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Desert Encroachment: Adamawa not learning from desert ravaged countries

Thursday, March 08, 2018

/ by Adamawa Celebrities
 By: Isuwa Ishaku, Joy Morris Evanson, George Samuel, Abdulkadir Umar Binyeri

African countries such as Uganda, Libya, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Togo have started suffering from desert encroachment inch by inch just like what we facing now. In these countries, famine has already taken over in most of their communities, especially in rural areas as there are recorded cases of the inhabitants dying of starvation. According to reports, the main cause of the desert encroachment is the massive indiscriminate cutting down of trees for both domestic and business purposes. These countries are in this trouble because they neglect these early warning signs which is what we are doing now!

Specifically, there is a buzz in Zimbabwe's lush forests, home to many animal species. In recent times, you can only hear the sound of a high-speed dry leaves, through the heart of these ancient stands to clear land for tobacco growing, to log wood for commercial export and to supply local area charcoal sellers.

According to research, the rate at which deforestation is occurring will convert Zimbabwe into an outright desert in just 10 years if pragmatic solutions are not proffered urgently and also if people keep razing down trees for firewood without regulation.

According to the country's Tobacco Industry Marketing Board, Zimbabwe currently has 88,167 tobacco growers, whom environmental activists say are the catalysts of looming desertification.

“Curing tobacco using huge quantities of firewood and even increased domestic use of firewood in rural and urban areas will leave Zimbabwe without forests and one has to imagine how the country would look like after the demise of the forests”, Thabilise Mlotshwa, an Ecologist from Sale the Environment Association said.

“It is however difficult to object to firewood use when it is the only energy source most rural people have despite the environment being the worst casualty”.

In most African countries, there are thousands of timber merchants who have no mercy with the trees as they see ready cash in almost every tree and therefore don't spare the trees in order to earn money. Deforestation is a complex issue. A recent study by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that in the last decade (10 years) from 2007 to 2017, the world's tropical forests have been reduced by an average of 15.4 million hectares per year (an 0.8 percent annual rate of deforestation). The area of land cleared during the decade is equivalent to nearly three times the size of France.

Roots News findings have revealed that most developing countries rely heavily on wood fuel; the major energy source for cooking and heating. In Africa, the statistics are striking; an estimated 90% of the entire continent's population uses fuelwood for cooking and in sub-Sahara Africa, firewood supplies approximately 52% of all energy sources.

Zimbabwe is not the only sub-Saharan country facing a crisis in its forest. A panel run by the United Nations and the African Union led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki found that in Mozembique thousands more logs were exported to China than were legally emported.

For many rural dwellers, lack of electricity in their communities has been creating unsustainable pressures on forests in African countries. Hence, almost all rural inhabitants depend on trees for survival.

Now the burning question that worried Roots News is; what would become of the rural people if they wake up one day and discover that the trees, are no more? With the massive cutting down of trees we are certainly heading to desert in no distance time; how would life be in rural communities if they come to terms with the realities of deforestation with its deadly effects?

In Nigeria, Roots News findings have revealed that we would soon face the effects of deforest encroachment if nothing is done to curb the massive indiscriminate cutting down of trees. Here in the North alone, eleven States of Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Jigawa, Yobe, Borno, Bauchi, Kano, Gombe, Katsina and Adamawa are already suffering the impact of climate change as these States are ravaged by drought and desertification.

But the good news, according to Roots News investigation is that in recent times, the States have evolved conscious strategies to cushion the impact of climate change enlightening people, especially rural inhabitants, on the importance of planting of trees.

Under the Pan African Initiative, The Great Green Wall (GGW) project, the Federal Government had been able to mobilize and fund States to plant thousands of trees in the 11 States. The challenge of desertification is more conspicuous in the 11 front line States as millions of people who rely on land as a vital means of their livelihoods could have their means of livelihood threatened as a result of encroachment by the desert.

However, even with this initiative, indiscriminate of tree felling is on the rise in most of the rural communities that Roots News visited. The most worrisome aspect is that most of the rural inhabitants interviewed don't know what would become of their means of livelihoods if the rich environment that houses trees has suddenly become a desert.

At Kala'a community in Hong LGA, most of the dry farms of green maize and tomato plants looked withered and dried. The arid, cracked soil could not provide moisture to sustain the plants. Water in the community is scarce during the dry season, but the people have to find an alternative from their traditional occupation farming.

The inhabitants who spoke to Roots News observed that a large portion of the plains are unfarmed because of the scarcity of water. According to them, the trees in their community are gradually disappearing as a result of the indiscriminate cutting down of the trees.

They said that the situation is getting worst by the day as the number of the “Tree-cutters” increase in large quantity because everybody depends on the trees for survival. The Kala'a dwellers said that they cannot imagine life without the contribution of trees, adding that their livelihoods are going to be nothing to write home about if they wake up one day and find out that they have to live a “treeless” life.

