by Hamza Idris & Hamisu Kabiru Matazu, Damaturu
Daily Trust, Thursday, April 5 2012
It is no longer news that states in the far north eastern part of Nigeria, especially Yobe and Borno, are facing serious ecological challenges as a result of dwindling rainfall, a development which exposes the people, who are mostly farmers to great dangers.
This is manifested in perennial food shortages, occasioned by desert encroachment, sand dunes manifestation among other environmental challenges which have remained a source of concern to affected communities in the Sahel region.
Between 1968 and 1973, many northern states of Nigeria including Borno and Yobe suffered the Great Draught which affected food supply, a development which prompted the formation of many initiatives to surmount the threat.
In 1990, the European Union (EU), the federal government of Nigeria and the then Borno state government established the North East Arid Zone Development Programme (NEAZDP) with headquarters in Garin Alkali, Bade local government area of Yobe state.
The programme was aimed at promoting and assisting the rural populace in the proper use of their natural resources which covers an area of 22,860 sq km.
After recording significant progress in the areas of small irrigation packages, animal fattening programmes, small ruminant breeding, sand dunes fixation, shelterbelt, village protection, conservation of rain water at strategic places for livestock rearing and distribution of seedlings in the affected communities, the EU withdrew its support in 1995 and the federal government followed suit in 2006.
Before they left, the Mid Term Review Report of 1994 had rated NEAZDP activities as the most successful rural development programme in Nigeria while the ESPO Evaluation by the EU in 2006 equally revealed that NEAZDP was the only programme that had structures and sound extension system after the departure of its initiators. Though the EU and the FG had established a solid base for enduring development, their withdrawal had posed a great challenge towards the sustenance of the programme because only skeletal services were being offered. The use of skeletal services for the continuation of NEAZDP after the exit of EU and FGN leaves one to feel that there was no proper exit strategy.
It was indeed a terrible experience because shortly thereafter, the Yobe River’s recession began to hit hard on the riverine communities. This was coupled with typher grass manifestation and poor harvest of food and cash crops as a fall out of low rainfall.
However, in 2009, the Yobe state government reviewed the activities of NEAZDP and intervened, with a view to empowering the people by reclaiming the land that was devastated by ecological factors following the withdrawal of EU and FG.
Since then, the state government, in collaboration with affected local government areas (LGAs) have pumped in over N315 million.
Governor Ibrahim Gaidam, after considering the importance of NEAZDP in rural emancipation equally gave a standing order of continuous release of N9 million monthly to fund the programme.
During a recent visit by Kanem Trust, the programme manager of NEAZDP Dr Hussaini Hassan revealed under the present arrangement, N1 billion is being deducted from each of the nine local government areas of NEAZDP operation area for community impacting projects through partnership arrangement. “NEAZDP, being an integrated rural development projects has over the years utilized these fund to complement state government efforts in water supply, health, education, agriculture/food security and rehabilitation of programme headquarters’ infrastructures and procurement of monitoring/supervision vehicles/motorcycles to sustain the programme”. The manager said.
He said the agency has so far constructed 32 hand pumps, rehabilitate 93 hand pumps and 18 cement wells in various communities that have impacted positively in the provision of portable drinking water to over 71,500 people.
“We have also reclaimed lands for flora and fauna (plants and animals) which have been taken away by deserts,” he said.
NEAZDP he revealed, has in the area of health installed Emex generator and hospital equipment to 18 centres for provision of light to female and theater wards as well as trained traditional birth attendants and village health workers and equipped them with practicing kits all with the aim of reducing infant and maternal mortality rate in the state,
In the education sector Dr Hussaini Hassan revealed that NEAZDP has rehabilitated 72 primary/junior secondary schools, supplied furniture to 27 schools and instructional materials to 27 schools, which according to him have provided good learning environment to over 3,200 pupils.
When Kanem Trust visited some of the communities under the intervention of NEAZDP, it was discovered that the agency has supported several vulnerable groups such as lepers, cripples and the blind with food items clothing etc to reduce street begging.
Dr Hassan said in the 2012 fiscal year, about 450 people, including widows and children would be taken care of.
He however said despite the intervention of NEAZDP, a lot needed to be done for the affected communities.
“This year, we have carried out a survey of about 20 villages that are being threatened by ecological challenges. We have also identified some oasis and assessed the magnitude of the problems that require urgent attention.
“We have done a video documentary of the affected areas and have submitted it to the government for attention,” he said.
Mallam Musa Mohammed, a community leader in Garin Alkali said the intervention of NEAZDP has reduced poverty in the area through what he described as “Trade by Barter” arrangement.
“The agency gave us a package consisting of a cultivator, a ridger and ox-cart and then we were given N80, 000 to purchase two work bulls,” the community leader said.
He said after the harvest of the produce, the farmers paid back the loan in kind by taking 10 bags of millet annually for the period of three years at the cost of N4, 000 per bag.
“We feel this is a convenient poverty alleviation thing and many communities are now benefitting from the gesture,” he said.
So far, some of the LGAs that are benefiting from the project include: Bade (Gashua), Nguru, Karasuwa, Geidam, Machina, Yusufari and Yunusari.
As shown in the above article the Daily Trust reporter laments the exit of the European Union (EU) and Federal government of Nigeria (FGN) from funding the North East Arid Zone Development Programme (NEAZDP). He notes that “Though the EU and the FG had established a solid base for enduring development, their withdrawal had posed a great challenge towards the sustenance of the programme because only skeletal services were being offered.”
The use of skeletal services for the continuation of NEAZDP after the exit of the EU and FGN makes one feel that there was no proper exit strategy and that the issue of sustainability of the essentials of the programme was not properly dealt with.
The Daily Trust reporter notes that shortly after the withdrawal of funding by the EU and FGN, Yobe River experienced a period of low flow as a result of the drought in the Sahel Savanna part of Nigeria. This low flow compounded the issue of food security in the Yobe Basin. The food security problem is further exacerbated by the spread of invasive Typha grass that took over flood rice and cassava fields, blocking river channels, and undermining fisheries.
It should be noted that apart from drought, proper integrated water resources management was not practiced in the Komadugu-Yobe River Basin because there was no proper coordination of releases from the dams in the upstream part of this basin.
Governor Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe State should be praised for finding alternative funding for the continuation of the programme.
communities that have impacted positively on the provision of potable drinking water to over 71,500 people. These add up to 143 water points for about 72,000 people or a water point for about 500 people.
This is laudable as it satisfies what the National Water and Sanitation policy of January 2000 stipulates, i.e. Rural water supply guaranteed minimum level of service 30 liters per capita per day within 250 meters of the community of 150 to 5,000 people, serving about 250-500 persons per water point. …”