International Symposium on
Drylands Ecology and Human Security

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The Interplay between Local Socioeconomic and Biophysical Processes
Affecting Desertification in Nigeria with Irresponsible Foreign Aid Policies
as well as Rent Dissipation

Andy Spiess

University of Hamburg, Department of Economics and Policy, Center for International Relations, Germany
GCC Network for Drylands Research and Development (NDRD)

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Induced by population stress, the low-rainfall ecologies of Northern Nigeria have been experiencing continuous land degradation characterized by extensive desertification. Undisputed, this region serves as a good example when it comes to the relationship between desertification and human vulnerability: While approximately more than 32 million people are directly affected by this phenomenon, the majority of the rest of Africa’s most populous nation is living in extreme poverty and therefore suffering from the indirect consequences of this environmental disaster.
Irresponsible and inappropriate government policies usually undermine human security by reducing access to, and the quality of, the already scarce natural resources that are important to sustain people’s livelihoods. As a result progressive land degradation has among other factors led to severe poverty, followed by communal clashes (often misinterpreted as ethnic and/or religious clashes) and human displacement. Comprehensive and preventive policy approaches and societal mechanisms would be urgently required to reverse these negative social consequences.

The paper outlines the overall challenge of the desertification debate within the context of vulnerability and human security in Nigeria, induced by an irresponsible international policy. Consequently, this study assumes that the political and socio-economic framework conditions are the major determinants when it comes to resource distribution and environmental degradation. Even if empirical evidence on the mechanisms, the magnitude and the negative effects of rent seeking as a result of foreign aid in Sub Saharan Africa in relationship to its constant threat to sound development policies and good governance has been well documented in the past, a paradigm change in this respect seems to be improbable. Especially when considering that Nigeria is one of the world's largest oil exporters, the unethical context becomes even more evident.

While the CCD undeniably has an impact at the national level of policy-making and provided support for decentralization, it indirectly also supports the same typical problem and conflict spheres that are characteristic for the continent: Mismanagement, corruption, cleptocracy, violence and terror. Participatory processes of policy-making and the inclusion of local traditional knowledge in the policy process are merely rhetoric, while the absence of political will to implement the convention is not only obvious at the decentralized level.
Instead this analysis will argue, that a sustainable environmental policy formation, taking into consideration the degree of corruptibility and political instability in Nigeria, will be unlikely and therefore the current situation may lead into a severe humanitarian crises. We cannot exclude conflicts, if scarce goods are distributed unequally within or between societies and if policies to redress such trends will remain absent in the future.

Keywords: Desertification, Human Security, Nigeria, UNCCD, Rent Dissipation