GAROUA, CAMEROON - Cameroon says its northern border with Nigeria and Chad and most of the Lake Chad basin face a food crisis because of desertification and the Boko Haram conflict that stopped farmers from doing their work.
Thousands of school children selected from all local primary and secondary schools planted trees on the outskirts of Garoua, capital of the northern region of Cameroon. Didier Djonwe, an official of Cameroon's Ministry of Secondary Education, says the children were invited to plant trees because temperatures have been rising to up to 48 degrees Celsius from 42 degrees Celsius in the past couple of years.
Djonwe said by planting trees the children will understand that it is a citizen’s duty to protect the environment and keep it healthy for living, both for themselves and future generations.
Djonwe said each school in Garoua is expected have students water the trees on a schedule until the rainy season begins.
Up to 90 percent of rainfall in Garoua comes from June to September and evaporation, the government says, has been very high, with harsh, hostile and fragile climatic conditions.
Sali Seini of Cameroon's National Action Plan for the Fight Against Desertification, said Garoua is one of the towns in northern Cameroon witnessing the worst effects of desertification and land degradation.
He said more than eight million hectares of arable land has either been completely destroyed or is losing its fertility to a level that it is becoming impossible to grow crops, which is a very serious handicap to agricultural production. He said all the degraded soil should be restored through tree planting and the construction of water wells and boreholes where possible.
Seini says the phenomenon has worsened over the years, triggering a vicious circle of environmental degradation, leading to poverty, food insecurity and mass migration in dry areas.
Hanson Langmia, Cameroon Country Director for the World Wildlife Fund for Nature says the situation is getting serious because of decreasing rainfall and water shortages and wild fires and the cutting of trees for fuel.
"Our rivers will dry up and a lot of things will happen and we will face the impact. The heat we are facing is because the ozone layer that is supposed to be protecting the earth is being destroyed by overexploitation of our resources and the release of gases that are destroying the ozone layer," Langmia said.
Cameroon reports that 40 percent of its northern border with Nigeria and Chad has been affected by desertification and it has resulted in famine threatening 30 percent of the 3 million people of the far north region, including over 80,000 Nigerian refugees and 100,000 internally displaced persons.
The central African state says the situation may grow worse because the Boko Haram insurgency has prevented farmers from working their land and as a result, food production has dropped.
The situation is also bad in neighboring states of the Lake Chad Basin that depended on Cameroon for their food supply as the insurgency has moved.