Activists in Nigeria say security in West Africa is directly related to the region’s ability to adapt to climate change. To raise awareness, an environmental group called 'Walk to Mali' is planning a 3,400 kilometer trek from Nigeria to Mali.
Climate change is affecting West Africa, where most of the people are farmers, growing just enough food to feed their families.
But ‘Walk to Mali’ program director Oludotun Babayemi says these farming communities are victims of environmental degradation and need to develop strategies to cope with deforestation, increased flooding and other impacts of climate change.
“We are not the most emitters of carbon dioxide, but we are left to adapt to what is happening right now, one of which is flooding. So we need to learn how to adapt to these kinds of situations,” says he.
Babayemi says his organization is raising funds to send 12 people from the Nigerian capital on a trek through Niger, Mali, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin and finishing in Nigeria’s financial capital, Lagos. The group plans to travel by foot sometimes and other times hitch rides with humanitarian organizations they hope will host some of their activities.
Walk to Mali public relations manager Hamzat Lawal says participants will teach communities to protect themselves from climate change through strategies like identifying evacuation routes to escape floods and ways to cook food without cutting down trees.
“So in that process we are reaching out to millions of people. We are going to tell them what is actually happening in their region and how they can contribute to sustainable development over time,” says Lawal.
The United Nations says in West Africa, environmental issues are also security issues as communities and militants compete for depleting resources. The ‘Walk to Mali’ group plans to pass through remote areas where militants battle with governments and each other.
“Definitely it is going to be dangerous, but if you look at the impact and outcome, then it is worth it,” says Lawal.
Lawal also says the the West Africans are working with aid organizations to identify the safest route to Mali and back again.