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The National Question and Some Selected Topical Issues on Nigeria

edited by

Hassan Saliu, Ph. D. Ayodele Jimoh, PH. D. Tunde Arosanyin, PH..D.

VANTAGE PUBLISHERS IBADAN

Faculty of Business and Social Sciences, 2005


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First published, 2006 Published by Faculty of Bttsiness and Social Sciences, University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria. in corparation with VANTAGE PUBLISHERS LTD, 98A Oyo Road, Samonda, Old Airport Area, Secretariat P.O. Box 7669 Ibadan. e-mail:vantagepubl ishers@skannet.com. www. vantagepublishers @ COHL ng ISBN 978-071-973-3

Chapter 15

THE ECOLOGICAL PROBLEMS OF SOIL EROSION IN NIGERIA

Isah H. Jimoh,
Department of Geography, University of Hariri, Ilonn.

Introduction Quite a number of geomorphic events provoke ecological problems, and such geomorphic events cover a broad spectrum including flooding, fire disasters, typhoon and hurricane winds, soil erosion, etc. Any of these events is capable of negatively remodifying the human landscape. Essentially, the issue of interest in this chapter is that soil erosion has assumed diverse destructive dimensions and has therefore, attracted attention from a number of scholars. Most of such scholars have argued that this geomorphic event operates mainly on the human landscape and has been defined as the removal of soil resource by water or wind at a rate faster than that at which new ones form (Morgan, 1980). Erosion has equally been defined as the removal of soil resource from one location, which is deposited elsewhere (Jimoh, 1994). Implicit in the list of definitions is the fact that it connotes reduction in the nutrient status of soil in locations relative to points of deposits.

The ecological problems of soil erosion can assume a number of dimensions. For example, in the opinion of Cooke & Doornkamp (1974), erosion may be in the form of geologic or accelerated type. Geologic type of erosion refers to erosion incident taking place outside the undue interference from man. That is, the removal of soil materials from one place to another under natural conditions. Accelerated erosion on the other hand, occurs due to the activities of man. Alternatively, erosion can equally be viewed in terms of its nature such as rill, sheet and gully. Rill erosion is the development of series of narrow grooves of not more than tens of centimeters, which are capable of being erased through ploughing. Sheet erosion refers to the uniform removal of soil resources from a given earth surface. While gully erosion as defined by The Dictionary of Geological Terms refers any erosional channel so deep and wide that wheeled vehicles cannot cross it. Any of these and classifications portrays erosion as a dangerous event whenever and wherever it occurs.. thus, to fully understand the

mechanics of erosion requires a clear understanding of the initiating factors. Factors of Soil Erosion Research efforts in the tropics show that the most important factor that is of direct relevance to erosion studies in rainfall, while other factors include topography, soil, geology and land management techniques (Young, 1972; Olson, 1982; FAO, 1987; Jeje & Agu, 1990). Several attribute of rainfall bear direct relevance to the incidence of erosion in the human landscape. Such attributes include: rainfall intensity, drop size, duration of fall, annual total amount, frequency of fall, kinetic energy and terminal velocity, among others (Ologe, 1972; Oyegun, 1980). These rainfall characteristics have been observed by Elwell & Stocking (1974) to have the ability to loosen up soil structures and consequently remove earth materials from different surfaces. As a matter of fact, the obvious significance of rainfall attributes has been aptly pointed out by Ofomata (1965) thus: 310

