Averting Desert Encroachment Through Risk Reduction Strategies

DESERTIt has been pointed out that Africa is one of the most negatively affected continents by the processes and effects of desertification. The number of communities, countries and sub-regions within Africa whose livelihoods are being eroded on a continuous basis

 by the continuous encroachment of the desert areas and mainly by locally generated land degradation processes is clearly a source of grave concern.
It is also found that land degradation in arid areas have put under threat the livelihood of millions of people around the world; 10 million hectares of available land is being degraded per annum; of the 130 million hectares of land seriously affected, 50% is in Africa. Furthermore, the largest concentration of high-risk countries, which are increasingly vulnerable to climatic hazards, is in sub-Saharan. Areas such as northern Nigeria and Niger have for instance been experiencing droughts on a decadal basis in the last thirty years while in places such as Ethiopia; drought has become a recurrent event..
In Northern Nigeria for example, poor land management such as bush burning, the removal of farm residue, over-cultivation, deforestation and excessive use of chemical fertilizers combine uncomfortably with delicate climatic conditions, illustrated by increasing aridity and frequent and spatially expanding drought occurrences, to extend the areas with desert-like conditions.
It is imperative to note that development can no more be sustained without conserving the environment. Thus, understanding and protecting the structure, functions and diversity of the environment will make many communities less vulnerable to natural hazards. Human – made hazards, such as technological and chemical accidents, air and water pollution and desertification degrade the environment and can lead to disaster.
Annually, thousands of hectares of land are lost to degradation through both human and natural hazardous activities and occurrences. In fact, man is said to be the greatest culprit in the destruction of his own habitat. Hazards once considered natural and unavoidable are now thought to be partly due to human – induced environmental change.
Some of the hazards that affect our environment can be considered under natural and human – induced categories. Drought, floods and leaching of soil nutrients are natural, while human – induced hazards are manifest in the pollution of water, air, and land degradation through poor land management, careless disposal of industrial and domestic wastes and bush burning.
In addition there are desertification, escalated soil erosion and dam failure, which are man – induced. Of course, there are quite a few natural sources of environmental hazards, some of which are very unpredictable. Those natural hazards, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, will occur when they will with less than precise prediction, and do what ever damage they can no matter how advanced the country’s level of technology.
Luckily, it is not all natural hazards that defy some forecasting. There is now adequate technology to forecast with sufficient accuracy the development, direction of propagation, speed, time, place of action and other characteristics of climate – related hazards such as hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones, and so on. However, these hazards are uncontrollable in the sense that they will occur when they will, and man’s feeble response to them when they occur is a hurried evacuation to escape from the fury of these natural phenomenon. Unfortunately, not all climates – related hazards are predictable. Drought is one of the unpredictable ones. So far studies have only confirmed man’s inability to predict the occurrence of drought accurately, while the cycles and patterns usually recognized have proved to be more of statistical exercise than a useful and reliable submission.
Furthermore, the impact of hazards, such as floods, hurricanes and droughts are recognized as the main cause of disasters, particularly over the last few years. These are due to on-going environmental degradation, in addition to the lack of consideration of such phenomenon in the decision – making and development processes, often related to land use planning and human settlements. Moreover, the increase in desertification processes in various regions suggests that there is need for more efforts to address the problem, particularly because this phenomenon concerns not only lack of water, but also the destruction of the environment and its ecosystems.
It is conceded that certain natural conditions, such as frequent droughts and nutrient deficient soils enhance the process of desertification. However, wherever desertification occurs, it is a product of a host of natural and human factors. Desertification would be the end- product of man’s unfriendly use of a delicate environment.
It is imperative to understand that, all hazards, whether human or natural, occur within an environmental context. As such, risk reduction and environmental management must go hand in hand, since sustainable development is about the environment, the risk reduction strategies must be synergized with sustainable development strategies. Hence, without practicing sustainable development, humanity faces a deteriorating environment and may even invite ecological disaster. However, protection against risk can be achieved by removing its causes, or by reducing the consequences of the hazard effects if it occurs.
It has been argued that one of the reasons that prompted the concern for the environment was to conserve those common natural resources that have an economic value, and which have a potentially finite supply. These also include aspects of the environment that people value for their sake. Today, environmental concerns have broadened beyond the immediate environment to global issues, such as protection of the oceans, the great forests, the stratospheric ozone layer, and the world’s climate. In this sense, the challenge of sustainable development is to promote ways of encouraging environmentally friendly economic activities, and of discouraging environmentally damaging activities.
A greater awareness of our environment and the need to preserve and restore environmental quality is placing increased pressure on all of us to be better stewards of our natural and biological resources. Environmental degradation such as desertification is reducing the productivity and increasing the vulnerability to drought events for many landscapes.
The Green Wall for the Sahara programme was proposed by the former Nigerian President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in July 2005 in the African Union Summit (AU), as an initiative to arrest the advancement of the Sahara desert south wards and to improve the livelihoods of the inhabitants of the sahelo- Sahara zone. The programme is not only just a straight afforestation line running across the continent; rather it is a combination of inter-related set of activities and actions towards resolving the problems of resource degradation and people’s livelihood.
The objectives of the Initiative include is to enhance environmental sustainability and to control land degradation. In addition it would promote integrated natural resources management, while arresting the advance of the Sahara Desert. From all indications, the programme will go a long way in conserving biological diversity and contributing to poverty Reduction which in turn will improve the livelihoods of rural Women.
Thus, the implementation of Green Wall for the Sahara Initiative will enhance capacity development in Africa for land degradation. It is also worthy to note that, the Initiative provides economic opportunities for the local communities for income generation and poverty reduction through the promotion of and establishment of private wood fuel plantations, fruit orchards, vegetables gardening and marketing, opportunities for intensive livestock rearing and product processing, and promotion and development of needed artisinal skills to reduce pressure on the land. In addition, the Initiative would have to promote climate observation for the region and link this to global climate observatory systems as well as mainstream climate information and environmental dimensions in policy formulation and analysis.
Given the foregoing, it is now easy for us to see the desirability and importance of Green Wall for the Sahara Initiative as a programme that will take care of the risk and proffer solutions to the consequences of desertification and attendant processes of resource degradation.
In Nigeria, 11 front line states were identified for the Green Wall for the Sahara Nigeria programme. Geographically those areas are located in the area of 12o N – 13o 50’ of Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Bauchi, Jigawa, Yobe, Borno and the desert areas of Adamawa and Gombe. However, the primary purpose of the Green Wall is to stop desertification, hence consideration is given to planting of trees that will resist drought, improve the fertility of the soil in short time. Thus, Plant has the capacity of being either an economic tree on its own or can be converted at secondary levels to be an industrial raw material for Pharmaceutical, Cosmetic or other forms of materials. However, the primary activities of the Green Wall for Sahara Nigeria programme comprises of; 
Nura Abdullahi 
Training Officer 
National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) 

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