Combating desertification and droughts at a time like this: The role of women

By Abdulsalam Bukky

Staring into the new Nigeria few weeks after fuel subsidy removal, one could see vividly the shenanigans that had dogged the scope of subsidy on petroleum marketing in Nigeria.

The outcome of the removal has foisted a direct hit of inflation on every aspect of economic transactions in the country, but we are told it is for a while. However, this is a tangible reason for us as Nigerians to collectively combat desertification and droughts In our country and by extension, all over the world.

Lush Arena

Every June 17 is a day set aside to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification with the aim of achieving Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) through strong community involvement. So, this day is known as ‘ World   Day of Combating Desertification and Droughts’.

For this year, the global focus is on women’s land right- essential for achieving the interconnected global goals on gender equality and land degradation Neutrality by 2030 as well as advancing other Sustainable Developmental Goals, under the slogan: “Her Land, Her Right.”

This focus elicits some germane questions in me:  Could yearning for gender equality be a reality in the face of combating desertification and droughts?  Could it mean that women are not only managers of all that they are, but also managers of land?  How is a woman expected to manage an arid land to a fertile one?  Hum, I just hope this won’t be a finish line to the equality of gender.

Be it as it is , the important message from this year’s celebration is that investing in women’s equal access to land and related assets is a direct investment in their own future and the future of humanity.

Talking about desertification and droughts, drought is a period of drier-than-normal conditions. A drought can last for days, months or years. Drought often has large impacts on the ecosystems and agriculture of affected regions, and causes harm to the local economy.

Annual dry seasons in the tropics significantly increase the chances of a drought developing and subsequent wildfires. Periods of heat can significantly worsen drought conditions by hastening evaporation of water vapour.

While desertification is a type of Land degradation in dry lands, in which biological productivity is lost due to natural processes or induced by human activities whereby fertile areas become arid. (Wikipedia)  It is a process of land degradation in arid, semi – arid and sub -humid areas due to various factors including climate variation and human activities.

Reduction and sterilization of lands is a result of persistent fragile ecosystem due to man- made activities and variations in climate.  An ecosystem is a system consisting of biotic and abiotic components that function together as a unit.

The biotic components include all the living things whereas the abiotic components are the non-living things. Thus, every country is going through the process of desertification on their large pockets of lands as they increasingly become arid, losing their bodies of water as well as vegetation and wildlife.

Desertification is significantly caused by ecological and environmental pollution like overgrazing, deforestation, farming practices, excessive use of fertilizer and pesticide,  Overgrazing – when too many animals continue to graze in a particular spot, it makes it difficult for the plant to grow back , which  makes it lose its former green glory.

Deforestation is another contributive related problem to desertification, as a result of people’s need for trees or wood to make houses and do other tasks. Farming Practices – ineffective use of Land by some farmers May result into stripping the soil of its nutrients   before moving on to another plot of land, leaving the former deserted.

Excessive Use of fertilizers and pesticides which in the long run, turn an arable land to arid land. Overdrafting of ground water- that is excessive pulling up of ground water from underground aquifer. Its depletion causes desertification.

Urbanization and other Types of Land Development – As areas become more urbanised, there are fewer places for plants to grow, and development has caused people to go through and kill plant life, thereby causing desertification.

Climate changes – As the days get warmer and periods of droughts become more frequent.

Stripping the land of resources – If an area of land has natural resources like natural gas, oil or minerals, people will come and mine it, and as time goes on, this act will strip the soil of its nutrients and eventually kill the plant life.

Natural Disasters – Some lands had got damaged by natural disasters, including droughts. In such cases, people can only work on rehabilitating the land after the damage.

Soil Pollution and Over population. Desertification has negative impact on humanity and these include; Farming becomes next to impossible if an area turns desert, it will be impossible to grow substantial crops there without special technologies and lots of money expended. This result to farmers selling such lands and leave the desert area.

Decrease in Crop yields and making farmers lose their source of livelihood.

Hunger – Farm produce will become more scarce and animals will also go hungry, resulting into food shortage. Poor water quality – Plant life has a significant role in keeping the water clean and clear.

Over population- Migration of people and animals from desert areas to another area where they can thrive will lead to crowding and overpopulation.

Poverty is on the loose where desertification and droughts are not fought against. Endangerment and Extinction of species- Some species of plant and animals may die overtime and may even lead to their extinction.

The Ogun State Government in the course of the years, engaged Ogun State Populace on Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation, e.g Climate Smart Agriculture and Nature Based Solutions both in the University and Local Government Area.

Engaged in Climate Change and Nigeria Erosion and Water Management Project (NEWMAP).

Worked on Reducing Emission in Deforestation and Degradation (REDD)+ project. Served as a member of National Adaptation Plan Project under Federal Ministry of Environment which was facilitated by United Nations Environment Programme Ecosystem Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly Nigeria.

Facilitated Climate Smart Agriculture in Cassava Production and Processing with GIZ. In all of these the contribution of female gender in combating desertification and droughts cannot be overlooked.

It is amazing that the strength of women / female child is still recognized and appreciated in the Sustainable Developmental Goals, as they are more bitten harder by the effects of desertification and droughts as they disproportionately suffer from lack of food, water scarcity and free migration that result from mistreatment of lands.

The strength to resilient communities that keeps the world going, is identified and recommended as significant tools needed to keep our plants and animals life for growth and sustainability.

According to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Gutterres, unsustainable farming has eroded soil by 100 times faster than natural process can restore them. To achieve land sustainability, equal Land right for both male and female will protect land and advance gender equality by involving them in policy making

Lorena Aguiler who is an independent consultant for the UNCCD and former vice- minister of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica sheds light on the effects of DLDD   Desertification, Land degradation and droughts in women causing large impact on the environment and societies.

According to her, Women should be accorded the same inheritance rights as men both in laws and practices. Female surviving spouses and daughters should be granted same rights as their male equals to inherit land and non- land asset.

Women should be given recognition as farmers and forest managers so as instill in them the spirit of inclusiveness in decision making, spaces and access to credit, information and services. Practically, women should support and encourage drainage systems for free passage of water ,thereby curbing flooding on our lands which poses threat to plants and animals life.

Birth Control – Women can successfully combat desertification and droughts by reducing the number of children to give birth to, through any of the different birth control methods available in our medical centres. This will reduce over population and the number of animals grazing in a particular area , which adversely reduce environmental pollution that  destroys habitats and threat to plants life.

Kick against extraction of resources from lands which are accessible to farming while manufacturers search further for mining. Women should come up with methods of rehabilitating uncontrollable deserted lands caused by nature, from storage of water in the case of droughts to channeling of water to affected lands and financially supporting our men in the combat of desertification.

A woman must be ready to improve herself  and learn more on agriculture  and all it entails, so as to shun excess use of fertilizers and pesticides on farm lands.All women should embrace backyard farming no matter how educated  or exposed they are.

As a matter of fact, women should put in their best to boost agricultural yields in our countries. Let’s join hands in combating desertification and droughts.

Abdulsalam Bukky is Information Officer with Ogun State Ministry of Information

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