No less than 10 million tree seedlings were planted by state governments in the North-East region, to enhance afforestation and check desert encroachment in the last two years.
A survey shows that the trees were planted in Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe and Yobe states between 2019 and 2021.
The states are among the 11 desert prone areas alongside Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara states in the North-West.
Tree planting is a critical component of the National Afforestation Programme and the National Agency for Great Green Wall (NAGGW), designed to control desertification, erosion; and build a sustainable green environment.
To further boost the afforestation programme, the state governments also adopted proactive measures to check indiscriminate felling of trees and bush burning.
These measures were taken to also encourage development of alternative sources of energy to reduce dependence on wood for fuel.
According to documents from the Borno State Ministry of Environment, deforestation was more prevalent in the state due to the ravaging desert encroachment occasioned by decade-long insurgency and human activities.
To address the problem, the state government planted over one milion tree seedlings and outlawed logging in the 27 local government areas of the state.
Mr Kaka Shehu, the Commissioner, Ministry of Environment, said that 500,000 tree seedlings were planted in June 2021 at the Borno State University, Maiduguri.
Shehu said the state government also reintroduced a special team comprising forest guards, agro rangers and members of the Civilian Joint Task Force, to protect forests against bush burning and tree felling.
Alhaji Mohammed Dankoli, Permanent Secretary in the ministry, noted that the lingering insurgency in the area had adversely affected implementation of the afforestation programme in the state.
“Apart from disrupting tree planting campaigns, many displaced persons have resorted to logging for fuel wood as a means of livelihood.
“The ensuing battle between the state security forces and the insurgents also depleted thousands of hectres of forest resources.
“In 2020, we raised one million trees but could not plant all due to the insurgency,” Dankoli said.
Dr Usman Ali, Regional Director, African Climate Change Research Centre, said the private organisation was creating awareness on dangers of desertification and the need for massive tree planting in the communities.
Ali said the organisation had planted about 3,000 trees and planned to plant 10,000 economic trees such as Neem and Gum Arabic in rural communities across the state.
“Gum Arabic and Neem trees are part of the seedlings we are planting in view of its capacity to survive arid conditions.
“We are also talking with local government councils in northern Borno on how to sustain the trees,” he said.
Similarly, Yobe State Government said it has planted over three million tree seedlings in the last two years.
Alhaji Sidi Karasuwa, Commissioner for Environment, said tree seedlings such as Gum Arabic and date palm were planted in various communities under the Climate Change Action Plan.
Karasuwa said the trees were planted in Damaturu, Bayamari, Geidam, Gashua and Potiskum towns and were aimed at increasing vegetation, control desertification and erosion.
According to him, the government will plant about 20 million trees across the state under the programme in the next four years.
Karasuwa said the target was to plant five million assorted trees annually, lamenting that illegal tree felling was one of the major causes of ecological problems in the state.
The commissioner said the state was working with relevant security agencies to stamp out logging, so as to save the environment from imminent destruction.
He reiterated the state government’s commitment to the successful implementation of the NAGGW project and African Land Scale Restoration Initiative to mitigate effects of climate change.
In Jigawa State, the government planted 2.5 million trees in 2020, according to the spokesperson of the state’s Ministry of Environment, Mr Zubairu Sulaiman.
Sulaiman said that tree seedlings were distributed free to the residents to plant in their farmlands and homes, while many trees were planted by roads, hospitals, schools, offices, and other strategic locations across the state.
He said the state government had banned tree felling to combat desertification, warning that defaulters would be prosecuted.
On its own part, the Gombe State Government said it has planted over 1.2 million trees under the “Gombe Goes Green (3G)” project in an effort to combat desertification.
Mr Inuwa Ahmed, Director Forestry, Ministry of Environment and Forest Resources, said the measure was part of proactive steps to tackle deforestation through tree planting initiatives as well as review of environmental and forestry laws.
“Under the 3G programme, in one year, we planted 1.2 million trees and this year, we are yet to start planting.
“We plan to plant over 1.2 million trees in July, for desert control, and road side beautification of the entire state. When the rainfall is established by July, we will start planting,” Ahmed said.
He expressed concern over indiscriminate felling of trees which depleted forest resources in the state.
“Our forest reserves are porous as people could enter and cut down trees. Effective measures have been put in place to address that and also review our laws to ensure survival of the trees.
“We are also collaborating with traditional rulers to help us check such activities,” Ahmed said.
While calling on the people of the state to shun acts capable of undermining environmental health, the director urged farmers to plant more trees.
