The Federal government has disclosed that the country was losing about 351,000 hectares of landmass to desert encroachment now estimated to be advancing southwards at a rate of about 0.6km per year.
Minister of Environment, Mrs. Laurentia Laraba Mallam stated this while speaking during the 3rd Northern Stakeholders Forum/Zonal Ecofair in Lokoja, capital of Kogi State.
She noted that the major threat to the sustainable management of the nation’s environment include soil erosion, floods, pollution from various sources including air, water, industrial and oil spills, solid waste management and chronic problem of drought and desertification.
The minister explained that desertification was widely accepted as the most serious environmental challenge confronting the northern part of the country which includes 11 frontline states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara states being the hardest hit.
Similarly, Mallam added that it was estimated that between 50% and 75% of the land mass of these frontline states which account for about 35% of the country’s total land area were affected with desertification, stressing that in order to mitigate the effect of climate change, the federal government had put in place various national strategies, funded and executed several drought and desertification control projects across the country especially in the vulnerable frontline states.
According to her, “in 2010, the federal government launched the presidential initiative on national aforestation and funded the programme with N5billion sourced from the ecological fund, the programme effectively took off in 2011 with the development of tree nurseries and one million seedlings in 30 states of the federation, establishment of cactus opuntia in six northern states as well as development of teak and erosion resistant species.
“In June, 2013, the federal government approved the release of N10billion from the ecological fund for the implementation of the great green wall programme, the programme which has a three years implementation time frame involves the establishment of greenbelt 1.500Km long and 15km wide from Arewa local government area of Kebbi State to Marte local government area in Borno State.
However, she explained that despite the huge resources the federal government had made available over the years to combat drought and desertification in the country, the result of these interventions had not been totally commensurate with the resources expended, adding that, “there is need for improved commitment and collaboration between the federal government and the beneficiary state governments and the affected communities to ensure effective implementation and sustenance of desertification control projects”.
In his presentation, Governor Idris Wada lamented the reality and the high cost associated with managing ecological challenges such as erosion, land and mudslides, explaining that the federal government was doing its part by initiating and funding ecological projects across the country.
He called on other stakeholders to contribute by owning those projects as well as ensuring that they served the purposes for which they were meant.
The governor who spoke through his deputy, Yomi Awoniyi also expressed worries over the increasing ecological problems that states in Nigeria were grappling with. He expressed happiness with the theme “Enhancing Partnership towards Sustainable Ecological Projects Management" as appropriate and could not have come at a better time.
While noting that many environmental challenges were caused by nature and man, Wada listed drought, desertification, uncontrolled logging and tree felling and other attendant depletion of the forest resources as some challenges facing Kogi State.