It is not the total but rather the nature and intensity of rainfall which are important While rain may fall continuously for two, three or four hours, one notices that most of it comes during the first 40 minutes of the period of fall. They are the type of rainfall which causes so much damage in a relatively short time Giving more credence to rainfall factor is the development of surface run-off which results from poor soil infiltration capacity due to soil compaction, in most cases, is a product of human activities and the nature of rainfall (Morgan, 1969; Fullen, 1985; Jeje & Agu, 1990). This is because the developments of surface run-off assist tremendously in the detachment of earth materials and their transportation too. In addition, the factor to topography largely explains the rate of erosion occurrence in any given area. For instance, presence of scarp and vale topography encourages rapid ground lowering (Zingy, 1940; Hudson, 1983; Walling, 1983). This is because steep gradients supply a force of acceleration which enhances the speed of surface run-off. Thus, earth materials are easily moved to new locations by the surface run-off (Coleman, 1981; Meyer, 1986). Further, the geological compositions in an area determine its vulnerability to the rate of erosion. For instance, in an area where the local geological composition is poorly consolidated, the activity of denudation over it is usually significant. This situation is well represented over the poorly cemented sandstones of the former South Eastern parts of Nigeria (Jeje, 1982). This scenario can further be accentuated due to the nature, type and characteristics of soil in an area. The physical characteristics of soil comprise sand, loam, bulk density, clay, saturated hydraulic conductivity, among others, which vary widely in disposition in soils. Thus, these parameters largely determine the degree of coherence of soil and therefore, greatly explain the rate of the vulnerable response of soil to erosion. For instance, a deep soil with uniform contents of sand and clay materials is not susceptible to much erosion because the aggregates may be so well packed as to be difficult to detach. Conversely, soil that is entirely clay is not permeable and 311

therefore, permits the development of surface run-off, which in turn erodes the soil (Jeje, 1982). Also, soil with high sand contents is prone to erosion because, once surface run-off is generated; the sand aggregates are easily removed. This scenario therefore, explains the preponderance of sand materials in sediments (Garland, 1987). But, other attributes of soil that can explain its rate of vulnerability to soil erosion include the size and shape of soil particles, binding effects of plant roots on soils, litter on soil surfaces and soil infiltration capacity (OKeefe, 1975; Oyegun, 1980). Finally, the land management techniques adopted in an effort to interact with ground surface is yet another critical erosion factor. For instance, the activities of man have been regarded as the immediate cause of soil erosion (Eckholm, 1976; Bradford, 1977; Gougie, 1981). This implies that man is a geomorphological agent (Howard & Remson, 1978; Toy, 1982). Essentially, mans activities comprise overgrazing, over-cultivation, monocultivation, construction and developments, settlement expansions, increased exploitation of natural resources, building of roads, construction of dams, construction of irrigation projects, large-scale open cast mining, the burrowing and digging activities of both man and animals, dragging of logs of wood along ground surface, and careless engineering work (Wolman, 1977; Hudson, 1983). As a matter of fact, man has the ability to put his environment into various uses (Whyte, 1961), which in turn encourage the emergence of surface run-off and consequently the removal of earth materials (Coleman, 1981; and Lal, 1981). Generally, the rate of erosion within the human landscape is vested in the joint operational effects of external input (rainfall) and the internal conditions of the system (landscape factors). However, understanding the systems components in this way will assist in explaining and predicting the systems output (earth materials) and consequently reaching decisions that can positively ameliorate the deteriorated environmental conditions. Ecology of Soil Erosion Problems The problem of widespread erosion in Nigeria has been known 312

since 1910 (Floyd, 1965). Essentially, soil erosion occurs in many parts of Nigeria under different geologic, climatic and soil conditions. But, the severity of the erosion incidence varies considerably from one part of the country to another. Also, several reports on this geomorphic event from various parts of Nigeria have been written (Stamp, 1938; Low, 1956, Chalk, 1963; Townsend, 1965). Areas mostly affected by erosion are thought to be the Agulu and Nanka districts of the eastern part of Nigeria, and the Shendam and western Pankshin areas of Plateau State, Nigeria (Udo, 1970; Okigbo, 1977). In addition, the Imo State government in Nigeria has estimated that about 120,000 km 2 of land has been devastated by gully, 8 villages destroyed and 30,000 people have had to be resettled as a result of gully erosion in the district. Recently, the erosion damage in the Imo and Anambra States of Nigeria, has been estimated as causing loss of over 20 tons of fertile soil per annum, which amounted to a cost of over 300 million naira per annum, with gullies extending to depths of over 120m to 2km wide in some places (Adeleke & Leong, 1980). In 1994, about 5,000 people were rendered homeless due to erosion in Katsina State, Nigeria, while properties worth over 400million naira and many lives were lost. Other areas affected by erosion include Auchi in Edo State, Efon Alaye in Ondo State, Ankpa and Okene in Kogi State, Gombe in Bauchi State, among others. In addition, erosion incidence indicates

