1st northern desertification summit opens in Zamfara


Below is the report filed by  Tina A. Hassan for the Sunday Trust of November  20 November 2011. The  report has been reproduced in bold italics as it is contained in the Newspaper and comments on it are given below:

The 11 frontline states affected by desertification in the northern part of Nigeria have organized their first summit to address the challenges of the impact of desertification which has been advancing north due to climate change.

Speaking at the opening of the summit tagged “Nigerian Frontline States Action Initiative on Desertification (NIFSAID)” in Gusau, Capital of Zamfara State yesterday, the governor of the state, Alhaji Abdul’aziz AbubakarYari called on all the 11 states affected by the phenomenon to come together and form a force that would enable them fight desertification and improve the lot of the people.

Represented by the Deputy Governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Wakkala, he said the drive to improve the living standards of the people by reclaiming lost land to desert encroachment has necessitated the coming together of the 11 frontline states to find lasting solutions.

He expressed, “Desertification has displaced thousands of people and the phenomenon is linked to the increasing youth restiveness we are gradually witnessing today.

“It has slowly brought upon us poverty and hunger, loss of biodiversity, arable land among others.”

According to him, “as leaders in the north, we must not sit and allow the desert to overcome us pretending that all is well until the desert strangulates us, let us combat this menace to ensure sustainable development, let’s save our environment from this phenomenon.”

He called for a green friendly alternative which he described as “crucial to the survival of man.”

According to the Commissioner of Environment, Zamfara State, Alhaji Muohtari mohammed Lugga, “the north is on the threshold of making history in Nigeria in tackling the growing menace of desert encroachment. What we are about to do is not an easy task but we must rescue our land from the threat of extinction.”

He urged other commissioners to take the challenge with all seriousness or else “we would continue to run from our home so let’s face it and make Arewa (north) green again.”

That the 11 northern states in the Sahel Belt of Nigeria have decided to fight desertification is a  welcome development. Unfortunately the Sunday Trust reporter failed to give the names of the states. However, I am assuming that he/she was referring to the following states in the North – Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Kastina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara. Apparently what each state has been doing is fighting desertification on its own without knowledge-sharing. In 2002 during the preparation for the Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Reform Programme, Kebbi State had an elaborate programme to fight desertification. This included planting of quick developing trees that can be harvested for fire wood, planting of trees to stop desert advances southwards, etc. It is commendable that the 11 states have now arrived at a point where coordinated approach is being contemplated.

Desertification has given Nigeria, especially the North enough warning for decades.  Some of the salient points about this warning is contained in a paper written by this blogger (See A Book Chapter, “A Lake today, a puddle tomorrow, The Case of the Disappearing Chad in Africa” in the following publication: http://archive.unu.edu/africa/files/UNU_PriorityAfrica_publications-pd presented at the International Conference of the Lakes, UNU/SD/Tokyo, 2001 by Depo Adenle in L. Jansky, et al.) Furthermore, this warning is well spelt out in the Lake Chad Basin Commission Vision 2025. Some of the major problems identified in this Vision are very much similar to those of the 11 Frontline states. Those that are common to the Frontline states are rainfall pattern, drought and desertification, environmental degradation, population and poverty level. Full descriptions of these are given below:

Rainfall Pattern: The rainfall pattern of the Basin is of the Sahelian climatology thus making it highly variable and unpredictable. For instance, in a period of two decades, isoyetal contours of mean rainfall have shiftd to the south by about 180 km. As a result of this shift, areas that used to experience a mean rainfall of 320 mm now receive 210mm.

Drought and Desertification: Rainfall deceits first noticed in 1972 have continued unabated till now (i.e. 1999), although there are occasional overflows of short duration. The cumulative effect of these droughts has led to the shrinkage of the lake.

Environmental degradation: … land degradation, soil erosion, deforestation and bush burning have created serious environmental degradation problems.

Some of these challenges were also revisited at the 3rd World Water Forum where the report of the session on the Lake Chad Region contain some pertinent points on the challenges facing these 11 Frontline States as well as recommendations on what to do to combat desertification.

