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Cablegate: Nigeria: Desertification a Growing Problem

VZCZCXRO9084
PP RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPA RUEHPB RUEHPOD
DE RUEHUJA #2465/01 3321726
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 281726Z NOV 07 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1546
INFO RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 8348
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
RUEHC/DEPT OF INTERIOR WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 002465

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV EAGR TBIO ECON PGOV SOCI NI

SUBJECT: NIGERIA: DESERTIFICATION A GROWING PROBLEM


ABUJA 00002465 001.2 OF 002


1. Summary. At least 40% of the surface area surrounding the Sahara
Desert is threatened by desertification, drought and desert
encroachment. Nigeria is losing 1,355 square miles (sqm) of range
and crop lands each year, and the far northern states of Sokoto,
Kebbi and Katsina have had more than 40% of their landmass overtaken
by desert. Since 1950 Nigeria's population has quadrupled and
livestock increased more than ten times, putting major strains on
already existing marginal range and grass lands. To raise awareness
of this destruction, Newton Jibunoh, retired Chairman/CEO of Costain
(an international engineering and consulting firm) is making his
third voyage across the Sahara. End Summary.
.
Nigeria's Problems are the Region's Problems
--------------------------------------------
.
2. On November 8, 2007, ESTH Officer and Econ Specialist met with
Dr. Newton Jibunoh (retired), the founder of the Fight Against
Desert Encroachment (FADE) to discuss desertification. According to
Jibunoh, 40% of the surface areas of the countries along the fringes
of the Sahara Desert are under threat of desertification, drought,
and desert encroachment. During drought they experience substantial
food shortages and with each cycle, dry land degradation increases.
Lake Chad, which straddles Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger was
once the third largest body of water in Africa. The surface area of
Lake Chad has been dramatically reduced from 9,650 sqm in 1963 to
521 sqm in 2007 - a result of reduced rainfall, high demands for
water for irrigation, and human consumption. Several other lakes
throughout the Sudano-Sahel have fallen to record low levels and the
lands have been severely damaged by erosion.

3. Scientists estimate that Nigeria is losing 1,355 sqm of
rangeland and cropland to desertification yearly. Nigeria has ten
states on the fringes of the Sahara occupying 40% of the country's
land mass. Three states, Sokoto, Kebbi and Katsina are the most
affected with more than 40% of their landmass overtaken by desert.
Since 1950 Nigeria's population has quadrupled, from 33 million to
over 135 million and livestock has increased more than ten times
from 6 million to 66 million. While Nigeria is endowed with large
tracts of fertile land, the increasing loss of marginal areas,
especially in the North, that were once used for crops and grassland
will eventually force a southerly migration of people and
livestock.
.
Newton Jibunoh's Odyssey
------------------------
.
4. Jibunoh, at the age of 70, will be making his third trip across
the Sahara Desert by road to raise awareness of the effects of
desertification, climate change, and environmental degradation in
Africa. Jibunoh began his career as an engineer and soil mechanics
specialist eventually joining the Costain Group, an international
engineering and construction firm based in the United Kingdom, where
he rose to Chairman/CEO of the West African region. His first trip
across the Sahara from London to Lagos took place in 1964 at the age
of 28. During his time with the Costain Group, he was invited to do
a sabbatical at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel at
the renowned Jacob Blaustein Institute of Desert Research. In 2000
he founded FADE, 35 years later and after his second voyage from
Lagos to London through the Sahara at the age of 62. This trip
received media coverage from some of the major news organizations
(CNN, BBC, Reuters etc.).

5. Under his direction, FADE implemented the "Wall of Trees"
project in Kano state. The "Wall of Trees" promotes the planting of
trees and vegetation to curb desertification and improve the lives
of the surrounding community. The "Wall of Trees", was built as a
line of defense to establish a shelterbelt through a specialized
farming system suitable for the region to encourage resettlement and
empowerment for self sustainability. Boreholes were dug for water
and generators were supplied for electricity that will eventually be
used in cottage industries which will process the fruits and seeds
from the project once they begin to harvest. The project received
substantial support from the Kano State government and the British
High Commission in Nigeria.

6. Jibunoh's third journey across the Sahara is planned to take
place in February 2008, and he will document the entire trip. The
team will consist of four crew, two vehicles and take approximately
two months. .In the past, Jibunoh financed the trips from his
personal funds, but he is sensitive to Nigeria's image abroad, and
instead of asking for donations has been soliciting support-in-kind.
Jibunoh will donate two 4X4 vehicles valued at 4 million naira;
Exxon/Mobil will provide fuel, lubricants, service and the
maintenance of vehicles at a cost of 1.5 million naira; Dunlop
Nigeria, will supply tires for both vehicles valued at 400,000
naira; Virgin Nigeria, will fly back the vehicles and crew to
Nigeria after the expedition at a cost of 2 million naira; Milkano
will pay for the documentaries on desertification, climate change

ABUJA 00002465 002.2 OF 002


and global warming; and the Nigerian Television Authority will
provide coverage during the expedition. Jibunoh is still looking
for sponsors to assist in setting of a website, and support
establishment of a mission control center that will be equipped with
IT, satellite and communication tracking devices.
.
Comment
-------
.
7. Jibunoh is a Nigerian who has made his mark in life. He has
received a number of government awards and local cultural titles
based on his achievements. He could live a very comfortable life at
70 years young- the rewards of being a Chairman/CEO of a major
international engineering and construction organization. He has
devoted a lot of his own time and money to bring awareness to
desertification and desert encroachment in Nigeria, hopefully with
this trip he will keep it alive and raise the commitment to find
solutions before it is too late.

PIASCIK

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