physical loss of available land for cultivation. For example, an expanse of land of about 1,000 hectares of cultivable land has been lost to erosion at the Agulu-Nanka area of Nigeria. Further, loss of homes, farm crops, disruption of communication routes, financial losses and attendant hydrological problems are equally parts of erosion problems. Generally, erosion can be gainfully said to have been taking its tolls on most parts of Nigeria and this has left untold suffering in the various sectors of the economy (fig 1). Studying Erosion Problems Soil erosion is increasingly being recognized as a hazard throughout the globe. However, efforts at effectively 313

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Oyegun (1986).

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controlling the incident whenever and wherever it occurs have always failed. Thus, understanding the erosion mechanics and perhaps the methods available to its study can considerably assist the conservation strategies with a view to achieving a high level of success in erosion control. Thus, according to Jimoh (20030, the understanding of erosion mechanics and the conduct of researches on erosion include a number of stages as follows: (a) Identification of the data required for the study This requires a clear understanding of the philosophy of the research. Thus, data sets can then be sourced to meet objectives of the study appropriately. However, data may be classified into climatic variables (rainfall features), landscape variables (soil factor, plant cover and slope degrees) and the socio-economic factors. (b) Available methods in erosion studies These include the application of erosion pins, sediment traps, Morgan splash pan and questionnaire administration (Jimoh, 2003). However, it is instructive to note that the administration of questionnaire is employed to complement the data generated either through the applications of erosion pins, sediment traps or the Morgan splash pan. Again, the adequacy of the erosion study method depends on the scope of the work and the philosophy, too. (c) Application of the appropriate analytical framework Certainly, data sets cannot speak for themselves. Analyzing them with appropriate analytical tool(s) will largely assist in understanding the research question(s) and the ability to take meaningful decisions, too. In essence, analytical methods such as descriptive statistics, bivariate

and multivariate statistical methods of analyses are desirable. Given this scenario, especially in the understanding of the mechanics of soil erosion and the available approaches to studying the geomorphic event, it then becomes easy to handle the problems as they arise in any part of human landscape.

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This indeed constitutes the focus of the next section of this work. Managing Erosion Problems Approaches to conserving erosion problems are multidimensional. For instance, on the one hand, Eze-Uzomaka (1979) groups the erosion measures into three, namely: (a) Agricultural measures (crop rotation, mulching, cover cropping, contour farming, massive afforestation of gully heads, slopes and floors, barring farming activities, shifting cultivation, and no tillage; Engineering measures which are designed for gullied areas and may be grouped into (i) catchment measures such as terracing and interceptor drains, (ii) slope measures involving slope reduction and wicker works, and (iii) invert measures such as check dams. These measures focus on velocity of flow and hence the carrying capacity of runoff water and allow for the safe disposal of the excess water (Lal, 1980); Public enlightenment measures on the effect of bush burning, inadequate drains around houses, land disputes resulting into land fragmentation for a number of erosion prone uses, religious and sociological hindrances, among others.

(b)

(c)

Recent studies have, however, unveiled that once the percentage surface cover required to protect a land use type from erosion incidence can be appropriately determined, the menace of erosion can possibly be checked or kept at minimal levels (see Oyegun, 1980; Jimoh, 1997; 2003). Importantly, management measures highlighted are site specific. That is, in some areas, the measures often fail. Therefore, understanding the soil mechanics and ensuring appropriate linkages in the application of the measures will largely assist in ameliorating the deteriorating environmental conditions.

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Conclusion Erosion problems are basic issues at a global scale. This is possibly due to their limitless imprints, which are frequently hazardous in their operations. Such erosional problems affect man and his environment. However, most governments have expended colossal amounts of money in a bid to check the erosional problems; yet, the problems still persist. This chapter has identified the factors of their occurrence, methods of study with a view to understanding their mechanics of operations and the management techniques.

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