Statement by Mr. John Odey, Minister of Environment at the Validation Workshop to Combat Desertification



It is my pleasure to be with you at the opening of this important workshop to combat desertification (SRAP). I also welcome all of you our brothers and sister to Nigeria. Your presence here is a manifestation of our collective desire to unite to fight a common environmental challenge facing us.

2. Today, desertification exacerbated by climate change, represents one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time. In West African Sub – Region, the most critical consequence of the challenge in the affected areas is the progressive decline or sometimes complete loss of the productive capacities of natural resources upon which the majority of the population depends for their livelihoods.

3. In spite of the grave and worsening situations associated with desertification, the population of the affected areas is on the increase, while economic activities and food security are on the decline. The problems associated with desertification in this sub – region have continued to constitute bottlenecks in achieving full developmental objectives. As leaders saddled with the responsibility of ensuring sustainable development, we must stop lamenting the challenges and exploit the numerous options available to turn the challenges to gains. We believe these will be critical for job creation, income generation and food security.

4. As the effects of both climate change and desertification are being felt in the entire African continent, particularly by the poor and vulnerable groups, revolutionary adaptation solutions are urgently needed. The key solution lies in shifting towards a green economy, sustainable agricultural practices, afforestation and reforestation, agro-forestry and promotion of environmental friendly and affordable energy technology. These can be best achieved through International cooperation in the sub-region within the spectrum of the Sub – Regional Action Program (SRAP), because SRAP identifies all the key thematic areas which constitute the basis of sustainable development in our dry-lands.

5. Distinguished Personages, we must follow up on our international cooperation with building an effective action at the communities by supporting people’s livelihood, through building of adaptation measures. Programs and projects aimed at improving the quality of the environment and livelihood of the people must be designed and implemented within the framework of an internally self-sustaining, conservation-oriented and participatory rural development strategy. Only through the active participation of the communities can SRAP be meaningfully implemented.

6. Here in Nigeria, we have been taking tremendous strides towards tackling desertification challenges. In the year 2000, the Department of Drought and Desertification Amelioration was created to serve as focal point for the implementation of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and coordinate all activities for drought and desertification management in the country. Also in the same year, the National Action Plan to combat desertification (NAP) for Nigeria was developed in line with the SRAP and the tenets of the Convention. The Action Plan is currently undergoing review to align it with the UNCCD 10 year Strategic Plan and Framework. A number of community based projects and programs have been evolved and implemented to combat desertification and improve the livelihood of the affected communities. Some of these projects include oasis rehabilitation, sand dune fixation, model village development program, rangeland establishment, development of community woodlots, windbreaks and shelterbelts.

7. In view of the persistent threat of desertification in Nigeria and its potential to stunt our socio – economic growth, the Presidential Initiative on Afforestation and Desertification was inaugurated in 2009. The Initiative is a special intervention program to address the problems of depleting forest resources and the twin problems of desertification and drought. It is also intended to combat the negative impacts of climate change. The program consist of planting of 40million trees annually across the various eco-climate zones of the country.

8. Mr. Chairman, you may recall that the Great Green Wall Sahara program was initiated by African Union (AU) in 2005 as a strategy to combat desertification and land degradation. The overall objective of the program is to mobilize all relevant actors to address desertification and environmental degradation through inter – related and coordinated set of natural resource management activities, and within the broader context of improving the livelihood of communities in the Sahel – Sahara zones.

9. In order to realize the laudable objectives of the Great Green Wall Program, the Summit of Heads of States and Government held in N’Djamena on 17th June 2010 on the Great Green Wall established a Pan-African Agency for the Program. The Agency is a regional organ of the program with the responsibility of supervising the implementation of the program in all the 11 member states. A convention has been put in place for member states to sign and ratify. I am pleased to inform you that Nigeria is one of the 10 countries that have signed the Convention and established a Cabinet council chaired by the Vice President, as National Organ for the implementation of the Nigerian component of the Great Green Wall.

10. Distinguished Personages, addressing desertification is critical and essential for us to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) successfully. Viable alternatives must be provided to people in the dry-lands to maintain their livelihood through positive greening of their Environment. These alternatives should be embedded in our national strategies to reduce poverty. This workshop is however a further step to achieving this goal and I urge us to remove any barrier among us and work hand in hand to save our environment, which is the basis of our survival

11. Thank you and I wish you fruitful deliberations.

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