By Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
An Abuja based water and disaster management expert, Dr. Joachim Ezeji, has proffered solution to the rising conflict between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria, which he attributed to poor water management practices across the country.
Ezeji in a statement yesterday, stressed that ‘’where economic growth is impacted by rainfall, episodes of droughts and floods have generated waves of migration and statistical spikes in violence within countries’’.
He argued that in a globalised and connected world, such problems were impossible to quarantine, adding that “where large inequities prevail, people move from zones of poverty to regions of prosperity which can lead to increased social tensions as is currently the case with herdsmen from the north moving southwards’’.
“I can attribute the root cause of the conflict to the current water management practices in Nigeria, which in my informed judgement is not robust enough to cope with the impacts of climate change, especially water supply reliability, flood risk, health, agriculture, energy and aquatic ecosystems,” he stated.
According to Ezeji, ‘‘in many parts of Nigeria, water management cannot satisfactorily cope even with current climate variability, so that large flood and drought damages occur”.
As a first step therefore he suggests that the Federal Ministry of Water Resources (FMWR) and its agencies such as the River Basins, should embrace the incorporation of improved information about current climate variability into water –related management because it would assist adaptation to longer-term climate change impacts.”
He said that water was a key element of a country’s security and could be the largest impediment to its development, thus positing that water shortage and droughts were the main constraints for regional development especially for Northern Nigeria, noting that the river discharge in the middle reaches of the Niger River as well as Lake Chad had continuously declined over the last five decades, and that this is mainly due to land use and climate change.
Ezeji further attributed land degradation in Northern Nigeria to low vegetation coverage and long-term intense agricultural activities.
To improve environmental quality and health and increase vegetation coverage, he suggested that the Nigerian government should initiate restoration programmes.
The development expert argued that such restoration programmes, must employ a nexus approach to the management of water and soil.
The nexus perspective according to him must emphasis the inter-dependencies of environmental resources and their transitions and fluxes across spatial scales and between compartments. The goal is to overcome one-sided sectoral thinking and sector-biased planning, management and implementation.
“Such programmes should focus on two main measures to stabilise soil and enhance land cover — reforestation on wasteland and converting unproductive steep slope lands into woodlands as was done in North West China in the late 1990s. The China programme was some of the largest ecological restoration and rural development projects in the world.”
In addition to vegetative changes, Ezeji, who is also a specialist in Coupled Socio-Ecology models, suggested that the FG should apply structural and engineering measures to increase crop yields. He added that “sloping farmland should be levelled to terraces, as these can effectively intercept surface water and store it in soil to be used by growing crops. Building sediment-trapping dams is another favoured measure”.
He noted that such dams are considered a “win–win” solution, as it can trap upland sediment and reduce the amount of sediment entering a river while simultaneously creating fertile arable land for agriculture when a dam is filled.
Ezeji, further posited that vegetation restoration has the potential of significantly improving the hydraulic properties of soil that are responsible for water’s movement through it.
‘‘Compared to generally accepted afforestation, grassland is more capable of enabling water infiltration and mobility. Tree growth can change the properties of soil in a way that inhibits water from moving through it, while grassland can provide a stable soil macrospore system that enhances water mobility,” he said.