The challenges listed are:

  • Highly variable and unpredictable rainfall pattern resulting in southwards shift of the isohyetal contours of mean rainfall by about 180 km. in a period of two decades;
  • Rainfall deficits due to drought, giving rise to the systematic shrinkage of the Lake Chad;
  • Population explosion and migration of various water resource users in pursuit of their means of livelihood;
  • Poverty within the region;

The recommendations are:

  • Conservation of the limited water resources of the basin through re-vegetation to improve soil texture, reduce evaporation and evapo-transpiration, and create protected areas;
  • Restoration of the Lake level and its ecosystems;
  • Desertification control through sand dune fixation;
  • Data collection, collation, storage and dissemination; and
  • Regional cooperation.

The 11 frontline states can benefit from a lot of published literature such as “A comprehensive approach to drought and desertification in Northern Nigeria” by E. O. Oladipo and several other publications. In addition, there was even a bilateral agreement between the Israeli Government and Nigeria on “Combating desertification across the northern part of Nigeria.” The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the parties on August 20 2007 revealed that the “Desert to Food”project will gulp the sum of N1.92-trillion ($15-billion) in two years, while the “Swamp to Food” programme will gulp the sum of N256-billion ($2-billion).

Furthermore, the Federal Ministry of  Environment, during the Presidency of Obasanjo created a Department of Drought and Desertification Amelioration  with two divisions; i). Drought & Desertification Planning and Forecasting; ii). Drought & Desertification Management.

This department provides and delivers the following services:

  • Management of Drought and control of Desertification in Nigeria
  • Consultancies for the Management of Drought and control of


  • Contracts for project relating to Management of Drought and control of Desertification
  • Provide available information and data on Drought and Desertification in Nigeria
  •  Liaison with States Government, NGOs CBOs, Research Institute/Academia etc
  • Collaboration with relevant International organization/agencies such as UNDP, UNEP, UNCCD etc
  • Establishment of nurseries for the production of seedlings
  • Establishment shelterbelt “greenbelt” in the frontline states of northern Nigeria
  • Sand dune fixation/stabilization projects
  • Pilot rangeland projects
  • Community Woodlots
  • Assessment of the distribution and severity of desertification
  • Provision and installation of drought early warning system in collaboration with relevant agency
  •  Model Village Project (integrated management of drylands resources.

In concluding, the 11 Frontline States should take action on already existing published resources and Federal Government initiatives  and implement whatever recommendations are there and make use of the Department set up by the Federal Government to ameliorate the problems of drought and desertification . They should avoid playing politics and engaging in media jamboree and take action on  an important challenge facing their citizens. The first task of the Summit should therefore be focused on building on existing resources and initiatives.

One just wonders why it has taken the “11 Frontline States this long to arrange a summit.

4 responses to “1st northern desertification summit opens in Zamfara

  1. The programme has been in operation before now with the support of Heinrich Bool- a German INGO. Action plans and strategies were developed by the 11 states in the last two summits, the question is how much of those plans were implemented. It is time the concerned states move away from talkshop and start actual interventions
    Also the academic activities in the North in Uni Maid, ABU Zaria should implement their research findings on desertification and climate change

    • Mr. Abass, Thanks for the information. It is interesting to know that there had been two previous summits.
      Apparently the Trust on Sunday reporter was not aware of the two earlier summits, hence the mis-labelling
      of the latest one as the First summit.

      I agree that the states in question must move away from propaganda and do something positive by implementing whatever
      past plans were proposed on research spendings.


  2. Dimeji Akinhanmi

    My plea is that the summit will focus on implementation and not go all out looking for informations already in their pocket, so to say, as enumerated above. Sorry, to note that our development have always been with a lot of policy definitions without implementation proper. I wish the northern summit well in her effort but serious attention should be paid to practical implementation for the benefit of all.

  3. The State Governors of the front line states will definitely not do anything about desertification because it is a long term project while they are only concern with giving short short term contract to friends, croonies and political associates, now they have have better ways to siphon public fund with security reports.
    May be another generation of Nigerians will do something after suffering the wort severe effect of desertification.

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