Joachim Ezeji is the Chief Executive Officer of Rural Africa Water Development Project (RAWDP) which he founded in 2000 as an intervention NGO with the aim to improve access to clean drinking water in remote rural communities in Nigeria where access to clean water is severely constrained, particularly those that have been ravaged by oil and gas exploration activities.
According to him, the three most important environmental issues/challenges facing RAWDP where they work are; Flooding, Deforestation and Unplanned urbanisation etc.
‘’These challenges combined with erosion menace are still ravaging communities where we work. Throughout south-eastern Nigeria, people are becoming increasingly affected by extreme climate and environmental change events. Worsening droughts and erosion in particular is ruining the lives and livelihood of many households and has continued to hamper farming activities’’.
He went on to say that water mismanagement, inappropriate land use, as well as poor knowledge of anti-drought measures by farmers have led to land degradation such as soil erosion and loss of the soil’s productive capacity to produce food. Also the limited potential for dry season farming through soil and water conservation, the non-employment of rain water harvesting technology, as well as conflicts over limited water resources have not helped the situation. Consequently, local livelihoods are being jeopardized while increasing poverty for thousands of local farmers expands
These challenges are critical because the region is also hugely a coastal area, with a very sensitive ecosystem. While unmitigated poor sanitary systems contaminate water sources with dangerous pathogens, floods spread these diseases and destroy habitats and infrastructure; while deforestation exposes the people to a harsher climatic changes and poverty. The rapidly eroding land surfaces silts streams and gives rise to high levels of turbidity in local streams.
It is feared that economic losses of about 5-20% of National GDP could be wrought and that the region may lose between 4-6% of its GDP, with some sectors likely to face greater challenges. Already the region is facing reductions in yields from rain-fed agriculture of 10%, which may climb up to 50% by 2020. Relevant skills desired to tackle these issues include those related to environmental education, context investigation, community mobilization and engagement as well as basic know how on technical mitigation steps e.g. those applicable to natural resource management and water source protection/catchment management etc. that could easily be shared with or transferred to the community.