By Muhammad Auwal Ibrahim
Not less than 2.7 million trees, including exotic trees and fruit-bearing trees, have been planted in 20 hectares of woodlot in almost all local government areas in Gombe State (both in forests and across urban areas and in orchards and nurseries), says Idi Ubale, Head, Media, and Publicity, Gombe State.
In Nigeria, one of the major oil-producing countries in the world, even before the current global energy crisis caused by the Russian/Ukraine war, 70% of people relied on firewood for their daily cooking. Much of this wood is sourced from illegal logging and reports show that this has resulted in the loss of forest cover in Nigeria.
According to Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya, the governor of Gombe State, between 65 and 96 percent of the entire forest cover has already been lost including exotic indigenous trees and animal species. In Gombe, over 200 gully erosion sites have caused people to go homeless, lose farms, and had an overall detrimental effect on the livelihoods of people in the state.
Reforestation has proven to be a solution in many parts of the world, Mongabay times can report. “While mitigating climate change is the chief driver of many tree-planting initiatives, these projects often have other environmental goals, too, like regulating water cycles, halting soil erosion and desertification, and restoring wildlife habitat. They also often have socio-economic goals, like alleviating poverty and enhancing local communities’ health and livelihoods,” the report reads.
This has led the State to initiate the Gombe Goes Green (3G), a project mandated to reclaim the environment through tree planting campaigns across the state to arrest the situation.
How Gombe Goes Green
During separate visits to 3G’s office in the Gombe metropolis, staff can either be found constructing tree protectors or watering seedlings in nylon bags. There, Idi Ubale, Head, Media, and Publicity, Gombe Goes Green Project takes this reporter through their activities.
This project purchases seedlings and raises them in nurseries in collaboration with Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP). After raising the seedlings, the plantation exercise is next. This is done with the support of the staff of the ministry of environment. The project ensures the survival of trees through the allocation of staff daily to go around and water them, using tankers and specially tricycle water tanks.
For Zainab Ibrahim, a resident of Gombe State, “The devastating effect of deforestation across the country was largely due to indiscriminate logging, and urban development which has resulted in a surge in desert encroachment and worthy of note, gully erosion.”
“The trees have had an impact on, primarily, the production of clean air, then combating desertification, soil nutrients, and providing cool shade,” Ibrahim added.
Last year, almost all 36 states of the federation witnessed devastating floods which claimed lives, submerged houses, and washed away farmlands.
According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the 2022 flood was the worst natural disaster in the history of Nigeria. The flood left a total of 612 persons dead; 3,219,780 persons affected; 1,427,370 persons displaced and 2,776 others who sustained varying degrees of injuries.
Fortunately, this was coming after the launch of the Gombe state government’s Gombe Goes Green (3G) project which is aimed at planting four million trees in four years. The State is already feeling the difference since launching this campaign on 28 August 2019.
During last year’s flooding, Gombe state is one the states with the least number of death casualties.
Data obtained from The ICIR shows that Gombe state accounted for only 13 deaths out of over 600 lives lost in Nigeria during the floods. In addition, only 500 residents were displaced. This puts Gombe State as one of the least affected states during the Nigeria floods.
Not without a setback
The project, at first, has also had an economic impact by creating employment opportunities. About 27, 000 jobs were created in 2019, but their appointments were later terminated due to lack of funds.
“Therefore, 12 permanent casual staff were employed based on a mandate. They are paid allowances together with other state government workers. This follows the provision of two utility vehicles, a water tank, and 10 specially designed tricycles by the state government.” Mr. Ubale added.
According to him, these 12 staff ride the above-mentioned vehicles to water the plantations.
Another challenge facing this project, according to the Gombe Goes Green project implementation office is “cases of arson on some of our roadside plantations. We also had cases of vandalization and theft of tree protectors.”
“The government is spending a lot of money raising the seedlings, planting the trees, protecting them, caring for them, and tendering them. It is therefore unfortunate that some people are trying to sabotage this laudable initiative.” Muazu Shehu.
Afforestation campaign is crucial, says expert
Ibrahim Muhammad Shamsuddin, the Executive Director of Break-Free From Plastic Awareness Initiative and a climate activist, said tree planting is one of the ways of combating climate change.
“Tree planting is crucial in combating climate change and preserving the environment. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen, helping to regulate the earth’s climate. In addition, trees provide habitat for wildlife, prevent soil erosion, and regulate water flow, which helps to reduce the risk of floods,”
“Tree planting also contributes to the overall well-being of communities by providing shade, food, and materials for construction and fuel. By planting one million trees every year, Gombe State is taking a significant step towards a more sustainable future and creating a healthier, more livable environment for its residents.
“That is, if they are not just planning the trees but ensuring a high survival rate of at least 70% per million, the key thing isn’t just planting the trees but ensuring they live to their potential of sequestering carbon and services their ultimate purpose as iterated earlier.”
Mr. Muhammad added that combating climate change is not only limited to afforestation. It requires a multi-faceted approach.
These approaches, according to him, include: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving energy, adopting sustainable practices, encouraging sustainable transportation, raising public awareness, and making climate-related policies.
This story was produced in partnership with Nigeria Health Watch through the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.