Dukku, Funakaye, Nafada and Kwami local government areas are some of the desert-prone areas in Gombe State.
In Adamawa, about 259,000 assorted trees were planted in the state under the NAGGW project.
Mr Pius Ekomki, the NAGGW’s Field Officer, said that 108 hectres of woodlot were also established under the Federal Government’s afforestation programme in the state.
Ekomki said the agency also established five community plant nurseries and distributed 151 solar home systems to enhance production of tree seedlings and encourage afforestation in the society.
He said the Agency had trained 30 women and youths on tailoring, soap and perfume making and knitting among others, to provide them with alternative means of livelihood and discourage tree felling.
According to Ekomki, the agency is currently nursing 180,000 seedlings of 14 indigenous tree species for planting during the 2021 tree planting programme.
He attributed the low pace of implementation of the afforestation programme to the alleged low commitment by the state government and activities of loggers in the state.
On her part, Mrs Serah Gundiri, Director Forestry, Adamawa State Ministry of Environment, said the state government had evolved effective modalities to protect forest resources in the state.
Gundiri said government had banned felling of live trees and use of chainsaw by wood cutters, to stem the negative effects of deforestation on livelihoods and the eco-system.
She stressed the need for development organisations to support government towards creating awareness to encourage use of Liquified Natural Gas and stoves as well as green energy sources in the society.
“The rate of tree felling, bush burning and improper use of chemicals is quite alarming in the state,” Gundiri said.
In a renewed effort to accelerate afforestation programme, the Bauchi State House of Assembly had passed the Tree Planting, Conservation Bill 2020.
The Bill seeks to safeguard and preserve the vast forest resources in the state as well as enhance its management to meet the needs of the society and preserve the eco-system.
Also, a Bauchi9based environmentalist, Mr Rabiu Usman, described deforestation as one of the serious environmental challenges in the state.
Usman, who is also the Assistant Director, Conservation, Bauchi State Environmental Protection Agency, identified activities of loggers as the major bane of effective afforestation in the state.
He said the state government through the agency had adopted practical measures to check the menace and protect forest resources.
Usman said the agency had seized 1,000 bags of charcoal as part of campaign against tree felling.
“Charcoal business is thriving in the state, trees and plants that serve as agents for production of oxygen are greatly affected and are not replaced.
“Trees that served as protection during rain or windstorm are extinct because of the activities of loggers producing charcoal.
“In the past few years; windstorm hit the state and caused serious damage to the environment, a lot of trees cut were not replaced.
“The trend resulted to the loss of lives and properties,” he said.
Mr Abdul Ahmad, a resident of Burra community in Ningi Local Government Area, said that residents of the area had embarked on campaign agaisnt tree felling to address the menace.
Ahmad said destruction of the Burra forest by loggers propelled desert encroachment in the area, adding that such illegal activity was harmful to the environment.
The Bauchi Green Project, in collaboration with the Bauchi State Ministry for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, planted 40,000 tree seedlings in schools across the state.
In the same vein, government also planted 5,000 trees at Sabon Kaura, a suburb of Bauchi metropolis, while the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, planted over 200 trees at the Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa College of Education, Kangere.
Furthermore, Dr Salami Kaseem, Department of Forestry and Wildlife, Federal University, Dutse, Jigawa, noted that indiscriminate felling of trees was dangerous to the environment.
“Trees are cut down to be used or sold as fuel, sometimes in the form of charcoal or firewood, and sometimes trees are cut to clear land for farming, livestock, plantations or settlements.
“Removal of trees without practical reforestation plans results in damage to the habitat, biodiversity loss and aridity.
“Deforestation for whatever reason is counter-productive, it can reinforce existing environmental problems such as global warming.
“Apart from this, take into consideration the number of animals that live in trees or use their fruits as food.
“Trees happen to have many advantages. And they also provide lot of shade from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, while maintaining the ecosystem,” Kaseem explained.
According to him, trees also help perpetuate the water cycle by returning water vapor back into the atmosphere.
Kaseem said that without trees to perform these roles, many former forest lands could quickly become barren deserts.
He added that the disruption could lead to more extreme temperature which could be harmful to plants and animals.
“Trees also play a role in absorbing greenhouse gases that fuel global warming.
“And this means that fewer forests mean larger amounts of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere, as such this increases the speed and severity of global warming,” Kaseem said.
He therefore urged government at all levels to find durable solutions to the menace of deforestation by curbing indiscriminate felling of trees across the country.
By Razak Owolabi