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close this bookThe Courier N 140 - July - Aug 1993 - Dossier: National Minorities - Country Reports: Dominica, Mozambique (EC Courier, 1993, 96 p.)
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View the documentThe Katsina Arid Zone Programme

The Katsina Arid Zone Programme

Improving the environment and the quality of life

In tracing the evolution of EC development policy under the Lome Conventions, the Katsina Afforestation Project (KAP) in northern Nigeria represents an important milestone, being one of the first projects in which the Community's concern about environmental degradation in the ACP states became manifest.

Launched in 1987 in response to what is certainly the worst environmental problem facing Nigeria-desertification -KAP was completed last year with all but one of its targets exceeded. A second phase, known as the Katsina Arid Zone Development Programme (KAZP), has just begun with a major allocation of ECU 25 million from the seventh EDF.

With KAP proving an effective model for other projects in the fight against desertification, a certain sense of relief prevails-a far cry from the days when the Nigerian government, overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem, appeared at a loss as to how it could best deal with it.

Geographically the extreme north of Nigeria where Katsina is located is in the Sahel. Indeed the Sahelian climate and vegetation extend further south to Kaduna. Often plagued by severe drought, the process of environmental degradation here, like elsewhere in the region, started long ago but did not become a source of worry until the 1970s, when a rapid increase in the population and in the number of livestock translated into a dramatic shrinkage of arable land and fodder. Fears of serious outbreaks of communal conflict, as living standards fell and rural depopulation accelerated, led the Nigerian government in 1982 to approach the European Community for assistance.

The Nigerian request came at the right time. Policywise the EC was disposed to finance projects in this area, and funds were available under the Lome II Convention.

Two million trees

Although the report eventually commissioned by the EC and Nigeria, recommended in 1984 the planting of 2 million trees in five local government areas of the then Kaduna State-Daura, Katsina, Mani, Kankiya and Dutsin Ma-it was the decision to secure the closest collaboration possible at the local level, adopt several afforestation models and give farmers a choice of which model they consider the most appropriate for their farms that was to prove crucial in the success of the project.

Covering an area of about 16 000 sq km, the Project envisaged the establishment of 85 shelterbelts (blocks of 6600 trees, each measuring 2000m x 30m) on communal lands to reduce wind erosion of top soils and stabilise loose sands in areas most affected by the desertification process. It adopted three afforestation models from which farmers could choose: trees on farmland to reflect the traditional practice of leaving a few trees standing after clearing, windbreaks at the edges of farms to protect crops; and woodlots at corners to provide a permanent source of fuelwood and poles.

Together with an infrastructure comprising a headquarters (an office complex, stores, a workshop, staff housing etc.), wells and plant nurseries, the Project was costed at ECU 13.4 million. The European Community provided a grant of ECU 9.4 million from the fifth EDF while the Nigerian government undertook to pay the salaries and wages of local staff and labour (amounting to ECU 4 million) during the four years of the Project.

Over 25 indigenous and exotic plant species (most of which are valuable as sources of fuelwood, fruits, fodder, medicines, etc.) were used and 14 235 farmers took part in the Project. The farmers were carefully selected and trained in close collaboration with traditional rulers. Each farmer was responsible for planting and tending the trees and managing his farm as he saw fit. He was provided with seedlings and extension services.

In order to minimise the pressure on the vegetation cover, the Project introduced efficient mud stoves imported from the Republic of Niger, which were found to save between 40% and 50% on fuelwoods, and set up a programme to train local blacksmiths in their manufacture.

Targets exceeded

Although KAP was extended for an additional year, by the end of the original 1991 deadline it had exceeded all but one of its targets: 94 shelterbelts instead of the 85 planned, 7225 windbreaks and 4548 woodlots as against 6250 and 4325 respectively. Only 2462 'trees on farmland' were realised instead of the 3915 earmarked, because, according to the Project managers, the farmers felt increasingly reluctant to use the indigenous plant species with which they were provided; these grow more slowly than the exotic ones.

An assessment of the survival rate of the trees has been put at 46%, which, experts say, corresponds with the norm for agroforestry programmes in subSaharan Africa.

The widespread participation of farmers in the Project was not only dictated by personal economic interest but also by a much greater awareness in the project area of the cause of desertification and the importance of vegetation cover to human and animal life.

Despite Katsina's location in the Sahel and the drought it suffers, man has been recognised as the main cause of deforestation. As the Emir frankly put it: 'There is no desert encroachment here, there is desert creation'. Having admitted that much, there was a willingness and determination to tackle the problem headon at all levels, for as well as EC finance and technical support, the Federal, State and local governments and the population at large - farmers, women's groups and school children-were all involved.

Map to Nigeria

Awareness of the environment

The Federal Government, as already indicated, paid the salaries and wages of local staff. The State Government, on the other hand, acquired the land for shelterbelts and paid compensation to their previous owners while local government provided extension workers, land for nurseries, etc.

Federal and State officials in Nigeria, from the Head of State through Governors to ministers, have always shown keen interest in tree planting. But such exercises are rarely followed up at the grassroots level, mainly because of ignorance. The importance attached to extension services under this Project ensured that that gap was plugged in the project area. Indeed one of the most striking things about KAP, which should serve as an example to agroforestry projects, is the effective campaign it mounted against desertification and the enthusiasm it engendered for tree planting.

In 1988, a programme was devised to create awareness of the environment among students by setting up Young Foresters' Clubs in post-primary institutions where boys and girls are taught about plant species and planting techniques. By 1991, 47 secondary and technical schools had set up their own clubs. These have a combined membership of well over 10 000. Members are encouraged not only to pass on their knowledge to their parents, the majority of whom are farmers, but also to put it into practice around their schools and homes-a practice which has already resulted in some schools becoming selfsufficient in fruit and vegetables. In 1990 a Women's Programme was begun, under which women are given seedlings and encouraged to plant around their compounds. So far 48 women's groups, with a combined membership of over 2000, have been formed in villages and hamlets in the project zone. It is now very common to see compounds surrounded by fruit trees of all kinds.

Consolidation of achievements

The second phase, the Katsina Arid Zone Development Programme, which began this year, is aimed not only at consolidating and expanding what has been achieved but also at ensuring an integrated, environmentally sustainable rural development. This has become necessary because KAP has revealed that tree planting alone cannot counterbalance the loss of forest cover, much less roll back the desert. If the people's living standards are to improve, the area's capacity to carry an ever-increasing number of livestock and support increased agricultural production has to be strengthened. There would thus be, among other things, small-scale irrigation schemes, investments in water supply, rural roads, storage and electrification, as well as in small-scale credit facilities.

As with KAP, all levels of government are expected to make some contribution: the Federal and Katsina State Governments, for example, will fund the payment of the salaries of the local staff for the four-year duration of the project. This will cost the governments 17 million and 3.4 million respectively. The Project will seek to reach the widest number of people. Associations, committees, village groups and individual farmers will be asked to take full control of the management of their various projects.

Augustine OYOWE.