The Great Green Wall Can Revive Rural Economy and Improve Security In Northern Nigeria

By Abdullahi Murtala and Fakhrriyyah Hashim

Nomadic Herders Northeast Nigeria, Photo via Brenda Uji

The historic Sand Red 14th century Kano City Walls were built to protect the city of Kano against its adversaries just as the Great Green wall in Northern Nigeria is designed to protect the region against desert encroachment and desertification.

The Great Green Wall

The Great Green Wall programme involves the establishment of a greenbelt stretching from the Northwest to the far north of Northeastern Nigeria. Millions of drought-resistant tree seedlings are expected to be planted in communities using a flexible mosaic Greenland concept.

The Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel was launched in 2007 as a pan African and Sahelian game-changing initiative to serve as a defensive shield against the invading Sahara desert. Its aim, to restore degraded landscapes and in the process transform millions of lives in one of the world’s poorest region.

Once completed, the 8000km wall from Senegal in West Africa to Djibouti in East Africa will be one of the largest living human wonder and structure on the planet.

It will boost food security and resilience to climate change whilst creating jobs for the many communities who live along its trail. In the process, it will address many urgent threats that plague the region-notably land degradation, drought, resource, deteriorating rural economy, conflict and climate migration.

In Nigeria, the Great Green wall programme, which began in Bachaka in Kebbi State isn’t only about afforestation, reforestation or establishment of a green wall of trees but a planned action towards  improving rural livelihoods and rural development, climate change resilience and adaptation in the eleven desertification and desert encroachment frontline states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara.

Inhabitants of the communities in these states are among the poorest and most vulnerable to climatic variability.

Once arable land is no longer fertile and only sand lies where trees and water source used to flow while forage for cattle to graze has become increasingly scarce giving rise to trends exacerbating fragility and conflicts.

With seasonal pastoralist migration becoming more permanent, coupled with other social stressors, incidents of violence between pastoralists and farmers have increased tremendously.

According to a report released by the International Crisis Group in July 2018, the violence between Nigerian farmers and herders killed at least 1,300 people in the first half of 2018 – “about six times more civilian lives than the Boko Haram insurgency”.

Gender Security 

Women and girls are the most vulnerable group in conflict-ridden areas due to their susceptibility to sexual and gender-based violence. The prevalence of the farmer-herder crisis has resulted in an onslaught of family breadwinners, which are mainly men in the Sahel due to cultural dynamics.

In the Northwest, women and girls are deliberately targeted and abused in the ongoing violence and lawlessness plaguing the region with roots in social grievances and hostilities – resource conflict between farmers and herders.

The loss of income and livelihood from mounting impacts of resource scarcity and conflict in the absence of their male relatives killed in the conflict puts women and girls at the risk of sexual and economic predation. Access to girl child education is heavily impacted which contributes to a greater cycle of poverty contributing to long term factors that impede development.

Furthermore, lack of inclusion imposes an economic and social disenfranchisement of women and girls posing lasting effects of conflict due to weak post-conflict resolution, peacebuilding reconstruction and rehabilitation support.

Peace and Development through the Great Green Wall 

The Great Green Wall includes a framework for livelihood support projects, shelterbelts, provision of enhanced wood stoves, fabricated and distributed to communities. The provision of alternative domestic energy through solar, wind and biogas micro plants, that will help sustain the project, provide clean water for human consumption, livestock and farming.

Restoring woodland and shrub-land through ecological restoration will contribute major gains to the ecosystem; climate regulation, carbon sequestration, forest resources, pollination, hydrological and nutrient cycles, as vegetation cover is important for reducing surface flows of water and improving infiltration of water and water storage in the soil.

The planting of economically important trees such as Gum Arabic, Baobab for the restoration of degraded land will be encouraged in places like Bauchi, Jigawa and Sokoto states. Gum arabic is used as a binder in sweets, sodas, medicines and can be profitable for rural communities and government. In 2016, Nigeria generated a revenue of $43 million from exporting Gum Arabic.

The Great Green Wall can be a vehicle for stability revamping of rural economy and improving the standard of living through embedded social, economic, education, and development projects such as healthcare centres, vocational and technical schools and roads.

The Great Green Wall faces major challenges that continue to affect the effectiveness of the project, they include vandalism of facilities, funding, lack of community engagement and participation. Others include a lack of strategic vision and expertise for state Governments to utilise land restoration for peace and development.

The success of the great green wall is heavily dependent on the level of support from the State Governments of affected states and ownership of the project by local communities, which is only achievable through improved engagement with communities, use of local language, culture and historical resources and knowledge to improve local resilience to climate change, participation and acceptability of the green wall project.

Fakhrriyyah Hashim is a social and community development advocate in Nigeria.

Murtala Abdullahi is a climate and security reporter and Analyst.

The article was first published in May 2019. 

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