By Nnamdi Odumody
Desertification is a process by which the dry land ecosystem suffers continuous degradation by the removal of tree and plant cover as a result of human activity.
In Northern Nigeria, about 40 million people in eleven states are threatened with desertification as a result of poor land use, unsustainable cattle grazing practices, and the consumption pressures which are associated with a booming population.
According to Prof Emmanuel Oladipo, an environmental consultant, the direct cause of desertification and arid land degradation, is as a result of drastic reduction or destruction of the perennial plant cover, particularly trees and simplification of the vegetation structure. The soil surface not protected by permanent vegetation becomes subject to erosion by water and wind, crusting by raindrop splash and trampling by animals. Consequently, there are salinization by evaporation and water logging in topographic depression since water is no longer extracted by permanent vegetation.
Farmers in the North are adopting measures such as tree planting to provide shade and windbreaks using diesel powered irrigation pumps, and sowing beans, but these are not enough to tackle the enormous scale of the crisis.
Nigeria has an annual deforestation rate of about 3.5 percent. The economic cost of deforestation, drought and desertification, is 10.5 billion naira. A National Strategic Action Plan for desertification and deforestation was developed in 2011 but lack of political will has hampered its progress.
Solutions On the Way
Desert Control is a startup which utilizes cutting edge nanotechnology to transform deserts to arable land using their proprietary ‘’Liquid Nano Clay’’. Through a patented mixing process, Liquid Nano Clay combines clay and water, and is then spread on to sandy soil, enabling the soil to retain water, turning desert into fertile soil. This process which normally takes 15-20 years is done within 7 hours with the technology, reducing the water needed for irrigation by 65 percent, and then enabling more robust soil and higher yield.
They tested it in Al Ain, an emirate in the United Arab Emirates, which imports about 80 percent of its food consumption due to loss of arable land, as a result of desertification, recording a huge success rate.
A Nigerian company called Rewardn has a similar technology.
The Northern Nigeria Governors Forum should engage Rewardn and Desert Control to help them fight desertification in their region on a large scale with the innovations.
In Sahara Desert which is also facing the threat of desertification, Shimizu Construction Corporation has come up with a disruptive solution tagged “Desert Aqua Net Plan’’ which will irrigate the Sahara with a network of interconnected canals and sea water lakes. These 30km wide man made oases linked to the sea and each other, via long canals, will ameliorate and cool the scorching desert, provide a source of food and host resort like cities on artificial islands.
Nigeria should learn and explore partnerships with these entities to fight desertification in the northern part of the nation.