Nigeria: Inside Oxfam's Tree Planting Campaign Against Desertification in Kebbi

23 August 2019

It is a known fact that deforestation poses danger to the environment. However, the more worrisome development is the nonchalant attitude of most people towards sustaining efforts geared toward ensuring a better ecosystem. Yahya Sarki in this report diagnoses the OXFAM's tree planting model of not only reawakening public consciousness but making a sustainable environment a priority.

Recently, Oxfam, an international non- governmental organisation launched a tree planting campaign in Kebbi state in order to discourage cutting down of trees to improve the environment.

The launching of the tree planting campaign took place in Ambursa community in Birnin Kebbi local government area under the PROACT Project tagged 'One Person Four Trees' and was attended by district heads, NGOs and government officials.

This tree planting campaign at the local government level was organised by OXFAM ahead of a statewide grand launch to be flagged off by state governor, Atiku Bagudu, with the aim of attracting communal support for its mission to protect the environment by planting trees.

Speaking during the event, Usman Faleye, the Proactive Governance and Influencing Coordinator for Kebbi state, while thanking the community leaders for attending the event, stressed the importance of planting trees to include providing shade against sunlight, serving as windbreak, beautifying the environment and above all preventing desertification.

It is a truism that deforestation remains a major threat to the environment, especially in states that are prone to desertification like Kebbi.

Deforestation can be caused by cutting down of trees or any activity resulting in the removal of forest or trees from such land, which are converted to non-forest use such as farms, ranches or even for urbanisstion purpose.

Kebbi, a state situated in the north-western part of Nigeria, borders Republic of Niger on its west flank and Republic of Benin on the other flank, thus making the state more prone to menace of the Sahara Desert or Sahara sand dunes extending through Arewa and Augie local government areas of the state.

The dangers posed by the encroachment of Sahara Desert and the rate at which trees are being felled down without comensurate planting of new ones as replacement, made the federal government during the President Goodluck Jonathan government in 2014 launched the 'Great Green Wall' in order to combat desertification and protect the environment. Incidentally, the Great Green Wall Project was launched in Bachaka, Arewa local government area of Kebbi State.

The Great Green Wall project is an initiative of the federal government to reduce desert encouragement in 11 countries and Kebbi is part of the seven states in Nigeria where the programme is being implemented due to its closeness to Niger Republic, which has vast area of Sahara Desert.

The then President Jonathan had said the project would cover 18 kilometer-wide and over 7,000 kilometer-length.

In the same vein, the Kebbi State government during the administration of the immediate past governor of the state, Saidu Nasamu Dakingari launched another project to safeguard the environment tagged 'Shelter Belts' under the SURE-P programme.

Complementing the various initiatives, OXFAM under the PROACT Project tagged '1 Person 4 Trees' "frowned at the way Nigerians cut down trees without planting replacement." It therefore charged all local governments in Kebbi state to embrace the programme as the surest way to save the environment.

Usman, who stressed the need for Kebbi state government to protect environment by taking measures against tree cutting, warned against the dire consequences of doing otherwise.

"Oxfam and partners are currently implementing a four year European Union funded project (Pro-Resilience Action ) PROACT which is targeted at improving food/nutrition, security and resilience of vulnerable households in disaster and conflicts affected communities in Adamawa and Kebbi States of northern Nigeria," he added.

Also at the launching, OXFAM Livelihood Programme Officer, Mr Enoch Bamaiyi divulged that the launch was in commemoration of the World Environmental Day celebration to scale up afforestation and tame environmental degradation.

"We are informed by the utmost need to protect our environment against air pollution in order to save lives. So far, we have distributed over 268,000 economic tree seedlings across 3 pilot LGs of Birnn Kebbi, Jega and Danko Wasagu in the state." said Bamayi.

Bamaiyi further explained that the campaign was meant to sensitize and also reawaken the spirit of citizens across communities on the significance of tree planting to human survival and comfort as well as in combating climate change.

He warned that desertification, erosion, carbons trapping among others are life-threatening occurrences that trees can fight. According to him also, the seedlings were a composition of economic trees ranging from Mango, Moringa, Guava and Orange.

While flagging off the campaign, acting chairman of Birnin Kebbi local government, Abubakar Gulma commended OXFAM for its giant step towards ensuring pollution free environment across the state. He assured the NGO that the local government would do it's best in ensuring the safety of the tree seedlings.

Also, on why community leaders' participation is crucial to the success of the programme, Bamaiyi said their significant roles in the society especially amongst their people could not be overemphasised.

Performing the tree planting exercise, the District Head of Gwadangwaji, Alhaji Umaru Ahmed, who commended the initiative that is aimed at keeping environmental degradation at bay, added that, "The importance of tree planting cannot be over emphasised. Except we plant more than we cut trees else we will continue to be threatened by desert encroachment. When you have trees, they can stand such occurrence."

"It is unfortunate that more than 70% of Nigeria's population use firewood for cooking. Therefore, we have to make more trees available to combat all kinds of air and soil pollution for our survival," Ahmed said.

As a sign of commitment, the Sarkin Kudun Gwandu and District Head of Ambursa, Alhaji Isah Haruna Rasheed was among the community leaders who also planted a tree at the program.

Reacting to the development, a resident of the area, Bello Sule expressed happiness that the tree-planting programme is a welcome initiative being hosted in their locality. According to him, the environment represent nature and the total asset for man's progress, adding, however that it is lamentable that it is being depleted without due regard to the dangers involved.

"I am really happy that they have chosen our area for the tree planting campaign. It is now left for us to be committed in nursing and caring for the young seedlings to maturity," Sule said with a smile on his face.

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