MANY Nigerians are not aware that Nigeria is losing about 2,168qKM of its fertile land almost every year to desertification and putting the lives of many in jeopardy. As a matter of fact, desertification had drastically affected the quality of life in northern Nigeria, and it had resulted in high levels of migration, instability, damaging the social fabric of the North and confining them to a future of low productivity, limited economic growth and marginalization.
The problem of environmental degradation has become a global phenomenon, with some developing nations like Nigeria stand a high risk of major consequences like desertification, erosion, soil infertility and ultimately depreciation in agricultural production.
There is also no gainsaying that Agriculture plays a significant role in the nation’s economy after crude oil exploration. Thus, President Goodluck Jonathan has taken it upon his administration to boost agriculture from improved fertilizer distribution to releasing of huge amount to farmers for dry season farming. As a matter of fact, Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava with an output of over 45 million metric tonnes in 2014 according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
In a bid to further improve Agriculture and increase environmental sustainability, President Goodluck Jonathan has approved the upgrade of the great Green wall Programme implementation Unit (GGW/PIU) to become an independent agency. The GGW/PIU now known as National Agency on Great Green Wall (NAGGW) was endorsed by the administration to urgently and holistically address the challenges bedevilling desertification in the Northern parts of Nigeria.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Agency, Alhaji Goni Ahmed, who disclosed the new development, added that the President saw the need to upgrade the unit because of his belief and passion in environmental protection.
Mr. Goni Ahmed who is an agricultural scientist and respected environmentalist, therefore called on stakeholders to support the Great Green Wall Programme so as to deliver dividends to Nigerians. He said the support and assistance from stakeholders would ensure the desertification threatening the northern region was brought under control. The key areas that required assistance in the programme include nursery rehabilitation, shelterbelt establishment, sand dune stabilization, agro-forestry, farmers’ managed natural regeneration and integrated water and natural resources management.
The Great Green Wall initiative is a pan-African proposal to “green” the continent from west to east in order to battle desertification. The vision of a great green wall to combat ecological degradation was conceived in 2005. The vision evolved into an integrated ecosystem management approach in January 2007, when the African Union adopted declaration 137 VIII, approving the “Decision on the Implementation of the Green Wall for the Sahara Initiative.” It is a strategy adopted by African leaders, supported by the international community and development partners, to fast track the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), roll back poverty and address the specific risks and vulnerabilities in our dry lands.
Other areas are trans-boundary ecosystem management, sensitization and awareness, development of alternative sources of energy, gender mainstreaming, scientific expertise and research, capacity building and knowledge sharing.
Interestingly some development partners have shown interest in the project with World Bank leading the pack. A leader of World Bank team to Nigeria who is also World Bank Senior Social Development specialist on Carbon Finance, Haddy J. Sey, who led a team to the agency said the Bank would collaborate with the agency on an initiative to reducing emission from desertification and forest degradation (REDD+) in developing countries.
In this vein, the federal government has taken the first giant stride in expending resources for the success of the Great Green Wall (GGW) project, aimed at addressing desertification along the 11 northern frontline states.
The Minister of Environment, Mrs. Laurentia Mallam who has also demonstrated greater commitment of the government to the project, has stressed that the project will provide shelter for the communities and also create an ozone-friendly environment in the selected states.
By all accounts, President Goodluck Jonathan appears to have taken the bull by the horns in mustering the political will to formally launch the Nigerian component of the Great Green Wall (GGW) Programme in states, like Katsina, Kebbi, and also taking the trend towards Borno state.
To further boost the initiative, the Federal Government has also approved contract for the procurement of 750,000 units of clean cooking stove, worth N9.2 billion, and 18,000 wonderbags (eco-friendly non-electric portable slow cookers) for free distribution to rural women nationwide.
From all intent, the Great Green Wall will check soil erosion in the affected communities. Since trees take carbon dioxide from the air, planting large scale trees will help to absorb excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, thereby contributing its quota in checking ozone depletion and global warming.
The idea is that the project will principally check the advancement of desertification and erosion as well as restore eco-balance, even as it creates sustainable jobs for thousands of our youths who are without jobs. The initiative undoubtedly presents us a great opportunity to advance our vision of a green pathway for human development, and address new and emerging environmental challenges in our country. Thus this is clarion call to citizens to support the government in their bid to curb environmental degradation in the country.

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