BY Adebayo Thomas

 The environment is naturally blessed with dynamic resources that include vegetation, waters, soils and animals. However the naturality of the plush vegetation, aquatic lives gets degraded, polluted and depleted courtesy of human activities. However, over the last 2 centuries, one significant dilemma of the natural environment is the sharp destruction, progressively by drought, human activities (via tree felling machines, bulldozers, and sand mining) and very recently the aggressive climatic changes.

Whilst land deterioration and degradation is on the increase across sub-Saharan Africa, managing these trend have become a nightmare to many African governments. In Nigeria after many failed attempts her response via the emergence of Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) could then be described as timely coming when all past efforts have failed to yield the required purpose. NEWMAP sustainable mitigation strategies: a combination of natural and civil works mixed with a total watershed approach may now be a good recipe for like situations across the continent.

Three and half years ago, after project effectiveness, NEWMAP took on 21 erosion sites across the south east in the seven initial states of  Abia, Anambra, Cross River, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu and Imo States and it has been a success story all the way.

Nigeria the country: Nigeria has a total land area of 923,773 square kilometres. This vast expanse of land is endowed with abundant and diverse resources, including fishery resources, wildlife, timber, medicinal plants, mineral resources, water, ornamental and food crops.

In order to develop the economy as well as to survive, the populace interacts and exploits the natural resources of the environment. This practice has altered the ecological stability of the environment. The Nigerian environment today is faced with myriads of ecological problems arising from the impacts of human-environment interactions and natural phenomenon. Nigeria’s ecological problems are unique in the sense that different geo-political zones are faced with specific environmental challenges.

In the South East, a major and common ecological problem is gully erosion.

The Project: The initiation of NEWMAP project according to Salisu Dahiru the National Project Coordinator, “was borne out of the necessity to address the multiple and complex challenges stymieing past efforts of governments in addressing the gully erosion menace in the South East. These include weak local participation, absent of land use planning, insufficient attention to livelihood issues among others. This eight-(8) year innovative, multi-sectoral project will finance State-led interventions to prevent and reverse land degradation, initially focusing on gully erosion sites that threaten infrastructure and livelihoods in seven states: Abia, Anambra, Cross River, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu and Imo.”

Based on the progress recorded by the initial seven states, in September 2015 additional 7 states; Delta, Gombe, Kogi, Kano, Plateau, Oyo and Sokoto joined the project having met the necessary selection criteria. Presently, the third phase of states that recently joined the project includes; Akwa Ibom, Borno, Katisina, Nasarawa, and Niger, States; thus making a total number of 19 states in the project.

Implementation /success: Several attempts have been made to tackle the menace of gully erosion in these areas to no avail. Speaking to the World Bank supervisory team in November, 2015 Comrade Adams Oshiomole a former Governor of Edo StateNigeria, said prior to the World Bank’s intervention, the Federal Government had awarded contracts that were not done, while other intervention was not holistic like the current NEWMAP watershed approach.

NEWMAP has achieved considerable success, and community members who are beneficiaries like Chief Okon Nyong Etim of Ikot Ekpo community in Calabar Cross River state will continue to count their blessings, “NEWMAP intervention and approach is a testimonial of the best way to tackling gully erosion. The project did not only restored the degraded land but restored joy to those who lost their houses to erosion in the community by giving them compensations that enabled them to build new houses,” he said.