Our lives depend on our Environment – Dr. Emeghara

Participants at the roundtable

By Bala Shekari 

Dr. Emeghara Ursula Ukamaka is the Deputy Provost Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, Afaka, Kaduna State. She represented the College at a recent round table engagement involving non state actors for Climate Action and Sustainable Development Goals in Kaduna State. She spoke to Bala Shekari 

Q: As a participant how has the program enriched your approach towards achieving any of the Sustainable Development Goals?

Ans: I will say that all this while I never knew that Kaduna State has already taken steps in trying to implement some of these SDGs. From the understanding I had today and the presentation made, I realized that this approach has been in place. The only thing lacking is, that it  needs to be driven down. Should this get to the people at grassroots, other stakeholders who don’t know more about the issues and the approach is known and also informed by them, the SDGs will be achieved quicker than we think. 
For instance I have seen the surprise from participants that our College has a 2.5 million capacity nursery. Clearly again the admission by the representative of the Kaduna State Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry that groups and associations need only to apply to the Department of Forestry Management has been received as a new development. Clearly there are opportunities that partnering with non state actors hold for accelerating especially Climate Action in Kaduna State and I want to believe anywhere else in this country.

Q: How can Kaduna state enjoy the benefits of this program?

Ans: For me as lecturer, I know that if I get back to the school and am able to communicate with the students, they will always pass it to their parents. The information will go down to other parts of this country as our students are from all parts of Nigeria engaged in the various academic and skills aquisition programs the Institution offers.
It may interest you to know that we have courses that relates to climate change. Our students graduate equipped with adequate knowledge of the causes, impacts of climate change and how to ameliorate it. So in essence as an institution we have an outreach, however it is now obvious that we must make Climate Action priority and do more in sensitization.

Q: What is your take on the climate change agenda towards achieving the global goals?

Ans : For me afforestation, agroforestry and whatever we can do to limit emissions of gases will be very helpful in ameliorating the impact of climate change. We have also discussed on the use of the briquette stove, because as it is, you cannot tell the common man not to fell trees, but with the use of these stove you will realize that the quantity of fuel needed for domestic use will be minimal. That way the indiscriminate felling of trees will be reduced and should the this be matched by massive tree planting, carbon sequestration will be ongoing and that will do us more good

Excerpts:
Q: What is your take on this program by Anvil Research Centre on engaging non state actors in achieving the Climate Action in Kaduna State?
Ans : This program is timely. It is so because its impact and effect can be felt around us and around Nigeria. As discussed therein, it is of note that climate change has a serious impact on mankind and his activities. The life of man is directly or indirectly influenced by his environment and acquisition of skills on how to mitigate the activities that predisposes the environment to degradation is very timely. The desertification of the North is real as it is affecting the farming activities in the Guinea Savannah or the middle belt region of the country. The migration of herders due to non availability of grazing sites or pastures is pointing to the South. The wind erosion and increase in temperature has also caused many farmers to head down South. This migration has caused the infamous herders/farmers clash that has claimed nothing less than 5,000 lives and has become a conflict that we have been unable to resolve. 
The effect is not only felt in the northern but the southern parts in terms of flooding. As reported by NEMA in 2012, the issue was so immense that the Presidency sent air surveillance to affected area which showed how farm lands were submerged, properties destroyed and lives lost. Agriculture is worst hit by climate change and aside crude, oil agriculture is another vital sector of the economy. Today, we have come together to find ways to ameliorate the effects of climate change, also to put into consideration how non state actors can play their role to make sure that the vulnerability is reduced. 
Afforestation was talked about. How deforestation, logging/felling of trees have predisposed the environment and the to degradation. Agroforestry became an idea to sell to rural farmers. Advocacy and sensitization was encouraged around this idea of planting economic trees in their land and planting their crops in between the rows which will replenish the earth/soil and also boost crop yield. Afforestation was also discussed as a systemic wind break and a panacea for wind and water erosion. The jobs to be created in securing this afforestation project can cater. Especially for the unemployed youths example the teeming youths roaming our cities and towns.
The growth from susbsistence farming to commercial farming due to validity in farming as a business has necessitated the need for more farm space. In the process of opening these areas, trees are fell. The problem would have been less a problem if trees were planted  after such clearing activities. Some of these trees are indigenous and going extinct which is having a negative effect on the bio-diversity of the environment. The weather is very hot which is an effect of climate change.
The Federal College of Forestry Mechanization a subsidiary of Forestry Research Institute always organizes an agroforestry system workshop. There invited farmers and stakeholders at the grassroots discuss their challenges. These challenges form basis of examination for us after which we profer solutions to the ones we have been able to solve. Others we change the approach to have practical solutions and it has proven positive. The Young Foresters Club sensitizes secondary school students on the importance of having trees, how they can have trees around. We also have adopted villages where we have practiced agroforestry. Observation shows that their lands are doing better than the ones left without trees. Although the conviction, the major challenge with the farmers is that their farmland is small for agroforestry but if they have  more space or land they will adopt the method especially with the benefits so evident.

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