By Peace Oladipo
Baptist Senior Secondary School, Surulere, located in Ilorin West, the capital city of Kwara State, was the learning ground for over 311 students since 2013, until strong winds blew off the roofs of several classrooms during a wild rainy season in 2020. The incident, coupled with the government-imposed shutdown of schools during the peak of the pandemic, halted classes for many months.
As the government relaxed lockdown measures, many schools reopened and resumed classes but Baptist Senior Secondary School remained closed as classrooms remained uninhabitable for students. It took several months before the roofs were fixed and students were allowed to resume school.
A study by the Institute of Development Studies, states extreme weather conditions are some of the effects of climate change. As the world grapples with the harsh implication of global climate change, very little is being noted about its effect on education, especially where it concerns school infrastructure. This year, Nigeria has already recorded several incidents of flooding that have partially damaged over 200,000 buildings, according to the country’s humanitarian affairs ministry.
According to Global Forest Watch, Nigeria, in 2010 had 10.9Mha of natural forest, extending over 12% of its land area. In 2021, it lost 96.5kha of natural forest, equivalent to 58.5Mt of CO₂ emissions. In 2010, Ilorin South had 553ha of tree cover, extending over 3.3% of its land area. In 2021, it lost 3.88ha of tree cover, equivalent to 1.18kt of CO₂ emissions.
A Climate Expert, Precious Davida Oparanozie, said that deforestation is an anthropogenic act that constitutes the global crisis of climate change, a challenge that even if the earth is no longer polluted with greenhouse gases have caused global warming, and several countries in Africa and Asia would still be experiencing climate-related disasters till 2050.
Highlighting the challenge, Oparanozie said in 2021, human activities like energy and agriculture released over 36 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. She further stated that experts estimate that a tree is capable of collecting 640 pounds of CO2, meaning that we would need to plant 180 billion trees to offset the current rate of CO2 emissions.
As a direct response to mitigating climate change, science proposes that tree planting can reduce the severity of climate change. According to a study published in the journal Science, “the restoration of forested land at a global scale could help capture atmospheric carbon and mitigate climate change.” It is this notion that has directed the intervention of the Save Sahara Network (SSN), an initiative working to accelerate the culture of conservation and climate literacy in Kwara State.
To prevent a recurrence, the initiative set out to plant trees in Baptist Senior Secondary School. Mrs. Juliana Bamikole, the former Principal of the school, said that the trees that were planted under her administration have not just beautified the environment but are helping to reduce the impact of wind and heat in the school environment, as Ilorin is known for the high density of heat.
Bamikole, who is now the Deputy Director of Research and Statistics at Kwara State Teaching Service Commission, said that SSN has helped the school and students to go into plantations which has been helpful to the environment.
The SSN says it is committed to contributing to saving the planet, sensitising people about the plants that provide nutrients and ecosystem services, and creating a platform that will enhance climate education, especially among the youth. In addition, SSN carries out capacity-building training and has created a forum for scientific interactions and discussions on current environmental issues and climate change.
Operationally, SSN depends on grants and donations that come from the Global Environmental Facility Small Grant Programme (GEF-SGP) of the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) and the National Geographic Society (NGS).
With the funding, SSN claims it has planted thousands of seedlings. Some of the plants include Step Tree, Gmelina, Teak, Masquerade tree, and Mango Orange.
“We have planted seedlings in thousands, we plant in schools and public places. Beyond numbers and figures, we have proof that we have planted about 10,000 trees. We have been able to train students, staff, and teachers in secondary schools. We have given 100 seedlings to 30 schools we have visited”, Dr. Fola Babalola, the founder of SSN said.
To effectively track their impact, the organisation launched a campaign termed “Go Back”, asking the tree planters to check on the trees. The organisation also has staff members who are saddled with the responsibility of checking up on the tree seedlings, so as to avoid fruitless efforts.
After the tree planting exercise, Save Sahara Network dug wells for the schools, to facilitate the sustainability of the initiative. The organization also conducts sensitization programs and webinars for youth on environment, conservation and climate literacy.
With over 40 volunteers, the organization coordinates and monitors afforestation activities carried out by students in the Nature Clubs established in schools. The volunteers participate in trees planting and maintenance activities.
Despite recording success in Kwara State, the initiative falls short of its target of initiating a tree-planting project across Nigeria due to a lack of adequate funding. After purchasing the seedlings, other cogent items and materials like metal wire to cover and protect the seedlings are also required.
“We need adequate funding to expand our ideas and initiatives”, said Dr. Babalola.
Asides from the issue of limited funding, the security of the planted trees is another hurdle as they are prone to animal and insect attacks. Dr Babalola revealed that despite efforts to plant many trees, attacks on our trees by termites, goats, cows, and other animals frustrate their progress.
Babalola said, “we want to be a leading organization in Africa, protecting nature and empowering people at the same time. We want to have collaborations to fight the global warming.”
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.