Billions invested yet Great Green Wall still wobbly | Dailytrust

Billions invested yet Great Green Wall still wobbly

  GGW windfan damaged by windstorm in Gambaki village
GGW windfan damaged by windstorm in Gambaki village

Recently, government ministers of 11 African countries and other stakeholders met to review the achievement on the Great Green Wall (GGW) project ahead of the 2030 report.

The report tagged: “Great Green Wall Implementation Status and Way Ahead to 2030,” was done at a virtual meeting.

In a statement released at the end of the meeting, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) said close to 20 million hectares was restored, over 350,000 jobs were created and around $90m in revenues was generated from 2007 to 2018 through GGW activities.

The restored area will sequester over 300 MtCO2 out to 2030 which would represent roughly 30 per cent of the envisioned target for GGW.

The report also showed that to reach the target restoration of 100 million hectares by 2030, the GGW countries need to restore, on average, 8.2 million hectares every year at an annual financial investment of $4.3bn.

The initiative will also aim to create 10 million jobs by that date.

The GGW initiative was conceived in 2007 in response to widespread land degradation and extreme poverty linked to recurrent and severe droughts in the Sahel.

The response designed the GGW initiative to restore degraded lands across a 15km wide and nearly 8,000km long area covering around 153 million hectares of the Sahel.

This is the intervention zone demarcated specifically under GGW.

Nigeria is one of the countries faced with rapid desert encroachment and loses of about 350,000 hectares every year with notable effects on the northern part of the country.

The impact has been more glaring over the years due to global warming and threatening many livelihoods.

This has led to demographic displacements in villages across 11 states in the North.

It is estimated that Nigeria loses about $5.1bn every year owing to rapid encroachment of drought and desert in most parts of the North.

Reports indicate that the problem which is obvious in the 11 frontline northern states has threatened the livelihoods of over 40 million Nigerians by destroying human settlements and led to migration thereby increasing rural poverty and social conflicts.

To address the challenge, the GGW project was implemented in the 11 frontline states of Adamawa, Borno, Kano, Jigawa, Gombe, Bauchi, Katsina, Zamfara, Kebbi, Sokoto and Yobe.

This is even as the National Agency for the Great Green Wall (NAGGW) was created to halt and reverse land degradation, prevent depletion of biological diversity, ensure that by 2025 ecosystems are resilient to climate change and continue to provide essential services that will contribute to human welfare and poverty eradication.

According to the national action plan for the implementation, the states are expected to make land available for the planting of the Nigeria component of the wall of trees.

The GGW is to cover about 1,500km long (East-West) and 2km wide (North-South) using both economic and forest tree species to be based on community-driven and integrated rural development approach as agreed for the Nigeria segment.

Abandoned GGW Skills Acquisation Centre in Chinade town in Bauchi State

Abandoned GGW Skills Acquisation Centre in Chinade town in Bauchi State

The project was officially flagged off by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 even though it had started running in the country two years before; which means it has been on for eight years.

Daily Trust’s review of the project in the 11 states showed that the wall of trees project in some of the states has been eroded and others with little success story despite the huge resources invested in it.

Bauchi

In Bauchi, a visit to the site showed that the project sites have been abandoned; paving way for hoodlums to vandalise the structures built at the initial stage of the programme.

Our correspondent who visited some of the communities including Gambaki, Dogon Daji, Bulkachuwa and Chinade in Katugum LGA observed that the project is currently in shambles; leaving the remains of the vandalised structures, solar power panels, wind fans, seedlings and economic trees at the mercy of hoodlums.

A completed edifice constructed as GGW skills acquisition centre in Chinade town has also been abandoned.

The Chairman of GGW Gambaki Community, Malam Adamu Alhaji Gambaki, told Daily Trust that the project initially covered two hectares in Gambaki village.

He said, “One is orchard for the plantating of seeds and seedlings and the other as nursery.”

Malam Gambaki said five forest guards were employed with community volunteers for the planting of the first seedlings, of which 1,500 seedlings were distributed to farmers.

He explained that, “They constructed a borehole, water troughs for livestock and brought some facilities for irrigation. After the pioneer project, the work stopped when the project came under a national agency.

