‘I went to bed hope­ful they would re­cover, but awoke to dead cat­tle’

Weekly Trust - - Weekend | Around & About -

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

Cont’d from Page 44

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