MEDA’s Women and Youth (WAY) project in Bauchi, Northern Nigeria is witnessing the growing impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss firsthand. Annual precipitation in the past 3 years has consistently been delayed by more than a month and when the rains do come, the intensity of rainfall over short periods of time causes flooding and soil erosion, often taking lives and destroying properties in the process. Changing rainfall patterns and climatic conditions overall is taking a heavy toll on the agriculture sector, reducing farm incomes, and increasing market costs of agricultural products. The impact can be seen with the price increase of a 100kg sack of maize over a one-year period; In September 2020 it sold for 9,000 Naira (20 USD) and in July 2021 the same bag of maize was being sold for 30,000 Naira (65 USD). Women and youth, ultimately bare the brunt of both the environmental and economic crisis.
MEDA’s WAY project has taken on a leadership role in response to the environmental challenges facing farmers in Bauchi State. This includes playing an active role in the creation of the Climate Collaboration strategy, which paved the way for the establishment of the Bauchi State Environmental Stakeholders Committee in 2018. The Strategy identifies the various environmental problems within and state and proposes strategies to address them. The primary focus in 2021 is to respond to the growing threat of drought and desertification. The Committee, which represents a diverse group of community stakeholders from government agencies, civil society organisations and the private sector, supported the planting of 9,500 trees in the 7 Local Government Areas where MEDA works. Tree planting is a frontline defense to slow the expansion of the Sahara Desert southward, thus protecting farmland and natural vegetation.
In order to ensure success of the initiative, the Committee started with a sensitization and awareness campaign within the impacted communities. The WAY project, through its partners and the Bauchi State sports council, supported the mobilization of 1000 youth from within WAY project to support the tree planting programme. The use of novelty football matches in MEDA with players branded with Great Green Wall jerseys played a vital role in encouraging and motivating youth to participate in the programme.
During the event in Bauchi, the District Head of Mirri: Alhaji Hussain Abubakar Othman commended the efforts and participation of the youth in the programme. He further advised them saying:
“Since you have patronised these organisations for tree planting, you must take this campaign to our people who are cutting trees indiscriminately in our areas and to advise them if it becomes necessary for them to cut the trees, and they have followed all the regulations laid down so what they are going to do is – before they will cut these trees, with five years they ought to plant another one,”
Selection of species of trees planted was informed by culture and nature of the environment. Drought resistant varieties were planted in the drought affected northern regions. Mahogany, neem, Gmelina, acacia and locust beans were some of the seedlings planted.
With the success of State Environmental Stakeholders Committee, the WAY project is now expanding its support to include the Green Environment Promoters Society (GrEPS) to establish environment clubs in secondary and tertiary institutions.