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Lake Chad Basin

Time to calm the waters of Lake Chad and restore it to its former glory

16 April 2022
Reading time: 7 minutes

Sustainable and equitable management of Lake Chad and other shared water resources, the preservation of ecosystems, the promotion of integration and the preservation of peace and transboundary security in the Lake Chad Basin were the key factors highlighted in the first Annual International Forum of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC).

The commission is an intergovernmental organisation that oversees water and the use of other natural resources in the region. There are eight member countries comprising Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Algeria, the Central African Republic, Libya and Sudan. Apart from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, the remaining countries were chosen because of their proximity to Lake Chad. The organisation’s head office is in N’Djamena, Chad.

Over the years, there have been many challenges troubling the Lake Chad region, ranging from climate change to insecurity. The 13-year insurgency had resulted in an extensive humanitarian crisis with millions of internally displaced persons (IDPs) often preventing the sustainable development, peace and political stability of the Lake Chad region, the commission said.

It was for that reason that the LCBC held a two-day capacity-building forum on Monday and Tuesday, April 11 and 12, to brainstorm how best to curb the challenges facing the region. The theme was the “Lake Chad Basin: Climate Change, Security, Resilience and Development Recovery”.

Among those present at the high-profile forum were Yemi Osibanjo, the vice-president of Nigeria, Mamman Nuhu, the executive secretary of the LCBC, Shubham Chaudhur, the World Bank country representative in Nigeria, Babagana Umara Zulum, the governor of Borno State, Midjiyawa Bakari, the governor of Far North in Cameroon, Mohammed Alkali, the managing director of the North-east Development Commission and Suleiman Adamu, Nigeria’s minister of water resources.

Nuhu said the reason for organising the forum was to strengthen cooperation among the leaders of the Lake Chad region to ensure sustainable human-capital development.

“It is a platform that brings together high-level international and local stakeholders to facilitate exchanges on the progress of the implementation of the Lake Chad Region Recovery and Development Project (PROLAC); to deepen conversations and harmonise existing national and regional initiatives and strategies to enable planning of closer cooperation to enhance stabilisation in the Lake Chad region.”

Nuhu said the forum was organised as part of the implementation of the PROLAC. He was optimistic that the forum’s inaugural meeting would facilitate an effective mechanism for regional cooperation and coordination of stabilisation and recovery intervention across the region.

Alkali pinpointed the area around Lake Chad which had borne the double burden of climate change and forced displacement for many years.

“Latest estimates show that the region hosts 2.5 million refugees and internally displaced persons, most of them children. This forced displacement crisis has added pressure on host communities in the region. Despite Lake Chad’s potential of being the driver of development in West Africa, the area is being challenged by multiple and interrelated drivers of conflicts and fragility,” he said, adding that the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS), better known as Boko Haram, insurgency alone had affected more than 23 million people.

Alkali said Nigeria’s inclusion in the PROLAC was premised on continuing World Bank finance and that the multisectoral recovery project being implemented in the Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states had a similar purpose to regional projects in terms of social cohesion, livelihood, restoration of services and reconciliation.

Osibanjo, declaring the forum open, called for international cooperation for the effective delivery of economic stability and peace, as well as the containment of the humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad region.

“There is a need for international cooperation and collaboration, especially as we have seen in the domain of military action. We’ve seen this work in cross-border security interventions, especially in terrorism situations in the neighbourhood.

“All of the successes in our fight against terrorism exemplify what we can achieve working together. We therefore must continue to build on this spirit of cooperation in other areas of intervention and forge even stronger ties for sharing information and lessons from our different experiences.”

He expressed dismay about the shrinking of Lake Chad, which he described as once being one of the Africa’s largest natural deposits, covering 25,000km² and providing water to more than 30 million people in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad. However, the lake had shrunk to about 2,000 km².

He said that the huge economic value of the lake included fishing, agricultural productivity, health and security.

“Today Lake Chad has shrunk disastrously to barely 2,000 km², an example of the devastating effect of climate change on natural resources. This sharp drop in size and decrease in water levels has led to a chain of catastrophic events, including the impairment of the capacity to deliver food, health and security to its populations, resulting first in economic instability and in the downturn in agricultural productivity and, subsequently, in festering insecurity all around the Sahel, in many cases in violent contests for food, water and pasture.”

Osibanjo said insecurity in the Sahel region had escalated another crisis – a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions, adding that more than 23 million residents and citizens of the four countries were now displaced.

He described the PROLAC intervention as an inspired approach, focusing on investment to support regional coordination and crisis monitoring, as well as connectivity and scaling up agricultural livelihoods. The interventions “are rightly expected to address the underlying fragility and the acute humanitarian and forced displacement crisis in the four countries”.

He highlighted the progress made so far in the fight against the insurgency, assuring the forum that the Nigerian government would remain an active participant in turning its recommendations into actions.

Osibanjo said the results and recommendations resulting from the forum would be shared with various governments to guide policy-making and strategic decisions that needed to be taken for the short- and long-term development of the region.

Chaudhuri said the World Bank had put in place strategic measures to eradicate poverty. About  US$1 billion had been spent on the multisectoral recovery project in the Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in northeastern Nigeria.

He assured the forum that the World Bank would continue to support and tackle the issues of climate change in the Lake Chad region to improve the livelihoods of the people and to eradicate poverty.

A participant, Abdulaziz Mala, executive director of the Swift Relief Foundation (SRF), told RNI that there were three key issues discussed at the forum: Climate change, natural resources and livelihoods in the region; peace security and development operations; and local governance, social cohesion and resilience.

He said the forum had highlighted key challenges in relation to climate change and its way forward in the Lake Chad region.

These included the lack of consistent and adequate biophysical and socioeconomic data to guide decisions and policy-making; the importance of satellite imageries in the analysis of the spatiotemporal dynamics of the Lake Chad Basin; the strategies developed by local populations to adapt to Lake Chad’s hydrological variabilities, especially mobility, multifunction space and usage; and the relationship between climate indicators and recharging water in the lake.

Mala said the forum focused on issues of governance in relation to societal crises and poverty, the question of social reintegration of the former combatants of the JAS, endogenous responses based on an inclusive and participatory approach, the involvement of women and youth in the recovery and stabilisation strategies of the Lake Chad Basin, and the consequences of youth recruitment in the socioeconomic development of the Lake Chad region.


About the author

Elvis Mugisha