Desertification is land degradation, caused by human activities and climatic variations, in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. According to the UN, it is a diminution or destruction of the biological potential of the land which can lead ultimately to desert-like conditions. Human activities such as overgrazing, poor irrigation practices, overexploitation, expansion and intensive use of agricultural lands, and deforestation contributes to desertification. The pressure placed on the land through the aforementioned land uses alters the soil chemistry and hydrology and leads to erosion, soil salinization, loss of productivity and decreased resilience to climatic variations.
In Nigeria, desertification is the most pressing environmental problem in the dry lands part of the country. According to estimation, between 50 percent and 75 percent of Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara States in Nigeria are being affected by desertification. These affected areas have a combined population of over 27 million people and account for about 38 percent of the country’s total land area. Population and livestock pressure in these areas, result in overgrazing and overexploitation of marginal lands, thereby increasing desertification and drought.
WDCDD is an awareness of desertification and drought.
World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought (WDCDD) is an annual awareness program; it is celebrated on the 17th of June of every year. The theme for 2022 is “Rising Up from Drought Together.” According to The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Matthias Schmale, the impacts of desertification and drought affect women and girls mostly, because of their vulnerability. WDCDD is a reminder that the prevention of land degradation in arid and dry areas can only be achieved collectively, through strong community involvement and cooperation at all levels. The UN and other stakeholders had a commitment towards achieving land degradation neutrality to stem the effects of water scarcity, desertification, and drought.
Matthias stated that desertification and drought, if unaddressed, would hinder the development of Nigeria, together with its aspirations and achievement of the 2030 agenda. He revealed this at the commemoration of the 2022 World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought (WDCDD), which was jointly organized by the UN Information Centre in Nigeria, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), supported by the Nigeria Network of Sustainable Development journalists (NNSDJ).
Deaths of 11.7 million people, caused by droughts.
The WMO representative in Nigeria and National Professional Officer, Mr. Bernard Gomez, represented by Roland Abah, mentioned that drought affects human life as much as it affects plants and is considered a very serious natural disaster. He added that no natural disaster, in the last 40 years, had affected people the way drought had. The duration and number of droughts has risen over 29 percent since 2000. Globally, an estimation of about 55 million people is directly affected by droughts every year. Between 1900 and 2019, droughts had affected 2.7 billion people in the world and caused the death of 11.7 million people.
According to research, droughts may affect over three-quarters of the world’s population by 2050. Desertification and drought have had negative impacts in Nigeria such as socio-economic impact, land and water resources, resource use conflicts, destruction of habitat and loss biodiversity. This environmental problem has caused depletion of the flora and fauna of the Sudano-Sahelian zone; some fauna species are endangered, while some indigenous plant species are now rare to come by. Apparent from the newly released national development plan and the climate change act, the Nigerian government prioritizes climate mitigation and adaption, and is working hard to fight the problem.
FG makes efforts to curb desertification and drought.
Desertification and drought is a growing threat to lives and livelihoods across Nigeria and the rest of Africa. The Federal Government of Nigeria, in a bid to protect the Nigerian environment, has made efforts in the past and is presently putting more efforts to curb desertification and drought. Some of the measures that have been put in place are national policies, institutional and legislative framework, sectoral program and partnership building. With the cooperation of everyone and the government, a more inclusive and sustainable world can be built, alongside a favorable nature that ensures a healthy and prosperous Nigeria for future generations.