Gombe State is one of the frontline States affected by desertification, forest resource depletion, erosion, severe windstorms, flash floods, loss of soil nutrients, loss of biodiversity etc. These ecological problems which are linked to the global climate change and decades of environmental degradation, especially deforestation, are already having devastating consequences. Their huge economic and social impacts range from resource scarcity to decline in agricultural yield, poverty, population migration and conflicts.
The socioeconomic situation in the State has confounded the threat of desertification and climate change. Majority of the people are subsistence farmers, relying on land resources which are being overstretched due to expanding population and continuous cultivation without fallowing. Trees in forests and those outside forests are being felled wantonly for fuelwood and other uses. Marginal lands are increasingly being brought under cultivation which significantly alters the micro-climate, expose the soil to land degradation and deny important species their critical habitat.
As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted, the combination of climate change and unsustainable forest exploitation in drylands such as Gombe and neighbouring states could result into more extreme events and land degradation. These may in turn lead to potentially serious disruptions in economic growth, health hazards and livelihood crisis.
There is a general consensus that to mitigate climate change and land degradation, there is an urgent need to not only preserve existing forest resources but embark on massive reforestation. In addition to mitigating the negative impacts of climate change, forest resources are also believed to be of great significance to local environmental restoration, supporting rural livelihoods, and achieving food security.
To achieve an effective climate action, combat land degradation and support livelihoods, many countries and regional governments have introduced ambitious policies to reduce deforestation and restore degraded lands. In Nigeria, the Gombe Goes Green Project (3G) is one of such ambitious policies introduced by Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yahya in 2019. The project has set ambitious targets for conservation, restoration and reforestation. These targets include reducing the rate of deforestation in the State, restoring degraded lands through aggressive reforestation and supporting natural regeneration. The project seeks to achieve this by making a big promise of planting and nurturing at least four million trees in the next four years. Another important component of the project is providing direct jobs to about 27,000 individuals, mainly youth, who will be engaged in the planting and nurturing of trees.
This brief concept note draws on the lessons learned from the pilot scheme and the experience of similar schemes in other parts of the world to provide a comprehensive outline of how the 3G greening initiative can be implemented professionally and sustainable.
The first stage is to have the right policies in place. Already, the His Excellency, the Governor of Gombe State has made environmental sustainability a cornerstone of his administration’s development agenda. His government has recognised the greening project as a priority and mainstream it in its developmental plan. He has made a number of policy pronouncements and set ambitious targets for creating a sustainable environmental base for future development.
These include the introduction of the 3G project, personally embarking on a State wide tour to promote the project, canvassing the support of communities and stakeholders across he State to support environmental restoration, increasing budgetary spending on environmental protection, payment of counterpart funding to the World Bank assisted Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management (NEWMAP) project etc.
Restore degraded lands across the state to fight land degradation (desertification, erosion and decline in soil nutrient etc).
Restore and revive deforested and converted forests and woodlots through reforestation.
Afforestation: Planting new forests and woodlands.
Protecting existing vegetation is as important as planting new tree.
Establish production forests for timber production/concessions to NGOs and private forestry companies.
Encourage/incentivise communities to establish community woodlots.
Establish forests or green zones in cities and towns.
Restoring greenery in existing parks and establishing new parks.
Control/reduction in the rate of desert encroachment
Reduction in water and wind erosion
Improvements in nutrient cycling in soils, improvement in agricultural yields
Urban forestry – green zones in major towns in the State
Natural regeneration; by allowing for natural regeneration the cost of greening landscapes is substantially reduced.
|2||Restore biodiversity by reintroducing a broad range of indigenous tree species with emphasis on species facing extinction||
Identify species indigenous to the state/area that are facing extinction.
Source good quality seeds/seedlings for those species.
Plant and nurture those species in designated areas in the state.
Encourage communities, groups and individuals to participate in efforts to preserve those species.
Monitor progress of the implementation of 1,2&3.
Through restoration and natural regeneration, the natural composition of the ecosystem is maintained thereby safeguarding biodiversity.
Improve livelihood, promote sustainable development by growing exotic fruit-bearing trees that benefit local people.
With the support of stakeholders in various communities, identify indigenous and other viable fruit-bearing trees that can generate income to individuals and communities.
Encourage/incentivise communities and households to establish orchards.
Collaborate with relevant marketing and food processing industries to patronise local fruit farmers.
Monitor changes in individual and household incomes, attitudes towards fruit production.
Significant improvements in economic livelihoods in rural agrarian communities.
Mitigate/adapt to climate change by planting single fast-growing tree varieties.
Identify areas affected by extreme events such as flash floods, variation in rainfall patterns and climate-induced crop failure and extreme heat.
Determine the fastest growing species indigenous to the area.
Strategically establish shelterbelts to protect towns from windstorms, erosion and flash floods.
Monitor changes in the effects of the plantations.
Noticeable reduction in the destructive effects of extreme events such as windstorms, flash floods and erosion on communities.
Increased resilience of communities and agricultural production to the impacts of extreme weather events.
Increase societal awareness and understanding of human-induced ecological problems and solutions.
Embark of strategic stakeholder consultations across the State.
Provision of alternative energy
Improved environmental responsibility.
Reduction in environmental destruction
Increase in public compliance with environmental laws.