‘I went to bed hopeful they would recover, but awoke to dead cattle’
a common denominator connects them.
Grazing grounds and natural water bodies have been dried up and degraded by drought and desertification. Also, growing populations, infrastructure expansion and land acquisition by large scale farmers are obstructing grazing routes. Insurgency and cattle rustling are other factors that have contributed to the forced exodus of herders and farmers to other parts of the country.
As at 1960, Nigeria had 415 grazing reserves, which were established by the northern regional government with only 114 formally documented or demarcated. There is no legislative backing to these agreements to guarantee their exclusive use or any preventive measures against encroachment.
An earlier visit to Paikon Kore, a community of about 2, 000 inhabitants in Gwagwalada Area Council of the FCT, revealed that its only natural water source, River Iku, is in the path of one of these reserves.
Children playing, women doing laundry and dishes, as commercial motorcycle riders wash their bikes in the water, cause ripples that slap the riverbank, taking some of the cow dung back into the already dung coloured and infested water.
Women and children in this community, have a history of suffering from schistosomiasis also called snail fever or bilharzia, an illness which affects their urinary tract, liver and other organs causing them to have bloody stool and urine among other manifestations.
The World Health Organization considers the disease which is spread by contact with fresh water contaminated by parasitic flatworms - schistosomes - to be the second-most socioeconomically devastating parasitic disease, after that malaria.
Organization considers the disease which is spread by contact with fresh water contaminated by parasitic flatworms - schistosomes - to be the second-most socioeconomically devastating parasitic disease, after malaria.
Abubakar said drought and the receding Lake Chad - which they once relied on for their survival and that of their herds - have displaced thousands of farmers and herders like him in the Northeast for over 20 years.
Lake Chad is located west of Chad and Nigeria’s Northeast. It used to be Africa’s largest water reservoir in the Sahel region, covering an area of about 26,000 square kilometres.
The natural endowment, in its hay days, was one of the most important agricultural heritage sites in the world, providing lifeline to nearly 30 million people in four countries - Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroun.
A study by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, working with NASA’s Earth Observing System program, revealed that the lake is now 1/20th the size it was 35 years ago.
They attribute the dramatic shrink to climate change and human demand for water. The region, which has suffered from an increasingly dry climate has also suffered a significant decline in rainfall since the early 1960s.
Worried by the development, governments of the affected Borno and Yobe states, and the federal government in collaboration with the European Union (EU), embarked on some interventions.
In 1990, they established the North Arid Zone Development Programme headquartered in Garin Alkali, Bade Local Government Area of Yobe State.
The aim was to promote and assist the rural populace in the proper use of their 22,860 sq km water resources.
They were successful with small irrigation packages, animal fattening programmes, small ruminant breeding, sand dunes fixation, shelterbelt, village protection, conservation of rainwater at strategic places for livestock rearing and distribution of seedlings in the affected communities. But the EU withdrew its support in 1995 and the federal government in 2006.
This posed great challenge towards the sustenance of the programme because only skeletal East services were being offered.
As scientists predict an increase in people displacement, Prof. David Okali, board chairman of the Nigerian Environmental Study Action Team, said people being sufficiently aware of the issues and the provocative factors, will put them in a position to address it.
Practicing what he preaches, Okali and his team embarked on a five-year community awareness project on climate change in 15 communities across Nigeria’s economic zone. The outcome of this project is being used by the Ministry of Agriculture, which built on it to prepare resilient urban agricultural projects.
While all this is going on, the conditions continue to draw the likes of Abubakar and Alheri into a field of conflict as they each struggle to survive and save what is most important to them.
Women and children fleeing by boat after the Epogi clash