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Climate change: Sand, dust storms devastate communities in Yobe

Sand and dust storms have increased in intensity in most communities in Yobe North region, affecting roads, farmlands and even destroying houses. The phenomenon is…

Sand and dust storms have increased in intensity in most communities in Yobe North region, affecting roads, farmlands and even destroying houses. The phenomenon is also identified as one of the climate change impacts triggering renewed farmer-herder crises in the region.

Nigeria is estimated to be losing about 350,000 hectares of land to desert encroachment every year owing to climate change and human activities, this is according to the Nigerian Metrological Agency report in 2019.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has warned that sand and dust storm frequency is increasing in many world regions. Two billion tons of sand and dust, equal in weight to 350 Great Pyramids of Giza, enter the atmosphere every year; according to UNCCD experts who attribute over 25% of the problem to human activities.

The UN agency said the storms have wreaked havoc from Northern and Central Asia to sub-Saharan Africa, with “health impacts poorly understood.”

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Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Jigawa, Borno and Yobe are the most affected states in northern Nigeria where the storm has made life more difficult for the locals.

Yunusari, Yusufari, Geidam, Bade, Karasuwa, Machina, Bursari, and Tarmuwa are the worst-hit local governments in Yobe State.

Alhaji Maidala Zanna, the village head of Gremadi in Yusufari LGA of the state, said most of the roads to their villages have become inaccessible and only a few vehicles can be used to reach their settlement as a result of sand brought by storms which have increased their intensity in recent years.

‘‘Before I grew up some years back, there were some roads where vehicles were passing to our village but now these roads are inaccessible due to sand which occupied them.

‘‘The increase in sand storms is unprecedented. In previous years the sand occupied only 10 per cent of our farmlands, but now only 40 per cent could be planted; the remaining 60 per cent has been covered by desert sand.

‘‘Out of this 40 per cent, only 25 per cent is for planting crops while 15 per cent is for rearing animals but even this space that we leave for our livestock, some Fulani from Niger Republic have occupied it for their animals and we are forced to move to other areas in Yobe to search for grasses.

“Dust and sand storms have destroyed many houses in my domain as I’m talking to you the wall of my house has been destroyed for the third time, as a result of this disaster.

‘‘Some of my neighbours have moved to other areas in the town as a result of this storm because uncountable number of houses have been buried by sand as you can see,’’ Alhaji Maidala said.

Daily Trust observed that the sand and dust storms have exacerbated herdsmen and farmers’ clashes as competition for cropping and grazing areas has intensified often sparking crisis.

‘‘As a result of this tension, several clashes have been recorded in the last two months. A farmer’s hand was cut off by the Fulani who are coming from Niger Republic to search for grasses,” Maidala claimed.

‘‘They encroach on farmlands and the cattle eat up the crops resulting in the fight with farm owners,’’ he added

It was gathered that dry spells are being experienced in Yobe North region, which in turn has contributed to the severity of the storms with their devastating impacts on communities.

Mallam Abatcha Zanna, the village head of Dalari, told Daily Trust that several communities under five LGAs have been experiencing delays in rainfall which usually begins in June.

He said the delay is a matter of concern to residents, especially farmers, who rely so much on farming but now are battling pests on their farms as a result of lack of rainfall.

‘‘We don’t have trees in our area. Trees could serve as protective tools for our houses and farms from desert encroachment and dust storms. That’s why many people are living in hunger and poverty.

‘‘This year, most of our planted crops have been affected and we ended up with poor yields. When people in the eastern and southern parts of Yobe State are witnessing a lot of rainfall during the rainy season, we in the desert-prone areas of the state will witness sandstorms,” he said.

Commenting on the issue, Mallam Ahmed Abubakar, a climate change expert, said Yobe is one of the frontline states that are in the neighbourhood of the Niger Republic and the Sahara Desert that is coming as a result of the Northeast trade winds.

‘‘Yobe is one of the 11 states that are in the frontline/neighbourhood of Niger Republic and we know that after Niger Republic, the next place is the Sahara Desert.

‘‘The Northeast trade wind is a continental wind that blows from North Africa over the Sahara and across West Africa until they reach the Gulf of Guinea.

‘‘So any time the winds pass, around November up to March, we always have the problem of dust. Because the winds are very strong they blow and carry sand particles over the Sahara and transport them over all West African countries, including Nigeria.

‘‘That is why we are experiencing this harmattan, haze and dust particles all over our atmosphere.

‘‘The best solution to address this problem is to embark on massive planting of shelterbelts. That is why the federal government initiated this programme of the Great Green Wall. The programme aims to build a strong shield of trees across all the countries; it started in Djibouti and it would end in Senegal.

‘‘So if you can have that strong shelterbelt, it will serve as a shield, it will reduce the speed of that winds that blow from the Sahara and deposit it particles here,’’ he said.

Daily Trust can report that the Great Green Wall programme, which covers 11 frontline states, has failed to create much impact as locals are still left struggling for survival as the effects of climate change worsen.

And as the Conference of Parties (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, comes to a close, it remains to be seen if the Damage Fund established at the climate change summit will be disbursed to make a real impact in communities such as those in Yobe north and many others across Nigeria.

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