A silted watercourse: Evidence of Climate Change Impact in Nigeria.
A silted watercourse: Evidence of Climate Change Impact in Nigeria.: Woman washing clothes in a silted river in Dangaro village, Gombe State, Nigeria (Source: Greengirl)
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NIGERIA- Devastating floods, erosion, drought, desertification, hurricanes, and various other forms of natural disasters are here with us; and the sad reality is that it is reinforcing gender inequalities in no small measure. Climate change is making access to natural resources a delusion, and women are becoming helpless by the day, as they strive to adjust to changing climate realities. Majority of women in the rural areas remain ill informed and ill equipped to help themselves, their families and communities. They constitute the most vulnerable groups, in the face of climate induced adversities.

Recent months have been the hottest in my part of the world! Concerned by the jarring heat one sun-drenched afternoon, I couldn’t help but use the Google weather application on my phone to check out the day’s weather information. It was no surprise to see that the temperature was as high as 120° Fahrenheit.  I found the figure rather abnormal particularly because it was supposed to be the raining season.

I grew up with an understanding that spring time in Nigeria starts in April and ends in October, while the Harmattan (Dry) season was expected to last from November to March. Of course, in recent times, the skies seem to have lost the power to shower the earth as at when outght. It cannot be overstated that weather patterns, across the globe, have become very unpredictable in the face of climate change, traceable to man’s excesses.  Speak of air pollution, deforestation, encroachment on flood plains, poor waste disposal practices etc.

The evidences of extreme weather conditions with damning consequences on man and the environment are now as plain as the nose on a man’s face. Discoveries from an ongoing socio-economic study, which I am anchoring in flood and erosion prone/affected and communities across Gombe Central Senatorial district, of Nigeria, remains eye opening; just as it unveils the tales of woe that has become the lot of the residents.

Many watercourses and vast areas of land have become silted and or gullied due to erosion and flooding. From Yamaltu to Ako Local government areas of Gombe State, the story is no different. Vast areas of land have been degraded and becoming unfit for human habitation and as is often the case in disaster situations, the women are the worst affected.

While standing by the brim of a high spot overlooking the dangerously eroded and silted Dangaro River (which could now best be described as a very wide and deep gully during the dry season), my eyes became fastened on a human figure, obviously a woman, who was washing clothes in the dry riverbed. I couldn’t stop wondering the source of water for her laundry, as the paltry pool in sight was muddy brown.

As I was soon to find out when I got close to the woman who introduced herself as Hadiza, her source of water was a bucket-sized shallow hole she dug into a section of the dry watercourse cum gully. “This is where I collect water to meet my drinking, cooking and washing needs, particularly in the dry season; as the taps in our village seldom runs” she reveals . Hadiza, a household head who lives in Dangaro village with her children says that “collecting water from the dried up river is draining as it takes so much of her time and strength”.

Though the water appeared clean to my probing eyes, it definitely could not be void of contaminants, particularly as the entire grounds remains accessible to wandering animals and humans. Worst still households in the community rely on pit latrines and just as they also practice open defecation.  There were accounts of the outbreak of cholera and displacements in the community.  

Binta, a housewife who also lives in Dangaro village is scared stiff that her home which has now become very close to the ever widening river Dangaro, may one day be swept away by flood waters. “The rainy season is here again and we have nowhere else to go” she laments. 

Mr.  Gamaliel S., an environmental expert linked the rising trend of flood and erosion situation in communities to the global climate change crisis, and acknowledges that women in rural communities are not having it easy at all”. Citing an example of the situation in Dadinkowa community in Yamaltu Local Government Area, he tells me that “women in the community are crying out for help, as flood and erosion is disrupting their livelihoods and threatening their living areas.

Majority of the women in the community engage in subsistence farming and many have lost their vegetable farms and gardens to flooding and erosion. “Now that the rainy season is setting in, their worries are becoming heightened again” he adds.

