It deals essentially in boreholes, desert-friendly stoves and solar energy. Three pieces of wood, of a palm size, is enough to cook a meal for a family of ten using the stove. My host explained to me that inspite of the usefulness of the stove in curbing the excessive use of firewood, it has been problematic importing them at affordable cost.
Each, he said, lands in Nigeria at N30, 000, which he rightly said is beyond the financial means of the intended beneficiaries. Consequently, he explained, they approached the appropriate federal authorities with a view to having the tariff reduced. No dice.
So, in the end, their partner NGO abroad had to subsidise them to the tune of N15, 000 per unit. And so, now each unit is being sold at N15, 000. An authority, whose people are being threatened by desert encroachment, would have taken the necessary steps to further reduce the cost.
Similar encouragement is not forthcoming in its efforts to spread the use of solar energy in Kaduna at a workshop where it trains a few young Nigerians in the area of solar energy system assemblage and all. They tried to get some few first ladies interested so as to widen its scope. That too has not been forthcoming, as relevant as it is and inspite of the constant mouthing of the need to reduce youth unemployment.
They have, in a neighbouring African country, a team of water engineers ready to come to Nigeria to dig boreholes at a minimal cost in our rural areas. So far, no government has come forward to partner with them.
These are all projects which could go a long way in reducing unemployment among the youths and by extension youths related violence, minimizing environmental degradation and its associated threats and above all curtailing possible drift towards Wase. Inspite of all these, no one is interested. It is very interesting that a foreign NGO has more interest in assisting our rural population cope with environmental issues than our authorities whose duty it is to do so. What does this tell us about the attitudes of our officials towards our rural people and the less to do in our society?
This neglect is also pronounced at the ward level. He narrated to me some experiences at two locations. Realising that the rural people cannot pay for the stove, at a go, it was decided that they pay instalmentally with, of course, a guarantee. In the villages, the village heads are the guarantors. In one of such villages, the village head ordered his ward heads to stand as guarantors for those members of their communities they trust would pay. Many came forward and did so. In another, the village head demanded for N200 bribe before he could stand guarantor for any one interested. As we know, there is no free N200 in the villages. It is money. This tells us how corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of our society. See how it denied a people the benefit of a service tool aimed at minimizing their hardships!
So much for that. Curbing desert encroachment is not about tree planting alone. It is just one essential aspect. There are several other relevant projects. Presently, our society is wood-energy based, and no amount of tree planting would do unless we move away from wood as the greatest source of energy in the rural and even urban centres.
We have enough coal to replace firewood. Then there is solar energy in which we need to invest heavily. Virtually all over Nigeria, rivers abound with some drying up due to lack of maintenance. It is the same with lakes. My host showed me a slide of Lake Chad, now just about 1/10 of its original size. In years to come, it would be no more and its dependants would have a lot of sad stories to tell. And we have been playing the usual politics with it! We are seeing danger staring us in the face and doing nothing to stop it. Same with rivers Niger and Benue, respectively. Indeed, except in the rainy season, Benue is no more, at least in places like Yola where I am very familiar with. You would not believe it, but it’s true. It has dried up.
These streams, rivers and lakes need to be dredged and maintained. River Jordan, inspite of its name, is a very small stream, probably of not more than ten to fifteen meters width, but it has been flowing since ages. Over it, Israel is ready to go to war, for its life depends on it. Ghadaby created the largest man made lake in the world. The Libya desert is now flourishing with green.
Thus, while others are maintaining their streams, rivers and lakes, we are neglecting ours. How sad. Somehow, we don’t seem to face the realities of our future and we must.
Environmental degradation is a dangerous reality. When next it causes massive population movement we may have no place to hide. So, now is the time to prepare, through afforestation, dredging of rivers and lakes, application of coal and solar energy etc. Nature has been warning us. We cannot continue ignoring it. Sure, no.