Desertification: Returning IDPs to their North-East homes could trigger fresh conflicts – Expert

FILE PHOTO: A cross-section of internally displaced persons
FILE PHOTO: A cross-section of internally displaced persons

Allowing internally displaced persons, IDPs, to return to their homes without tackling desertification in Northeast Nigeria would trigger fresh crisis, an environmentalist, Charles Reith, has said.

Mr. Reith, a professor of environmental sciences with the American University of Nigeria, AUN, Yola, Adamawa State, said desertification had reduced the quality of life in the insurgency-ravaged zone for generations.

The university teacher spoke with PREMIUM TIMES in an exclusive interview on Friday.

Hundreds of hectares of farmlands and grazing rangelands in the zone have been windswept into barren expanse of dust and sand, he said.

Citing sociological studies, Mr. Reith explained that climate change, desertification, and resource scarcity were important drivers of conflict and violence.

“One can easily conclude that returning the IDPs to Northwestern Nigeria without addressing desertification is simply setting the stage for continued conflict, both by terrorists and between herders and farmers,” he said.

Quoting Albert Einstein, Mr. Reith said it was crazy for authorities to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results.

“There’s a solution,” Mr. Reith, however said.

“Agro-forestry can push pack desertification. Landscapes of fruit-bearing trees and interspersed crops will restore the soil, provide year-round food, and create products to sell for income,” he explained.

“Sophisticated herding strategies will emulate the restorative influence of wildebeest on the Serengeti, transforming our encroaching desert into the savannah it was before.”

Returning IDP farmers must be taught that rain-fed row cropping exposes the soil to wind and water erosion, he advised, saying that was why yields were dropping ten percent per year.

He advocated training for herders to enable them to understand the damage caused by cattle to the range when they idle about, eating only the palatable grasses before moving on.

Mr. Reith argued that managed rotational grazing produces more food, builds healthier land, and obviates the need to forcibly invade farms for fodder.

“To abate desertification and preempt future conflicts, Nigeria need only convene experts from other African countries who have effectively transformed farming and herding into agents of de-desertification,” he said.

“We can learn from them and train our people. Once we do that, we can send the IDPs home with confidence that they will henceforth enjoy healthier lives and freedom from future conflict.”

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