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Mitigating desertification and drought hazards

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Youths for Public Safety By Abubakar Jimoh

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Desertification and drought are two related disasters which have over the years intensified the high rate of famine in the country especially in the Northern part of Nigeria.
Desertification has been noted in the analysis of the United Nation Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) as a process involving land degradation in a dryland area resulting to environmental crises, such as the loss of biodiversity and global warming. Drought on the other hand is a condition of unusually dry weather within a geographic area where rainfall is normally present resulting to water shortage that seriously interferes with human activities water-supply reservoirs emptiness, wells dry up, crop damage and other consequences which trigger ‘desertification’.
Hitherto, desertification and drought have posed a serious threat to the nation’s socio-economic, food security and employment. For instance, about 35 million people in northern Nigeria are reported to be suffering from the dangers of desertification; no fewer than 50,000 farmers in about 100 villages in Yobe state have been affected by sand dunes. Whereas, an estimated 55 million people have been seriously affected in Borno, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi states; and approximately 350,999 hectares of land is lost to desertification annually.
In a study carried out by National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in collaboration with United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), it has been observed that both natural and human activities have contributed to the menace of desertification and drought, among these are inadequate rain fall, harsh climate condition, over-cultivation which exhausts soil, overgrazing involving removal of vegetation that prevents and poorly drained irrigation.
Whereas, in attempt to proffer workable solutions to the effects of desertification and drought in the country, NEMA under the leadership of its Director-General, Alhaji Muhammed Sani-Sidi in technical partnership with National Space Research and Development Agency (NSRDA) and United Nations Space Based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UNI-SPIDER) has adopted the use of space-based technology to assist and obtain instant information that could enhance disasters prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.
With the use of Space Technology, synoptic viewing, mapping of damages, forecasting evolution, adequate warning of the population at risk of the further peril which could arise from drought and desertification would be effectively achieved.
Apart from these, NEMA has carried out several campaigns and sensitization on Disaster Risks Reduction (DRR) including mitigation against the upsurge of desertification and drought across the country through constant organization of seminars, workshops, public education and enlightenment including visitation to grassroots on DRR. This has given the Agency additional window to come up with other infallible measures.
Upholding ecological management practices such as planting of trees, shelterbelts to protect soil from wind and water erosion are found to be effective in various parts of the world. Communities are advised to put in place effective ecosystem management to conserve major ecological services, and ethical use of natural resources to meet the socioeconomic, political and cultural needs of current and future generations. Implementing a forestation activity will increase fuel wood improve timber supplies and provide additional fodder.
Encouraging local participation and community education on environmental matters and land use innovation is another proven solution to accommodate the hazards of drought and desertification. At community level, there is a need for adequate sensitization concerning various aspects of drought and water scarcity to predict, and articulate strategies which could help minimize the effects of drought and desertification.
Unethical natural practices such as overgrazing, overexploitation of plants, trampling of soils, and unsustainable irrigation practices are also some of the causes of these hazards. This simple technique involves allowing grass, time to re-grow between grazing intervals, and avoiding overgrazing.
Instituting poverty eradication programs in the degraded areas will be a welcome development to secure the socio-economic and environmental conditions for prosperity, stability and equity. This can be achieved through the joint effort of local communities, rural organizations, national governments, non-governmental organizations, international and regional organizations who all have vital roles to play.
Furthermore, governments at all levels are encouraged to establish and develop local, national and inter-sect oral mechanisms to handle environmental and developmental upshots of land tenure expressed in terms of land use and land ownership. While specific attention should be given to protecting the property rights of pastoral and nomadic groups living in rural areas.


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