ABUJA, November 26, 2013-- The discovery of gullies on Mars may well have been a propitious sign that the planet once had water, but in Nigeria, Africa’s second largest economy, gullies caused by the combined effect of water and wind erosion are wreaking havoc on life and property, and exacting a heavy toll in human suffering.
The severity of environmental degradation prompted the Nigerian government to seek urgent support from the World Bank to tackle the challenge in seven states on a pilot basis: Abia, Anambra, Cross River, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu and Imo.
The Bank responded through the US$500 million IDA-financed Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) and has mobilized a strong coalition at national and international levels to tackle and reduce soil erosion on a war footing. The project became effective on September 16, 2013 and has received $3.96 million from the Global Environment Facility and $4.63 million from the Special Climate Change Fund.
“It was eye-opening to see the severity of damage caused by erosion,” said Benoit Bosquet, Africa Region Sector Manager for Environment in West Africa who led the implementation support mission to Edo and Imo states, Nigeria. “The NEWMAP project is breaking new ground by mobilizing funding, technical assistance, and local expertise including community engagement to tackle a pressing problem.”
The joint World Bank-FAO team visited Imo State, including the Urualla community in the Ideato North Local Government Area. They were received at the palace of His Royal Highness Eze Edward Ezeanyika, Oke Osisi III of Urualla Clan by the Chairman of Urualla Council of Chiefs and retired Vice-Chancellor of Imo State University, Prof. Thomas Ndubuizu.
Prof. Ndubuizu who is spearheading local efforts briefed the delegation about the erosion problem which began about ten years ago and had become a nightmare as several houses and farmlands were being engulfed by large gullies.
While conducting the team round the gully sites, the Chairman of the Council of Chiefs noted that some of the root causes of the problem include uncontrolled flooding from neighboring Osina and Akokwa communities, and pointed out that since Urualla was bounded by the Anambra/Imo river basin, excess rainfall could be channeled to the river thereby alleviating the problem.
At a community meeting held at the Urualla Civic Centre, traditional rulers drawn from various villages that make up Urualla participated together with the NEWMAP project management teams from the federal and state levels, and representatives from women and youth groups. The NEWMAP Project Coordinator for Imo State, Victor Anueyiagu, explained that solutions to the erosion problem required an integrated approach backed by the support of all stakeholders. Engr. Anueyiagu commended the Urualla community for their commitment towards finding a lasting solution to the problem especially their financial contribution to the cost of the engineering design for the site and urged them to sustain the momentum. NEWMAP Team Leader, Amos Abu, Watershed Specialist, Mr. Maushe Kidundo, and several community members also narrated how the gullies had ‘swallowed up’ their homes.
To galvanize local action, the World Bank-FAO team met His Excellency Owelle Rochas Okorocha, Executive Governor of Imo State to convey their findings and discuss the need to fast track implementation of the erosion containment activities before the next rainy season. The governor gave assurance of his government’s preparedness to do whatever was required to ensure that civil works would begin immediately.
Concurrently, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Marie Françoise Marie-Nelly visited a gully site in the outskirt of Enugu to see firsthand the level of devastation caused by gully erosion, as part of a state-level Country Partnership Portfolio Review (CPPR). Addressing the community, she commended them for their “full participation and involvement in taking remedial actions to stabilize the gullies and prevent loss of life and property.”