Climate + Energy

Desertification: The People Whose Soil Is Turning To Trash

From 1901 to 2005, more than 200 villages were believed to have been engulfed by desert in Nigeria’s Northern Region on account of climate change. In this report, Ochiaka Ugwu examines how desertification is fuelling migration in Maisandari farming community.

Sagir Umar has lived in the sleepy town of Maisandari, about 18 kilometers to Damaturu, the capital of Yobe State in the North East of Nigeria, for more than five decades. A proud farmer, Umar has tilled the land for the better part of his life. He said that he has depended on farming to feed his household of his three wives and 13 children.

But today, the whole situation has changed and Umar has found himself struggling between uncertainty and reality. The uncertainty is because the land has just refused to cooperate with him and has failed him woefully by turning to dust before his very eyes. On the other hand, he is contending with the reality of leaving his Maisandari haven in search of arable land for his farming activities as many of his town men have done.

Umar’s plight is a result of desert encroachment that is fast taking over the land. He said, “I remember the good old days, when nature was cooperating with us. The land, rainfall, sun and god of fertility were very generous to us. They were all on our side, but today the trend has changed. Imagine me a great farmer of note can hardly feed my family. I am ashamed of myself and most times my eyes will simply refuse to sleep due to the low harvest I have been witnessing of late…Once a fertile land has suddenly turned to ashes producing little or nothing during harvest, I first contemplated quitting farming, but if I quit what else will I do?” a visibly disturbed Umar asked rhetorically.

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