Our ecosystems are under attack. Years of pollution, over-exploitation of the environment, and proliferation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are leading to loss of our ecosystems. Forests, farmlands, oceans, animals, plants, and others that we depend on for food, drinking water and climate protection are depleting or going extinct. This has led to this year’s World Environment Day (WED) theme ‘Ecosystem Restoration’, which is a clarion call for the world to take action to restore lost or damaged ecosystems and protect those still existing.
Tree planting, greening cities, cleaning up oceans, proper disposal and treatment of wastes, transitioning to farming methods that reduce pressure on forests and farmlands such as Agroforestry, and reducing the use of agrochemicals (such as fertilisers) in favour of compost manure are some ways to restore ecosystems. At government and organisational level, enacting policies and laws that minimise or regulate human activities that are harmful to the environment is also an important measure towards ecosystem restoration.
At Propcom Mai-karfi, we contribute to ecosystem restoration through our portfolio of environmental and Crop interventions some which are:
- Plastic waste reduction and economic empowerment through education and recycling: We created awareness on the ills of plastic pollution and provided education on proper waste disposal, encouraging individuals and communities to recycle plastic wastes using trained agents recruited from the communities. Between January and October 2020, 50 trained agents collected over 50MT of plastic wastes for recycling from over 2,700 households and collectively earned over 7 million. Participating households also accrued cash incentives of over N460,000 over the same period.
- Promoting compost as an alternative to chemical fertiliser: Granted, chemical fertilisers have, and still play, an important role in helping farmers improve soil health and their productivity. Unfortunately, if applied wrongly, chemical fertilisers can hurt the soil rather than help by inhibiting its natural ability to restore nutrients. Conversely, compost made from organic waste replenishes the soil’s nutrients and can potentially reverse and minimise the effects of climate change on the soil’s structure. Since February 2021, Propcom has supported over 1,500 smallholder farmers in the North of Nigeria to access and be trained to properly apply CompostPlus, a brand of compost.
- Converting agricultural wastes to biomass briquettes: Burning fossil fuels, like firewood and charcoal, releases pollutants into the atmosphere that harm the ecosystem and can cause illness and death; particularly for women and children in poor countries who get exposed to these pollutants while cooking indoors. Approximately 2.6% of all cases of illness in the world were attributed to pollutants released from indoor burning of solid fuels in 2004 (WHO, 2004). In 2007, the WHO reported that about 79,000 deaths occurred every year in Nigeria from indoor air pollution from burning solid fuels for cooking and heating. The process of compressing agriculture wastes, such as rice husks, peanut shells, into compact combustible materials produces biomass briquettes. Biomass briquettes are efficient, cheaper, cleaner, and greener source of energy that produce little or no smoke or carbon deposits when burnt compared to solid fuels. They are, thus, a safer and more economical alternative for the environment. To date, Propcom has supported the establishment of 7 biomass briquette production centres in Northern Nigeria, with over 55MT of briquettes produced to date. Thus, giving more rural women access to cleaner and efficient cooking fuel and eliminating the arduous task involved in gathering firewood. The intervention also provides poor farmers a secondary source of income from sale of their farm wastes to produce briquettes.
- Promoting the practice of Agroforestry for Gum Arabic farmers: Propcom’s Agroforestry intervention trains farmers on improved planting, harvesting and farm management methods to improve their productivity and the quality of their produce. Thus, positioning them to earn more from exporting their produce. Over 8,822 smallholders who farm Gum Arabic in the North have been trained by the Programme on Agroforestry. They were specifically trained on improved methods of planting and harvesting Gum Arabic and intercropping with legume. Intercropping with legume is important for many reasons including the fact that when done properly it fixes nitrogen in the soil, which is vital for the North East where land degradation has resulted in nutrient depleted soils.
As we commemorate World Environment Day, we need to take stock of our relationship with our environment and start acting, individually and collectively, to restore what has been lost, or, at the very least, protect what we have left. What actions will you be taking?