We’re determined to halt desert encroachment – Zamfara commissioner

Last November the Daily Trust [Nigeria] reported that eleven front line states in Northern Nigeria decided  at a the first ever summit to work together to fight desertification.

After that first summit about four months ago, the interview granted by the Zamfara State Commissioner for Environment on the same issue is the first publicized available information.

In the interview reproduced below, the  Commissioner offered insight into the progress made although there are no specifics as regards any concrete thing that has been done.

Zamfara and other front line states need to put forward a strategic plan. In my previous blog I noted that the 11 front line states should not make their coming together a mere political jamboree – https://weircentreforafrica.com/2011/11/22/1st-northern-d…ens-in-zamfara/.

From  the Commissioner’s response to the question about whether the front line states have any long-term plan to arrest desertification, it appears nothing concrete is being done beyond the  thinking stage if all that can be reported relates to how: “We hope to harmonize all the environmental laws as it affects the eleven of us.”

A climate Commission Bill has been approved by the Federal House of Representatives but it is awaiting the President’s signature. If this Bill is signed the  Zamfara Commissioner believes all front line states would use it as a basis for their long-term plans but when this will  happen remains unclear.

One only hopes that an initiative this forward-looking and very beneficial to  several states would not go the way of many Nigerian planned projects.


PS: please see Abass’s comment on the previous blog – https://weircentreforafrica.com/2011/11/22/1st-northern-d…ens-in-zamfara/

We’re determined to halt desert encroachment – Zamfara commissioner

by Tina A. Hassan, Daily Trust, Thursday, 08 March 2012 ,

Desertification is gradually moving southwards – turning vast settlement into deserts, threatening human existence and degrading the environment. In this interview, Zamfara State Commissioner for Environment Mouktar Mahammed Lugga says the eleven frontline states worst hit by desertification in the north are ready to face the threat head on.

What is the visible impact of desertification in Zamfara State?

There are a lot of impacts which vary from place to place. We have some of our settlements that have now been occupied by the desert especially as you move towards the border to Niger Republic. Those were settlements that used to flourish but if you go there now, there are few people; most of the inhabitants have migrated to other areas.

You know we are mainly Fulanis so we have nomadic farmers who are cattle rearers.

Let me tell you something interesting, in the last few months in this region, there has been so much migration of Fulani families to Ilorin, Adamawa and other areas. People are leaving their homes because they no longer have grazing land for their animals and the yield in terms of agriculture has greatly reduced.

Zamfara used to be known for farming a lot of cotton, we even have a textile company which has closed down.

Climatic changes have affected our food production and we mainly do subsistent farming. Our agricultural yield has reduced and even our land has reduced, a lot of it has been taken over by the desert so we seeing a situation where there is little land to be used by larger families.

Another visible effect of desertification is that our forests are also fast disappearing.  We use it for cooking and this is made worse by the advancing desert. Because trees are felled without replacement, it makes the problem more difficult to solve. We also have a lot of influx of people from other states, coming to also fell the trees for firewood and other purposes and supply them to other states.

Our factories have shut down due to lack of raw materials and this means that many people no longer have jobs so there is a high rate of unemployment since we no longer produce the raw materials that would sustain these factories.

These are some of the visible impacts of desertification in our state. We have not been able to do much and really it has altered our economic state that is why we feel we must take all necessary action now to prevent further harm.
It is obvious that the lives of people are affected by this phenomenon. What are you doing in the area of public awareness?

We have a lot of programmes being carried out locally here; we have a lot of awareness on radio for the people to really understanding the adverse effects of climate change on their lives as evident in the growing desert encroachment and to think of sustainability in the way natural resources are used because we have to guarantee continuity from the use of resources in the environment.

We have a lot of things we hope to do. What we are doing now is that we are talking to stakeholders like the wood sellers association,  letting them know that they need to sustain the environment even as they carry out their trade.  We are encouraging them to plant more because it is not using firewood from trees that is hurting us but the fact that they not planting more to replace those ones that have been felled.

We have a programme going on now and this is involving these groups of individuals in tree planting so that they can appreciate that resources have to be rejuvenated. You cannot just take and take from the environment with balancing it.

We are also working with other organizations like the Federal Ministry of Environment to find alternative sources of energy. There are so many sources but the challenge is the cost.

We are trying to see how we can harness these and get our people to start using them. We are doing a lot in this regard and we centre mostly on sensitization in the area of equitable use of resources.

What is the motivation for Zamfara State leading other frontline states to take a stand of desertification?

Let me tell you, it wasn’t a difficult idea to bring together other frontline states because  we are really running out of options, it is either we face the desert and fight it or we keep running until we are extinct.

We can’t keep running away from the desert and the problems that come with it. The motivation is the desperation to get a solution for our people.

We have to do something and we have to do it fast since we cannot continue to run away from it. This is something that is inevitable, the desert is coming to take over so it is either we choose to run and keep running or we stand and confront it but we are brave enough to say that this time around, we would stop running and confront our problem.

Convincing the rest of the eleven frontline states faced with desertification were very easy because they also shared the same passion and the same problem and all that was needed was a trigger which Zamfara State provided.

I can tell you that I find them equally very passionate about the problem, I can even say some of them are more passionate than myself.

Do the frontline states have a long term plan to tackle desertification?

We hope to harmonize all the environmental laws as it affects the eleven of us. We want to have uniform laws and be able to push for legislation that would recognize the fact that we have these problems and accord us with some status of environmentally challenged states because we are truly environmentally challenged.

We cannot hope to achieve much development if the environment is holding us down.

The long term plan is for us to be able to fashion out a standard framework consisting of solutions, rules and an economic agenda tied to the environment because the effect is that once we are able to stop desert encroachment, we are certain that we would see a period of economic boom and the north will be able to go back and take its rightful place in the league of states when it comes to contribution to the national growth.

Is the climate commission bill critical to your course?

I think it is very critical and we are going to identify and concern ourselves with it. We intend to use it as an advocacy tool to get the attention of the presidency.

It is easy for someone to see the bill as not necessary because they are not adversely affected by climate change but I think that is an error and that is really unfortunate because the migration that is happening to us presently where thousands and thousands of our young people are moving to the south is also taking a toll on the region’s resources.

This is unhealthy and no one should sit down and think that it is really none of their business because let me tell you that the temptation and the desperation are there to move to areas that are not feeling the impact of desertification.

Unless everybody is concerned, we would see a lot of influx of people in those states so I think it is everybody’s business.

When we talk of environmental issues, they have no respect to border so this desert would continue to move. If it overtakes the north, it would consume the middle belt and it would continue its southern movement until God knows when.

How do you intend to access international fund to address the problem?

Funding may not be a problem if we are able to show seriousness and the ability to help ourselves before others can also come to our aid.

We are not kidding ourselves that what we set out to do is going to be easy, but what we lack in funds, we make up in sheer determination so we are determined,  and funding is not going to stop us though it may slow us down.

What we have going for us now is that we are a desperate group of people and we are desperate for solutions to solve our problem. We are passionate about what we are doing, we take it as a job and this is coming from the heart and I think it is going to sustain us initially.

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