development in the three participating countries bordering the Lake Chad Basin.
The Director-General said that Lake Chad, which was located in a very dry area, had lost about 90 per cent of its water over the years, thus making farming unattractive in the basin.
“Today, agriculture is no longer practised in the Nigerian side of the Lake Chad Basin.
“So, our responsibility as an agency of Nigerian government is to make sure that we regain what we lost in terms of water (which has created huge unemployment among the people) and empower the people to be able to get back their land which was lost due to the disappearance of lake.
“We will also make sure that the boundary of the lake is afforested to stabilise the basin.
“The Lake Chad basin was one of the worst degraded areas in the world with attendant humanitarian crisis.
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“That’s why our president is keen on seeing that the basin is rehabilitated because the insurgency affecting the three participating countries is all linked to environmental degradation.
“That’s why we are developing a project that will help in rehabilitating the Chad basin,” Hassan said.
He said that President Muhammadu Buhari had already given his Agency marching orders to intensify afforestation specifically in the country’s five northern border states of Sokoto, Jigawa Yobe, Borno and Katsina.
He said that land degradation and desertification resulting in loss of livelihoods had led to the forced migration of young people from the northern to the southern parts of the country.
“There was mass movement because the means of livelihoods are no longer there; otherwise people will not just board an articulated vehicle from Jigawa to Lagos in search of a means of livelihood.
So, we’re trying to provide capacity for these people to get them adapted to the arid environments they found themselves and also do some economic activities so that they can stay put where they were, take care of their families like everyone else,” Hassan said.
The GGW boss said that the agency’s efforts were aimed at reclaiming land in the country’s 11 driest states, which had different ecosystems with lots of agricultural, livestock and economic activities.
These frontline states are Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Yobe, Borno, Gombe, Bauchi and Adamawa.
He said that the Agency had succeeded in raising the consciousness of people in these dry areas that they could do small scale irrigation farming and could conquer desertification, aridity and unproductive soil.
The Great Green Wall Initiative (GGWI) for Sahara and Sahel region is an initiative of 11 African countries against desertification launched in 2007 by the African Union to restore degraded landscapes and transform millions of lives.
Once completed, the 8,000-kilometre-long wall and natural wonder of the world, stretching across the entire width of over 20 countries in the continent, would be the largest living structure on the planet.
Over 8 billion dollars have been mobilised and pledged in its support by African countries and international partners under the leadership of the African Union Commission and Pan-African Agency of the Great Green Wall.
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In 2008, the World Bank-led Investment Programme on Sustainable Land Management in Sub-Saharan Africa provided one billion dollars of development financing.
The programme reached about 4.8 million beneficiaries and brought over 2.7 million hectares of land under Sustainable Land Management (SLM).
Also, the Sahel and West Africa Programme in Support (SAWAP) of GGWI spent another 1.1 billion dollars multi-lateral trust fund to bring over 1.6 million hectares of land under SLM and support income-generating activities, reaching over 22 million beneficiaries across 12 countries.
Under SAWAP, Nigeria also benefited 250 million dollars from a World Bank’s IDA financing for the restoration of productive landscapes for SLM.
The 10 days of over 200 meetings and 44 exhibitions were opened by India Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, in attendance.
About 9,000 delegates from 122 country parties, including UN Deputy Secretary-General, Ms Amina Muhammed, UNCCD Executive Secretary, Ibrahim Thiaw, ministers and heads of UN agencies attended the conference, whose theme is “Investing in Restoration to Unlock Opportunities”.
The international community had adopted the Convention to Combat Desertification in Paris on 17 June 1994 out of concern that “desertification and drought are problems of global dimension affecting all regions’’.
In 2015, the international community also agreed to pursue a global target to ensure all countries work towards keeping a healthy balance of productive land by accelerating the recovery of degrading land while avoiding and reducing land degradation.