Mallam Ibrahim Musa expressed, “Without trees, we are doomed here. That is the truth. We so much depend on trees for our survival. We cannot survive without trees. But we are the very ones that are cutting down the trees. We have to; we only cook with firewood here. We use trees for firewood. But when the trees have finished, that is how we would be finished too. So please don't make me to start thinking of how we would live our lives when the trees are gone. It is scary”.

In most rural communities of Gombi LGA, desertification is gradually becoming a gradual menace. Desertification is occasioned by land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, resulting from various factors including climatic variations and human activities.

The inhabitants admitted that they have been misusing trees as poor management and environmental pressure are the main causes of desertification. They said that they have no alternative as using of trees for domestic and business purposes is the main means of their livelihoods.

What would become of the dwellers in rural communities across the 21 LGAs of Adamawa State who depend on trees for their livelihood, and the trees are all cut down? Well, the inhabitants are having to have a second thought on that by the visit of the Roots News reporters.

In Tola community of Mayo-Belwa, Gunda in Guyuk, Yalwa in Numan, Garkida in Gombi and Kojoli in Jada LGAs, the dwellers who spoke to Root News could sense danger in their means of survival if the trees have gone because all their means of livelihoods rally around trees. Therefore they are willing to get help if government is willing to come to their rescue.

In Garkida, Mrs. Fibi Amfani, who was found “red handed” in the act of cutting down trees for firewood said that though she has observed a decline in the number of growing trees in the area as a result of the massive usage of the trees for firewood, but she has never thought of life without the trees.

“Yes, you are right. But I have never given it a thought. I agree with you that with the way trees are cut down here every day, time will come when the trees will be no more. And if that happens, we will all finish here. All the households have been surviving by trees, and if tomorrow our forests turn to desert, we will all die of hunger and harsh weather that the trees used to prevent”.

In Kojoli community of Jada LGA, Roots News observed that cutting down trees have become a daily affair as most of the youth have ventured into firewood and charcoal business. One of the youth reacted to our reporter thus, “We cut down trees on daily basis and none of us thought it wise to plant and replace the ones that have been cut down. All we think is how to make money, but I know there is danger ahead”.

According to Environmentalists who spoke to Roots News, trees have stabilizing effect on the environment, stressing that when upland watersheds are left bare, heavy rains wash the soil with any crop planted on it into the valleys. In the dry areas, trees are said to provide fertility to the soil and protect it from water and wind erosions.

They said that with wood a main source of fuel in rural areas, when the populace exhausts the supply of firewood, the use of crop residues then comes handy. These residues, according to them, are relevant in protecting the soil because they reduce water runoff thereby encouraging percolation.

Mr. Andrew Samuel, an Yola-based Environmentalist said that recent reports on poverty among rural communities in Nigeria have shown that there is more poverty in the North, desert encroachment is the main cause.

According to him, desertification leads to conflicts amongst communities as it is the major negative impact in many places today, especially in rural communities, and it would affect humanity.

Mr. Samuel stated that much of the desertification that is occurring around the African continent is caused by human activity on lands that are extremely vulnerable to overexploitation and improper land management, adding that forests are being cut down at much larger scale than ever before to be used as fuel, to provide products people use in their lives, or to simply create more space for agriculture to sustain growing human population.

“Once the trees and other vegetation in an area are gone, there's nothing left to hold the soil in place. The soil then turns to dust and can be blown and washed away, and the soil is degraded and the precious soil nutrients are lost, leaving the soil infertile and useless”.

The Environmentalist said that as humans continue to remove vegetation from landscapes, there is less remaining vegetation to add moisture to the soil that will evaporate into the air and form clouds that lead to rainfall. He noted that with significantly reduced rainfall, drought occurs and leads to a hotter and drier climate, and later causes desertification in the surrounding landscape.

In his words, “If people, especially rural dwellers keep cutting down trees, desertification is certain in no distance time. You see, desertification reduces the ability of land to support plant life. Loose soil bury plants, or their roots become exposed and cannot fulfill their function. With plants dying, rainwater gets washed away instead of being drawn into the soil, which only scales up the problem as remaining plants don't have enough moisture to survive dry spells as they used to. The reduction in plant cover increase the erosion of the soil due to increased runoff and direct exposure to wind. The process of desertification is worsened as the soil becomes increasingly arid”.

According to Mr. Samuel, desertification makes natural disasters worse as flooding, dust storms and pollution become stronger in areas with heavily degraded soils. He maintained that without trees stabilizing the soil and slowing down the runoff, rainwater easily accumulates and floods human settlements in the blink of an eye.

He noted that due to drought conditions and a loss of productive land, the rural people would find themselves experiencing famine and poverty as well as potential starvation, adding that action is expected to be taken urgently to avert such disaster, especially in rural communities.

He stressed, “There are many historical accounts of how various people groups throughout human history experienced collapse of their civilization as drought and desertification occurred to their lands. These accounts include the Carthage Civilization, the Harappan Civilization, people groups in Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, and people groups in Ancient China. So it is real, and with the massive and indiscriminate cutting down of trees in rural communities, we are heading towards that direction”.
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