In an interview with EURACTIV Germany, Mohammed Baba Baituna, the founder of Green Sahel, spoke about conflicts in his home country Nigeria, where his organisation and other local activists have been trying to cushion the effects of climate change, which are strengthening the jihadist terror group Boko Haram.
Mohammed Baba Baituna, who lives in the town of Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria, founded Green Sahel, which has been planting trees to combat the effects of climate change and desertification,
How are climate change and conflicts interconnected in Nigeria?
The conflict we are currently experiencing in the Lake Chad region and northeastern Nigeria is primarily caused by climate change.
Fields are yielding less while herds of animals have less land to graze, leading to their deaths. Almost 80% of the people in northeastern Nigeria are farmers or shepherds, and climate change is destroying their livelihoods.
This makes people very receptive to terrorist propaganda.
Besides, an increasing number of shepherds are moving south, where there are more green spaces …
… and the farmers there are not exactly enthusiastic about this.
This triggers severe conflicts between communities, with the main reasons for this, are rising temperatures and unpredictable precipitation.
We must all tackle the problem to stop climate change, and to make people aware of this we have founded Green Sahel International.
What exactly do you do?
We plant trees and involve people in this activity – that’s how we want to create awareness.
We also organise workshops, especially in villages in the state of Borno. There, we explain how climate change works and how we can do our part at the local level to fight it. The more trees we plant, the more habitable the area will be, including for farmers and shepherds.
With our initiative, we have already planted 200,000 trees. We have planted a large part of the seedlings here at the Lake Chad Research Institute. We are also investigating how we can make plants more resilient so that they can survive amidst the changes.
Your main goal is to get more people in the region excited about environmental protection. How well does that work?
The topic is becoming more and more present, but there is still a long way to go. The big problem is that, amid the conflict, firewood has become the most important source of energy in the northeast part of the country.
Besides, many people make a living off selling wood. If you drive five kilometres from here to the countryside, you will see how they dig up trees, together with their roots.
People think the Sahara is far away. But if things do not change quickly, things will escalate: The desert sand is almost on our doorstep.
What about responsibility? Climate change is not primarily caused here.
While Europe and the US emit a lot of greenhouse gases, we are feeling the effects in Africa. For large sections of the population here, climate change is a serious threat.
That is why Europe and the US should take responsibility and help us build our capacity to cope. We also need financial support to carry out our projects.
If your neighbour’s house is on fire, you will do everything you can to stop it from spreading. The fight against climate change should be conducted in the same way.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]