Source: Tashikalmah Hallah and Francis Okeke Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: 35 Million At the Mercy of Desertification

The effect of desertification is threatening the lives of 35 million Nigerians living in the Northern part of the country, Mr. Ononina Nkem, the director of desertification in the ministry of environment has said.

He said that the menace of desertification in the north is disturbing, pointing out that, "what is news is that about 35 million people in northern states in Nigeria are suffering from the effects of desertification".

Briefing the House of Representatives committee on Environment on the state of desertification and progress on the Green Wall project, the director of desertification in the federal ministry of environment accompanied by the group coordinator of Agricultural Development Company (International) Israel (Agridev) and Desert-To-Food project, Mr. Emeka Mba and the consultant, Prof. V.O. Chude said desertification was posing a serious threat to the nation's economy, food security and employment.

He said that the Sahara desert is moving southwards at a rate of 0.6 kilometres per year adding that the rate of deforestation between 1978-1995 alone was about 350,000 ha per annum. According to him: "Sand dune increased from 80,000 ha in 1979 to 480,000 per hectare in 1995. The area of overgrazing increased by about 2,000,000 ha during the same period".

Nkem said the Desert-To-Food program was the result of a joint enterprise of the federal government and FRAMAN/Agridev, explaining that the aim is to create a shelter belt to combat the desertification effects along 1,500 kilometres in the 19 northern states as well as settle population in the peripheral zones.

He said the project is targeted at creating 60,000 new direct work opportunities in 19 pilots within three years and create indirect employment opportunities for two million people from food vendors and contractors.

He further explained that under the desert-to-food project, a project will be established in each of the 19 northern states.

"The pilot is composed of a cluster of villages which will be populated by 1000 families. Most of them shall be employed in agriculture; the rest shall be employed in public services. Each village cluster will consist of an agro-industrial centre for processing of agriculture products, a feed mill and a co-operative of agriculture equipment and administration", he stated.

Agridev was established in 1977 by the government of Israel in order to create an official government entity for the transfer of Israeli agricultural technology, experience and know-how. The federal government is expected to finance the initial stage of the Desert-To-Food project while the international community will come in to assist.

Chairman of the House committee on environment, Duro Faseyi pledged that the House of Representatives will partner with Agridev in the fight against desertification.

The chairman assured the ministry of the committees' preparedness to provide enabling legislative framework and any assistance needed by the ministry to successfully execute the Green Wall Project and enhance Tree Planting campaign throughout the country.

Source: Daily Trust (Abuja)

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