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Commentary: Desert encroachment in Nigeria

 

Land in the northern part of Nigeria is already arid and threatened by drought.

The consequences of desertification affect millions of people as more arable and pastureland is being lost each year — washed away by rain or gone with the wind.

The United Methodist community in Nigeria was once characterized by lush forest, bush and shrubs. When the Benue River flooded the land, it left behind fertile top soil.

But long period of drought, rising population and an increase in the growth and size of livestock herds put pressure on the pastureland and the thick humus layer that covered the land, due to overgrazing and trees that were felled faster than they were able to grow.

Common causes of these problems are the exploitation of natural resources, climatic variability, soil degradation, poverty, overgrazing, bush-burning, the need for firewood (deforestation), urbanization, climate change and inappropriate farming techniques. Although Nigeria has crude oil and gas resources, cooking is done mostly with fuelwood in both the rural and urban areas.

The disturbing aspect of fuelwood extraction is that it is hard to replace. Farmers, research institutes and afforestation and reafforestation programs concentrate mainly on the substitution of indigenous plants with exotic and economic trees, legumes and other shrubs.

Desertification is a global problem, and yet the third-world countries have suffered the consequences. Land is being farmed using inappropriate methods; farmers cannot afford herbicides and pesticides. In most cases, it is not just the lack of money, but the know-how of technological infrastructure or the agricultural framework to break out of poverty and environmental degradation.

Sharon Adamu Bambuka is director of communications, Southern Nigeria Annual Conference.

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