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Ecological fund: Desertification, erosion major ecological challenges in North-East – Stakeholders

Stakeholders in the environment sector have identified desertification, erosion and deforestation as the major ecological challenges confronting communities in the North-East region, calling for effective utilisation of the National Ecological Fund.

The stakeholders made this known in a survey by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in the North eastern states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe and Yobe states.

The survey examined ecological challenges; how states, local governments access and utilise ecological fund to address the challenges.

Alhaji Sidi Karasuwa, the Commissioner for Environment in Yobe, said desertification was one of the major ecological challenges facing the state.

According to him, desertification is prevalent due to arid climatic condition accompanied by long stretch of sand dunes found in Tarmuwa, Bursari, Geidam, Yunusari, Yusufari, Bade, Nguru and Machina local government areas of the state.

Karasuwa said that desertification and low rainfall had destroyed the ecosystem thereby affecting the livelihood of about 85 per cent of the people depending on agriculture in the state.

He said the state government had initiated the “Buni Climate Change Action Plan’’ as part of comprehensive campaign to encourage afforestation and control desertification.

The commissioner said the programme with funding from the National Ecological Fund focused at encouraging mass tree planting as the long-time solution to desertification.

The programme, he said, was designed to fast track production, distribution and planting of three million assorted tree seedlings for planting in 2020 rainy season.

“It also entails development of plant nurseries in various parts of the state to accelerate tree planting programmes at the grassroots.

“In this regard, Damaturu Central Plant Nursery will produce 800,000 seedlings; Bayamari Central Nursery, 400,000; Gaidam Central Nursery, 600,000; Gashu’a Central Nursery, 600,000; and Nguru Central Nursery, 600,000 seedlings,’’ he said.

Karasuwa said the state government had begun planting of 100 hectares of gum Arabic and other assorted trees in each of the three senatorial districts, while five selected primary schools in each of the 17 local government areas would establish one hectare of plantation/orchard.

He said that 15 selected secondary schools would also establish one hectare of tree plantation each, while 7,000 assorted seedlings would be provided to the 14 Emirate Councils and another 100,000 seedlings to be distributed to 10 higher institutions of learning for planting.

Karasuwa said that to further actualise the project, the ministry proposed the rehabilitation of the state’s dormant nurseries at Potiskum, Damagum, Yusufari Garanda and Warsala.

“Similarly, Gov. Mai Mala-Buni of Yobe, had approved the re-survey and re-demarcation of the Dusuwa Forest Reserve.

“The demarcation of our forest reserves will continue annually and run concurrently within the lifespan of the Buni Climate Change Action Plan.

“We firmly believe that by the year 2024, a total of 323, 748. 51 hectares of land will be planted with a strategy put in place for the protection and management of these trees,” he said.

In Adamawa, Willy Haruna, the Director Environment, Adamawa State Ministry of Environment, said that soil erosion was ravaging about four local government areas of the state.

Haruna, who did not gave details of the affected areas, also identified desertification and flood as other ecological challenges in the state.

He, however, said that the ministry was not aware of the special ecological fund account and could not remember when the ministry received anything related to ecological fund.

Read also: Torrential rains weaken commercial transport services in Kaduna

Dr Inuwa Tashim, a Yola-based environmentalist, who agreed with Haruna, said that the state lost large swath of land to desertification.

“Presently, Adamawa lost vegetation in the North and Central zone due to desert encroachment occasioned by indiscriminate tree feeling and massive application of agrochemicals.

“Some botanical species have disappeared, we have to go as far as Cameroon and Central African Republic to fetch some medicinal trees,” he said.

Tashim advocated for the re-introduction of Forest Guards to protect the forest resources in the state.

On his part, Dr Ishaya Dabiri, the Commissioner for Finance in Adamawa, said the state government created special account for ecological fund to ensure prudent management of the fund toward mitigating ecological challenges.

According to him, the idea is to allow the federal ecological funding to accumulate so that the state can face ecological problems effectively.

Dabari said, “The state government is receiving money from the Federal Ecological Fund office on monthly basis.

“The money is not something to write about because it is too small, it is around N600,000  and that is why we decided to open a special account for it.

“The decision is to allow the money accumulate to enable the government have something reasonable to confront the ecological problems so that people can feel the impact of the intervention.”

According to him, solving ecological problems needs huge amount and what the state government is receiving from Federal Government is not enough.

He said that the fund was kept in an account, stressing that nobody could tamper with it until when the state government completed analysis of the affected areas to address the problem squarely.

In the same vein, Dr Ibrahim Kabir, Director-General, Bauchi State Environmental Protection Agency (BASEPA) said the state was not accessing specific amount of money as ecological fund.

Kabir said that the state government normally identified ecological problems and made submission to the Ecological Project Office in Abuja for action.

He said that identified projects were funded directly from the Ecological Project Office, Abuja, while the state only participated in monitoring and evaluation of the project.

The D-G identified soil erosion, flooding and desert encroachment as some of the ecological problems affecting the state.

“Seven local government areas in northern part of the state are badly affected by ecological issues such as desert encroachment, deforestation, draught and soil erosion,” he said.

He listed the affected areas as Jama’are, Katagum, Giade, Shira, Itas-Gadau, Gamawa, and Zaki, while soil erosion triggered by perennial flooding ravaged Alkaleri, Kirfi, Ningi and Warji LGAs.

Malam Aliyu Isiyaku, the Chief Environment Management Officer, Bauchi State Ministry of Environment, said that water and air pollution also constituted major ecological challenges in major town across the state.

Isiyaku said that devastating pollution manifested in Bauchi, Azare, Misau, Kirfi and Ningi was due to high population, vehicular traffic and commercial activities.

However, a Gombe-based NGO, Jewel Environmental Initiative (JEI), lauded the Ecological Fund intervention, adding that it assisted toward mitigating the impact of gully erosion in the state.

Mr Ismail Bima, the Chief Executive Officer of the organisations, identified gully erosion and desert encroachment as the major ecological challenges in the state in view of its topography.

Bima said that the ecological fund had impacted greatly in addressing ecological issues and salvaged communities, while preserving the livelihoods of residents of Gombe and Akko LGAs.

“The ecological fund has been useful in the control of gully erosion in Akko and Gombe worst hit by erosion, some bridges and other projects were executed in the areas.’’

He, however, berated the quality of works in some communities, stressing the need for thorough supervision to ensure that the projects were executed in accordance to the specifications.

“The major challenge in Gombe is the issue of managing the fund to execute quality job in the process of awarding contracts. Some of the contractors are not doing the quality job expected of them.

“There is a bridge constructed under the ecological fund in Bogo community to address gully erosion. Ironically; it was poorly done and between last year and now it has affected over 500 houses.

“If the contract was done according to design, it would have reduced the effect of erosion in the community; there is need for thorough supervision and monitoring of ecological funded projects.

“Erosion needs urgent attention to avert the threats it pose to the communities.

“The issue of gully erosion in Bogo community if not tackled in the next five years, over 10, 000 houses might be affected and many people persons would have to relocate.

“In the last two years, over 500 houses have been destroyed in Bogo and other communities like Doma, Liji and Yelenguruza,’’ he said.

Bima commended the state government for complementing the efforts of the Federal Government and World Bank in addressing environmental challenges.

He also called for strengthening of collaboration to address erosion, noting that the state government alone could not tackle the menace in view of the “peculiarity of the menace in the state’’.

The environmentalist further urged residents of the state to stop building houses close to the gullies and desist from indiscriminate dumping of waste on water ways as well as other unfriendly environment activities. (NAN)

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