A passionate environmentalist, Umar Danladi Dahiru, led a convoy of three vehicles into Kano State, Northern Nigeria, where ecosystems and the livelihood of local residents are threatened by the desert. The convoy was led into the site of a desertification control project commissioned in Kano State by the African Desertification Control Initiative (ADCI) in Nigeria, supported by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Dahiru observed piles of firewood on the roadside, saying they were to be sold and majority of Kano residents depend on wood for daily cooking and light at night.
Director of the ACDI in Nigeria, Dahiru, stated that Kano has a dry climate, irregular and scarce rainfall, and a fragile land. Despite this, people keep cutting down trees for the need to cook and eat. He added that land degradation and desertification in northern Nigeria was fueled by population growth, deforestation and irrational land use. The China- backed project was launched last year, 2022, as part of the Great Green Wall Initiative in Nigeria, led by the African Union. The project is carried out on about four hectares of sandy land with a barbed wire fence close to the Gwarmai village in the Kunchi LGA of Kano.
The project faces the challenge of water scarcity.
According to the Nigerian Director of the Non-governmental organization (NGO), the project is set to combat desertification and build a green wall in Kano and other Nigerian states that have their borders around the Sahara Desert, the largest desert in the world. The intention of the initiative is to research and demonstrate for farmers to watch what is being done for them to imitate. In this area, four native tree species have been planted. However, the challenge of the ongoing project is the need for more water.
Dahiru asserted that ADCI drilled a water well nearby, by some time back, the water tower was destroyed by a strong wind. As the well is no longer in use, the two maintenance personnel of the project get water from the village borehole, which is many kilometers away, every day for the saplings. Dahiru began to build a career focused on desertification control after he stopped working for the ministry of agriculture because of his passion for protection of the environment and threats to his homeland.
Planting in desert areas controls desertification.
Having been to China several times for training courses and seminars on desertification control, he is moved by China’s innovative technology. This technology involved non-irrigated afforestation technology, afforestation with brackish water in flowing sand and vegetation restoration in activated sand. The day-to-day maintenance of the project in Gwarmai village is supervised by Tanimu Lawal, a previous employee of the ministry of environment who now works with ACDI. Lawal, alongside a volunteer, waters the saplings and digs pits to plant trees, at dawn every day.
Besides the scarcity of water, Lawal said that there is also the challenge of mobilizing people to participate in planting trees in desert areas. The people are being mobilized and sensitized on how to care for the plants that have already being planted. The purpose of planting is to control the desertification of the area, Lawal said, amidst expressing eagerness to travel to China to learn about sand control technology. The volunteer, Bala Muhammed, stated that his direct involvement in the project means so much to the village of over 50 families.
Some villagers have relocated for inability to bear the severe sandstorms.
Muhammed expressed gratitude for the intervention on behalf of the village, affirming that they used to have problems with sand and wind. Whenever it happens, houses are usually affected and sometimes brought down completely. He added that some of the villagers has relocated to the city as they could no longer bear the severe sandstorms. However, his family has remained in their homestead and the ongoing project gives him more reason to stay. Muhammed also affirmed that he has learned some of China’s success stories in combating desertification and hopes his persistence will transform his village someday.