Greening Nigeria: State Govts Adopt Ambitious Tree Planting Initiatives to Tackle Climate Change
By Yemi Olakitan and Farida Salifu
Nigerian states are taking commendable measures to address pressing environmental challenges, particularly flooding and climate change, through vigorous tree planting campaigns.
Several states, including Borno, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Kaduna, and Taraba, have embraced these initiatives.
In the heart of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), a dedicated group of youths, operating under the banner of #Oneyouthonetree, is championing increased tree planting as a means to safeguard the environment from the repercussions of climate change.
During the launch of a tree planting event in Wuye District, Abuja, as part of the 2023 United Nations International Youth Tree Planting Day, the campaign’s Executive Director, Baba Yahaya, fervently advocated for this cause. Their initiative aspires to promote environmental sustainability on a national scale.
Kaduna is witnessing a remarkable endeavor led by women who are planting 5,000 trees across 220 primary and secondary schools.
This initiative is a critical component of their strategy to combat climate change through environmental sustainability.
Under the leadership of Mrs. Olanike Olugboji-Daramola, the founder and Programme Director of WISE, this campaign is set to plant trees in 140 secondary schools and 80 primary schools, in collaboration with the state Ministry for Education and the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).
In the Zaria sub-urban areas of Kaduna State, the Reforesting Zaria Initiative (RZI), a local non-governmental organization, has been actively engaged in reforestation. They are planting a diverse range of trees, totaling 6,430, which includes economically valuable species, fruits, and endangered varieties such as mahogany and mango.
Notably, this year’s tree planting approach involves consultations with district heads and representatives of the Zazzau Emirates councils, incorporating traditional leaders into the initiative to enhance community engagement and compliance.
The Taraba State government has also demonstrated proactive commitment in addressing environmental challenges and climate change.
Aishatu Barde, the Commissioner of Environment and Climate Change, recently announced the launch of a substantial tree planting campaign in Jalingo. This initiative is a direct response to the urgent need highlighted by recent flood disasters in certain parts of the state.
Governor Agbu Kefas’s administration is dedicated to providing relief to communities impacted by ecological issues stemming from climate change.
Beyond these specific examples, several other Nigerian states have embarked on their tree planting endeavors:
• Anambra State has initiated a tree-planting program to enhance the aesthetics of urban areas and mitigate environmental pollution. They have also encouraged participation from schools, churches, and communities.
• Ondo State has made a commitment to plant 10 million trees by 2025 as part of their broader efforts to combat climate change and promote sustainable development. Additionally, they’ve established a forest reserve management committee to oversee the protection and conservation of their forests.
• Ogun State is also dedicated to environmental protection, with plans to plant one million trees of various species in their nine forest reserves. This initiative is expected to cover approximately 750 hectares of land within these reserves.
• Edo State is actively participating in the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) to restore gully sites and combat erosion. They have successfully planted over 2.5 million trees across 90 sites in the state. This year, the state also flagged off a tree planting project to address the challenges of climate change in collaboration with the Charcoal Export Legality and Compliance Group
• Sokoto State, as part of the Great Green Wall of the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative, aims to create a belt of trees across 11 states to prevent desertification and enhance livelihoods. Additionally, they’ve partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to launch a tree-planting campaign for peace and youth empowerment in border communities.
• Katsina State, also part of the Great Green Wall initiative and the UNDP tree-planting campaign, is actively engaged in promoting peace and youth empowerment in its border communities.
• Lagos State has a history of tree planting initiatives, with former Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola leading extensive efforts. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the current governor, has reported significant progress, with nearly eight million trees planted in the state over the past 13 years.
However, a recent study in Lagos revealed that many residents did not benefit economically from these trees, emphasizing the need for trees that provide both environmental and economic value.
In the realm of environmental benefits, trees play a pivotal role. They serve as the lungs of the earth, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, essential for human life.
Furthermore, they provide habitat and shelter for diverse wildlife, contribute to global warming mitigation by capturing CO2, and improve air quality by filtering pollutants.
Trees also help prevent urban runoff and erosion by storing water and reducing the force of rainfall, which in turn reduces the risk of flooding. Additionally, trees act as natural sound barriers, decreasing noise pollution in urban areas.
Beyond their environmental impact, trees support biodiversity by offering food and shelter to animals and birds. Some species, like apple and oak trees, produce abundant fruits that benefit numerous creatures.
The cooling effect of trees is remarkable, with a single healthy tree providing the same cooling as ten room-size air conditioners working continuously. Trees are an essential component of combating climate change and preserving the environment.
Notably, the economic potential of trees should not be overlooked. The Nigerian Coconut Producers claim that with access to cutting-edge hybrid coconut seedlings, the industry could contribute over $400 billion to the Nigerian economy. This underscores the multifaceted benefits of trees, encompassing both environmental and economic gains.
In light of these insights, Nature News has conducted an investigation to evaluate the extent of tree planting efforts in Nigeria.
While many states have made commendable progress in environmental conservation, there is a growing consensus that planting trees with economic value, such as coconut and palm trees, can provide additional benefits. This balanced approach to tree planting promises to enhance both the environment and the economy.
Dr. Nma Okoroji, President of the National Coconut Producers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (NACOPPMAN) passionately advocates for the economic potential of tree planting, particularly coconut trees.
She emphasizes, “If sufficient care is taken in the production and processing of coconuts, the Nigerian economy may gain more than $400 billion yearly.”
She further explains, “The hybrid variety we are promoting will yield at least 100 nuts per tree after three years. If each nut fetches N100, the farmer would earn N2 million a year. The trees may grow and continue to produce for 80 years, and there is no better business than that.”
Mrs. Shola Abimbola, an Educationist in Lagos stresses the importance of planting trees that provide economic value to local communities.
She states, “It is important for the governments at all levels to plant trees that provide economic value to the people around them. The general public is interested in caring for trees that the government plants for community-wide environmental purposes. The laymen in the communities will take care of the survival of such trees without being prodded if they plant trees that are both environmentally beneficial and provide fruits that can feed the poor.”
Mrs. Yinka Adeyemo, a Medical Professional highlights the broader environmental benefits of trees. She asserts, “All trees, regardless of species, assist in slowing down climate change by supplying people with oxygen. It is beneficial for the state’s newly planted trees to serve a variety of purposes.”
Adeyemo also emphasizes the importance of understanding people’s preferences when planting trees to ensure community engagement and long-term care.
The tree planting initiatives across various Nigerian states exemplify an increasing recognition of the pivotal role of tree planting in addressing environmental challenges, especially in the context of climate change.
Trees, with their multifaceted benefits, truly stand as vital allies in the quest for a more sustainable and prosperous future for Nigeria and its people.