“They also taught us the process of replanting the seedlings and promised to buy the seedlings from the selected farmers but when they came back they declined to do so and nobody remembered the project from the GGW office for monitoring or rehabilitation of the damaged facilities.

“All the facilities at the orchards in Gambaki have been abandoned since 2016 and the economic trees like cashew and mango have become public property.

“When the fruits are ripe, people enter the orchard and pluck them because the wire fence has been damaged.”

A GGW signpost

A GGW signpost

He further said, “We are appealing to the Federal Government to take urgent steps to revive the project so that the desired goal can be achieved.”

A farmer in Gambaki, Ayuba Muhammed, said, “We benefited from the GGW water project; getting drinking water, for irrigation and for livestock, but since windstorm damaged the wind fan that powered the borehole and the disappearance of GGW officials from the project, everything has come to a standstill.”

Auwal Alhaji, the Assistant Chairman of GGW Working Committee in Bulkachuwa, said the participating farmers and community members of GGW had abandoned the project for over three years because officials of “the agency also abandoned the scheme and deceived our people.”

Alhaji explained that another reason why the GGW project was abandoned was lack of commitment from the agency, especially payment of security guards manning the orchards.

Kano

The GGW project in Kano is being implemented across four LGAs with a length of about 50km with over three million seedlings nursed and distributed to farmers.

However, in Gidan Gabas of Minjibir LGA, community members accused the agency of excluding them from training for nurturing the wood plantation as part of effort to reforest the village and reduce desert encroachment and that as a result they that decided to boycott watering the plantation.

Malam Balarabe Mammam said members of the community were not engaged in the management of the plantation and that that was why they decided to boycott watering it.

Mamman said, “We were only told that we cannot cut the trees they have planted, but that we can cut others spread across our villages.”

In Dan Marke of Makoda LGA, one of the skills acquisition centres of the project was completed but has some of its equipment vandalised.

Our reporter learnt that boreholes were no more working after equipment were reported stolen. Also, the workers on ground complained of being owed seven months salaries.

Zamfara

In Zamfara, the project kick started with a 100km shelter belt from Zurmi extending to Shinkafi LGA along the Nigeria-Niger Republic border.

Daily Trust learnt that insecurity cropped up and scared away officials from sustaining the project.

“The official charged with the responsibility of supervising the project was shot dead by bandits right inside the forest when he went on supervision mission,” an official told our correspondent.

He said: “The site of the project is along the Niger-Nigeria border close to Gurbin Bore town in Zurmi LGA. Going there is very dangerous. The area has been taken over by bandits.

“Despite the challenges, progress has been made as trees of different species were planted.

“But going there to take care of them has become a very risky affair because of the activities of armed men in that forest.”

Katsina

The project in Katsina is being executed in the frontline local governments of Baure, Daura, Maiadua, Kaita, Mashi, Katsina, Jibia, Zango and Sandamu.

Daily Trust learnt that the programme has limitations hampering its smooth execution. With about three years into it, a total of 28km of the shelter belt starting from Gurbin Baure in Jibia LGA which connects with Zurmi in Zamfara was established.

However, the establishment of another 27km last year to cover Baure and Zango LGAs that will connect with the one established by Jigawa at Shabarun Jeke village in Sule Tankarkar LGA is said to have suffered severely due to insufficient funds.

Damage GGW facilities at Gambaki village

Damage GGW facilities at Gambaki village

The project is said to be facing challenges of failed boreholes, missing fences and signposts as a result of theft.

Daily Trust further gathered that the challenges were largely as a result of non-payment of allowances of forest guards which forced many to abandon the job.

This does not, however, mean that the project is a complete failure as there are some places that the project has survived, not without their own challenges though.

When our reporter visited one of the shelter belts at Tadi village in Mai’adua LGA, the belt was intact.

One kilometre was targeted and it has been covered with a belt of neem trees.

The trees have survived, the fence is in place and most of the surface tanks used for watering are there, with only one destroyed by wind, said a guard, Malam Rabe Tadi.

However, Malam Tadi who has survived many attacks by thieves, complained of not receiving any allowance for all the risky work he did to ensure the survival of the project.

On the contrary, at Bojo village Daura LGA, almost all the seedlings have dried up due to a failed borehole.

