Desertification exacerbates declining agricultural productivity, food insecurity, and poverty challenges in northern Nigeria. Desertification results in soil erosion, loss of soil nutrients, and low retention of soil water, which slows down plant growth and leads to a decline in the productivity of agricultural lands. Desertification is the process of degradation of drylands, such that they become progressively less suitable to support human populations. Specifically, it is defined by the UNCDD as “the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas. It is a gradual process of soil productivity loss and the thinning out of the vegetative cover because of human activities and climatic variations, such as prolonged droughts and floods.” Other characteristics include a rise in the reflective capacity (albedo) of the surface for solar radiation, a considerable and permanent loss of perennial plants, especially woody shrubs and trees, increased soil erosion and impoverishment by wind, gully, and sheet erosion of soils by occasional heavy rainfalls.
The Government of Nigeria has established several initiatives in the agricultural sector to combat desertification including afforestation and reforestation programs, dissemination of proven agricultural technologies and sustainable agricultural practices, implementing water management projects such as dams to give sufficient water for users, including livestock, and promotion of efficient energy sources.
Several efforts to stop and reverse desertification are complicated by the need to feed a rapidly increasing population in a region where natural resources are dwindling, and over 90 percent of national food production depends on smallholder farmers who lack the capacity to increase food production without degrading land. The two main causes of desertification and drought are direct human activities and physical factors such as climate change.
Although, many of these efforts initiated by the Government have yielded significant results, and several under the Great Green Wall Sahel-wide initiative of the African Union, there is still a need to create a large scale sustainable natural resources management initiative to address land degradation which has led to drought, desertification, drought and scale-up cost-effective land restoration practices. Thus, the Federal Government of Nigeria has now requested the assistance of the World Bank in addressing this problem of desertification and drought in northern Nigeria.
In light of the foregoing, the Federal Government of Nigeria has, with the support of the World Bank, commenced the implementation of a large-scale investment operation, the Agro-Climatic Resilience in Semi-Arid Landscapes (ACReSAL). This multi-sector project aims to help develop a more integrated, spatial approach to build community resilience as well as improve the sustainable productivity of its natural resources.
The national commitment is evidenced by Nigeria’s intention to restore 4 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 as part of the AFR100 Initiative and the Bonn Challenge. To that effect, a target of 1 million hectares has been set as target for restoration at the end of the ACReSAL project in 2028. This will assist in minimizing the ugly incidences of herders-farmers conflicts. ACReSAL interventions will improve land use planning and help a wide range of communities adapt to evolving dryland conditions with an end target of 3.4 million direct project beneficiaries