Written by Staff Writer
(CNN) — On one hand, Kupah local community in Niger is preparing for extreme drought and arid conditions in 2019. In another, the local people are also trying to halt the same problem from intensifying the year before with the construction of 15 houses.
Kupah is part of the Kassa region, a vast savannah region in northern Nigeria where deforestation is rife, as tinderbox-dry vegetation plots in the region struggle with malnutrition and poverty. These adverse conditions threaten millions of residents in the area.
Land cover is often a matter of life and death in parts of the Sahel, an expansive band of land in West Africa between the Sahara and the Gulf of Guinea, where millions are affected by food insecurity and extreme hunger. Local communities in the region rely on agriculture, but an increase in land degradation and climate change — notably drought — is not helping.
3,800 human settlements destroyed
According to Mike Eruani, director of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Nigeria, a minimum of 80% of the Kassa region is severely impacted by desertification, with 3,800 local settlements already destroyed.
“The [particular] area has been challenged by natural disasters — from drought to flood. The degradation of the land means that it cannot support agriculture, which is the main source of livelihoods, not just for the Kassa but for the communities living around,” he explains.
Ranched cassava in the Kassa region. ERKAR UGEH/AFP/Getty Images
“We estimate about 4,200 square kilometers (1,665 square miles) of land is now degraded.”
The UN food agency is currently supporting the communities with livelihood development projects to try and curb the issue, including building irrigation channels and building water harvesting systems.
Some 5 million people are thought to be affected by land degradation in Kassa region — and their plight is expected to grow as the region in which they reside changes, as more land is lost to the changing climate.