The Village Head of Bojo, Maigari Badamasi, said, “Our major benefit from this project was that solar-powered borehole, because we are suffering from water scarcity here. So, we benefitted much from it when it was good, but now you have seen the condition it is in.”

In other places, almost everything that will show that the GGW projects ever existed are gone.

Yobe

In Yobe, the programme commenced in 2013 in six border line LGAs: Geidam, Machina, Nguru, Karasuwa, Yusufari and Yunusari.

Ba,ari Modu, a community leader, said the project started some years back and that “we began to see its impact because several assorted seedlings were planted. If sustained, it would help in reducing the effects of climate change in our area.”

Our correspondent gathered that the project has not been implemented in some identified communities of Dajina and Fuchimaram in Geidam LGA due to insurgency.

Ali Bulama, one of the farmers engaged in the nursery site, said there were times the borehole had faults but would be fixed by the officials handling the project.

Bulama said, “You can see all the plants are in good shape, we nurture them and they germinated within a short period.”

The focal person of GGW who is also the director, forestry and wildlife, in the state’s ministry of environment, Garba Tahir, said a 50km shelter belt was planted and that a 43km has commenced for this year to provide shelter from wind and to protect soil from erosion because all the areas were considered desert prone areas.

Maiduguri

In Borno, the GGW desk officer at the Ministry of Environment, Mr. Ayuba Peter, said the programme commenced in 2013 with two selected areas in Abadam and Mobbar LGAs where neem, cashew and Gum Arabic seedlings were planted and fencing was made with guards watching over the shelter belt.

In 2014, orchards were created in additional areas and boreholes were dug for watering of plants while woven wire fences were installed.

“In 2015 insurgents destroyed the boreholes and removed the wire fences and we were forced to move to other locations,” he said.

GGW trees at Bulkachuwa

GGW trees at Bulkachuwa

But a famer in Mallam Fatori, Abadam LGA, Lawan Ali, said people were yet to see the impact of the project in terms of job creation.

NAGGW speaks

The Director General of NAGGW, Bukar Hassan, reacting to the issue of abandoned sites, said they did not abandon any site, but that every single project of the agency had a lifespan that they managed before they handed over.

Hassan said plantation of the wall of trees in the 11 frontline states was usually managed for three to four years after which the trees would have grown in such a way that little attention was required from them before they handed them over to the beneficiary communities.

“Now they take over management and utilise because the plantations are for their own good and use as well,” he said.

He, however, noted that the communities understood that the plantations should be left untouched but that their own livestock did not understand.

He admitted that vandalism had also affected the project and was still being carried out by members of the communities, adding that they not only cut down trees, but also vandalised the solar powered instruments for water and other facilities.

“We have instances where they go and tie our security men and then remove whatever they can remove, including solar borehole, which may be as far as 200m deep and take to where people are ready to buy; and these things are getting us in a difficult situation,” he explained.

On forest guards, he said it was their responsibility to protect the investment in the field and to provide livelihood for them, adding that paying them was difficult because the budget was so small in relation to the activities of the agency and that they were forced to lay them off, but that at the moment 513 forest guards were on the pay roll of the agency.

He explained that the reason some were not paid was because they failed to provide accurate bio data and account numbers.

“I can tell you up to now some of them don’t have an account for us to pay in; that’s one reason we’re not paying them.

There are some who give other persons’ account numbers and this is out of ignorance, and then we go to the bank and it doesn’t tally and that is the reason they have not been paid,” he said.

On funding, he said before the programme took off in 2013/14, President Goodluck Jonathan approved N10bn “but believe me if government had asked the Ministry of Environment then to give them a plan for a takeoff of this programme, it would have been more than N10bn.”

He maintained that people did not have information on how expensive the programme was.

“If we look at other countries and what they are doing, if they tell you the amount of money they spend, believe me you’ll be surprised.

We have N10bn working in 11 states, but N10bn lasted this agency up to 2018, from 2013 to 2018, how many agencies can survive for five years with that money?” he queried.

According to him, people do not know the details of what they go through in drilling boreholes in places where there is no service water for them to use in the dry season, but that 192 boreholes were created in over 100 communities were they were operating and that due to the insurgency and other issues, the agency kept replanting trees in places where they withered away.