Desertification affecting 40 million Nigerians in 15 states, 95% of livestock ―Environment minister

Nigeria’s Minister of Environment, Dr Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar has used the occasion of the 2021 World Desertification and Drought Day (WDDD) to highlight the severity of desertification in the country, saying that 40 million Nigerians in 15 states are victims.

World Desertification and Drought Day is celebrated on June 17 annually to promote public awareness of the challenges of desertification, land degradation and drought, and also highlight methods to tackle these challenges.

The theme of the Day is “Restoration. Land. Recovery. We build back better with healthy land.”

The minister, speaking at the WDDD event held at the Public Service Institute of Nigeria (PSIN) in Abuja on Thursday, said: “Nigeria is faced with rapid desert encroachment affecting about 15 Northernmost states from severe to moderate rate.

“It is worthy of note that these states affected by desertification has a population of over 40 million people and is home to over 95 per cent of livestock population in Nigeria and has played a major role in the production of food for domestic consumption and export crops.”

According to him, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification has noted that: More than 12 million hectares of land are lost globally to desertification, land degradation and drought each year. In addition, 24 billion tons of fertile soil is lost globally due to dry land degradation affecting food production and food security, and in spite of all these, it is estimated that 300 million hectares of land will be required to meet the demand for food by the year 2030.

Dr Abubakar said, “The Nigerian Government is not oblivious of these environmental issues and their impacts but is committed to addressing them to ensure sustainable development and livelihoods of the people in the affected communities. Government has developed policies and plans and built institutional and legislative capacities to enhance effective and far-reaching actions to reduce the impacts of desertification and drought on the citizenry.

“Government recognizes the importance of partnership in tackling desertification, it has therefore facilitated the involvement of other actors, including the private sectors, NGOs as well as Donor Organizations. Many of these actors including the Nigerian Environmental Study/Action Team (NEST) and the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) are actively participating in the activities of the Global Network on desertification.”

He added that at the regional level, the Nigerian government was supporting the Great Green Wall programme and other initiatives including the African Initiative to Combat Desertification (AI-CD), African Forest Restoration (AFR100) initiative, the Terr African initiative, the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), the African Ministerial Council on Environment (AMCEN) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Meanwhile, at the event, the FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, said “It is worthy of note that desertification and drought are associated with challenges such as reduction in food production, increase in hunger, disease, malnutrition and limited pastoral land that often lead to conflicts and crises.

“It is therefore essential that we all join the global efforts to reclaim land lost to degradation and halt the rapid increase of desertification in the country.”

He also announced that PSIN has made available five hectares of land for the planting of both economic and ornamental tree seedlings.

Adding his voice, the Director-General, Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), Professor Bako Mansur Matazu, said that “that rebuilding better, restoring degraded land and reversing ecological dislocation is a multi-sectoral endeavour that requires strong collaboration between line MDAs, levels of government, the private sector and the general public. The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), in line with its mandate, has over the years provided climate services to support smart and sustainable agriculture, disaster risk management, air quality monitoring and health advisories to the Nigerian public.”

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