Past efforts made to arrest the alarming spate of floods and erosion have failed; however, hope beams; as the government of the day is taking novel measures to help affected communities. Even as I am aware that work has started in earnest towards developing an ‘Ecological Master Plan’ for Gombe State, towards tackling identified threats, it has become pertinent  to sound an alarm that- the voices of women in the affected communities must count throughout the entire process.  

Women must be allowed full representation, participation and leadership in organized activities, as this is key to building ecological ingenuity, resilience and vibrancy in the communities. I am eager to see women’s needs, abilities and solutions prioritized in the drive towards reclaiming the climate and also restoring the environment. How about you?

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Comments

Dear Greengirl,

Thank you so much for sharing this post. I really enjoyed reading and seeing how climate change is affecting and reinforcing gender inequalities. It is so important to bring awareness to these changes such as the extreme weather conditions that have been occur all around the globe so everyone is aware and can take part into adapting and creating sustainable solutions. Your stories really brought a human face to these issues when discussing collecting water and how that taps in Hadiza’s village hardly ever runs. Thanks so much for sharing!

Sincerely, Alyssa 

Hello Alyssa,

Please accept my apologies for the delayed reply. It's soul lifting to know that you enjoyed reading the post, and could readily identify with the theme message. It is pretty worrisome that the level of awareness on climate change in Nigeria, particularly, in rural communities; leaves much to be desired. While people can readily identify with the extreme weather conditions around them, they know very little about the associated causes as well as adaptation and mitigation measures.

It definitely will not be an exaggeration to say that women should be at the forefront of the climate justice and solution drive. In like manner, there is no longer time for governments, globally, to continue paying lip service on the issue of climate change. I hope the reality of the stories of people like Hadiza will add credence to the urgency of creating sustainable solutions.

Thanks for reading and reaching out!

Warmly,Olanike

Greengirl,

Thanks so much for sharing your perspectives on and experiences with climate change. I agree with you that we urgently need to address environmental issues and the global impact that our choices and behaviors are having on the earth, and absolutely need to apply a gender lens when determining solutions to climate change. Climate change is not always something that is thought of as a women's issue, so I appreciate that you have given several examples of the extra burden that climate changes places on women, above and beyond the ways that climate change impacts all humans, and the earth itself. Women's voices are so often left out of the discussion on climate change, so thank you for helping bring them to the forefront.

-Stephanie

Steph A.

Dear Steph,

I sincerely appreciate  your solidarity! You have rightly highlighted the fact that "Climate change is not always something that is thought of as a women's issue". Well, the realities on ground are there for all to see.

Any and everywhere, it's all too glaring that women remain the most vulnerable to the effects of climate, especially due to women's closeness to nature, tradinational roles in the home and society, as well as patriachal structures and cultures which continuosly undermines women's empowerment and gender equality.

I remain hopeful that women's voices and choices will begin to count more than ever before, as we continue to project issues that matter to and concerns us. Let's keep the conversation going.

 

Best,

Olanike (Greengirl)

What an incredible post Olanike. While I am very distressed to read of the dire situation across your country, I am uplifted by your closing call to ensure women's voices are included in climate change initiatives. Your voice truly is one of the strongest, and your country is so lucky to have you leading so much incredible work!

Hugs, Chelsea

Great to hear from you Chelsea! You remain a very dear sister and friend, and your support is very close to my heart. I want you to know that words of encouragement and validation from supporters like you keeps me going.

As you may already know, my country is blessed with so much natural resources which is continuously being misappropriated; in ways that negatively affect the environment and undermine the survival of majority of the populace. While I don't intend to add to the distress you experienced while reading the post, it is pertinent to highlight that the 'dire situation' faced across the country is connected to many years of corrupt leadership and abuse of power and complete disregard for the tenets of fairness, justice and equity.

It is so sad that, more often than not, pressing issues such as climate change which continues to threaten the existence of communities are often capitalised upon by decision makers for personal gains, leaving those affected to a life of misery. Well, I will continue doing my bit in hope that sincere change will take effect someday. Soon, I hope!

It can no longer be overstated that women's voices should count at every decsion making table, anywhere and everywhere. Thank you for reaching out.

 

Hugs,

Olanike

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