Vital Signs Analysis for Nigeria Reveals Land Degradation and Climate Change Effects Persist

  • November 16, 2020
  • Posted by: ajamah

A demonstration plot for Resilient Food Systems (RFS) Nigeria. Photo credit: RFS Nigeria 

By Tom Kiptenai

Similar to other countries in the world, Nigeria continues to be negatively affected by climate change; this is exemplified by increases in temperature, variable rainfall, rise in sea level, flooding, drought and desertification, and land degradation. More frequent extreme weather events are impacting both people and natural capital, including freshwater resources, and biodiversity.

Given the importance of the agricultural sector to livelihoods and the economy in Nigeria, problems with crop yields and productivity adversely affect the gross domestic product (GDP). In addition, extreme weather events, such as floods, undermine economic growth through production and infrastructure losses and the need for extraordinary spending. Unpredictable rainfall variation, heat stress and drought continue to adversely affect food production and result in food shortages.

The high vulnerability of Nigeria’s northern states to climate change poses a serious threat to food security throughout the country. The greenhouse gases largely contributed by changes in land use and land cover is the major cause of climate change which is tied to land degradation. It is therefore important to monitor and assess land degradation, changes in land cover and carbon emission due to deforestation. Such effort will provide evidence-based science that will guided targeted and more efficient restoration efforts a midst shortages in resources.

Using remotely sensed data, Geographic Information Systems and the Trends.Earth tool, an analysis of land degradation, land productivity, carbon emission due to deforestation and changes in land use and land cover was performed for Nigeria with the year 2018 as a baseline.

Nationally, 37% of the land in Nigeria is degraded and 45% is stable, while only 18% of the land is improving. The rate of land degradation is the highest among the 12 countries under the Resilient Food System project. The states of Gombe and Adamawa have the highest proportions of degraded area at 72.3% and 63.6%. The states of Jigawa, Kano, Katsina and Nasarawa are largely stable (at 66%, 55.5%, 59% and 41.8%) with Nasarawa having a bigger proportion of land area under improvement. All the project villages have a significant portion of degraded land.

Forest land is dominant in the Southern part of the country, as part of the rainforest belt across West Africa. The northern part is dominated by annual cropland and woodland/ shrubland. For all the project states, cropland is the most dominant land cover type. However, Nassarawa and Benue States have considerably more tree cover compared to the other States.

For carbon emission due to deforestation, Nassarawa and Benue states, lost a total of 62,459 hectares of forests and consequently is the highest emitter of all states in this study. A total of 19,497 ha of forests lost in both Adamawa and Gombe. Jigawa, Katsina and Kano have the lowest proportion of forest land hence lower level of emission.

The findings above will be useful for three main reasons:

  • To establish the baseline measures for the targets set by the Project,
  • To determine accurate targets for land restoration through the Project’s sustainable land management activities, and
  • To assess progress towards the mid and end term targets.

There is a direct relationship between human activities and the state of the natural capital in our environment. Uncontrolled and unsustainable activities will continuously affect the state of land use, land cover, carbon sequestration, land degradation, land productivity and organic soil carbons. It is therefore critical to make evidence-based decisions to ensure that both the environment and humanity thrive.

From the findings, it is therefore recommended that:

  • Sustainable alternative sources of livelihoods for resource-dependent community members including youth and women are promoted. This will ease pressure on the natural resources and enhance resilience of the food systems.
  • Forest loss results in high carbon emissions negating the efforts in climate change mitigation and increasing the risk of long-term degradation. It is encouraged that policies and practices towards restoration of degraded land and protection of areas rich an natural capital such as forests.
  • Regular monitoring of activities with direct impact on land use/cover is necessary in order to achieve the longer-term targets of improved vegetation cover and land degradation status. The project sites should adopt interventions that improve long term vegetation cover for sustainable land restoration.

Tom Kiptenai is the GIS/Remote Sensing Analyst for Conservation International’s Vital Signs Program. Email:                 


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