FG's Newmap aims to tackle erosion and land degradation

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    Nigeria, today, faces severe problems of soil erosion – both sheet and gully erosion – due to both natural and human causes, as over 6,000km2 of land are badly affected by erosion and about 3,400km2 are highly exposed.

    In some parts of southern Nigeria, farmland degradation has caused yield reductions of between 30% and 90%, and as much as a 5% drag on the National GDP. The devastating effects of erosion is evident on many lives. It has led to the destruction of basic infrastructures essential for economic development and poverty alleviation. It is estimated that gully erosion contributes to environmental problems and damage put at over $100 million annually (mostly in South-Eastern Nigeria).

    It is therefore in response to these challenges of massive and rapidly expanding gully erosion and land degradation and to ameliorate the devastating impact on lives and livelihoods in parts of the country especially in the South-South and the South Eat socio-economic regions, that the Nigerian government made a request to the World Bank, through its Nigeria Office in 2010, calling for support for the country in the effort to check this menace.

    The Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) is a creation of the Federal Government of Nigeria, with support from the International Development Association (IDA), the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Trust Fund and the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) to combat the menace of erosion and watershed challenges that are currently ravaging parts of the South-Eastern States of Nigeria.

    The mandate is for NEWMAP to win the war against erosion thereby helping the affected States achieve greater environmental and economic security.

    NEWMAP’s Communication Consultants, Aries Concept, quoted Mr. Chikelo Nwune, NEWMAP’s National Coordinator, as saying that the significant development objectives of the project “is to reduce vulnerability to soil erosion in targeted sub-watersheds”, and that this innovative, multi-sectoral project had commenced financing 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 and subsequently scale out to other states nationwide.”

    Nwune explained further that it would take an integrated watershed management approach to enhance the remediation of the erosion and gully sites that will be informed by lessons learned on the interlinked challenges of poverty, eco-sysytem services, climate change, disaster risk management, biodiversity, and institutional performance governance. He added that the project will also take into consideration Investment in strategic combination of civil engineering, vegetative land management and other watershed protection measures, and community-led adaptive livelihood initiatives.

    The sustainability of these investments according to him will be reinforced by strengthening institutions and information services across the relevant sectors and States, including support to improve governance, regulatory compliance, environmental monitoring, impact evaluation, watershed and land use planning, and totally strengthen Nigeria’s capacity to promote and implement climate-resilient, low-carbon development.

    The statement also quoted Dr. Amos Abu, Senior Environmental Officer, World Bank Group Nigeria office and Task Team Leader (TTL) NEWMAP, as having said that the project was aimed at sustaining watershed activities that affect plants, animals and the human communities in the affected parts of the country in order to ensure environmental sustainability of these activities.

    Abu further explained that NEWMAP’s strategic approach to southern intervention sites was in two phase firstly, to “start with damage control” that will slow the expansion of a targeted set of existing aggressive gullies that are still physically possible to stabilize, thereby reducing the loss to property and infrastructure, and helping to cultivate community ownership”; and secondly, to leverage the gully intervention, to support integrated watershed management and move towards greater adoption of sustainable land and water management practices by local people in the sub-watershed where the gully is located.”

    Obviously, this strategic approach will underpin the efforts of strengthening relevant institutions and information services, including urban storm water drainage planning and management, planning for Imo-Anambra, Cross River and Benin-Owena basins, building a better knowledge base, and enhancing readiness for climate action thereby ensuring that the NEWMAP intervention will contribute to improved governance in the project areas through better contract management, transparency, open and reliable data as well as beneficiary verification.

    This strategic approach is expected to, overtime, scale to additional states especially in the northern part of the country where NEWMAP’s strategic approach to intervention in the affected sites would focus on contributing to securing ecosystem function from erosion management measures especially in the states within the Sokoto-Rima and upper Niger basins.

    The Minister of Environment, Mrs. Laurentia Mallam, described NEWMAP as a ‘Category A’ project in view of its scale and the type of problems it sets out to address. She said NEWMAP is expected to have highly positive environmental impacts in the following key areas: (i) it will address erosion at selected locations beginning with sites dominated by gully complexes; (ii) it will develop and establish measures to prevent gully formation in the forms of guidelines for road drainage design, and environmental guidelines and urban and watershed management planning; and (iii) it will restore degraded lands to productive uses and eliminate threats to water and soil quality, safety in settlements, and safe and efficient road travel. In addition, it will support the climate change agenda in Nigeria, thereby increasing the country’s capacity to promote low-carbon, climate-resilient development.

    NEWMAP implementation arrangement is multi-sectoral and multi-scale. This means that the implementation structure has been designed to involve many Federal and State Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), local governments, communities, and civil society. As such, effective implementation will require inter-ministerial and inter-state coordination, collaboration, and information sharing.
    Dr. Adebayo Thomas, NEWMAPS’s National Communication and Outreach Specialist, explained that the Federal Ministry of Environment (FME) is the lead implementing agency.

    As a result of the multi-sectoral nature of the project, the overall project coordination is being carried out by an independent and multi-sectoral Federal Project Management Unit (FPMU) hosted by the Ministry. Thomas said. The Federal PMU is headed by a Federal Coordinator, while each State also has a PMU that is hosted by the relevant environment ministries and departments.