Where Techies Come Together to Promote Peace: The Tech Camp in Niamey

Hamzat Lawal February 4, 2016 0


Over 65 participants: religious leaders and young people, from across the Niger and the Sahel met in Niamey to participate in the first TechCamp Program of the International Information of the State Department,  in partnership with the National Youth Council, focused on the fight against violent extremism.

The two-day workshop included a fully interactive session with leading technology experts from across Africa, Europe, and the USA as trainers with local leaders to strengthen digital capacity and co-create solutions to real world challenges.

The event kicked off with a welcome remark by Ambassador Eunice S. Reddick, the US ambassador to Niamey, who disclosed that it was a camp for youth and religious leaders to share their skills and expertise, and develop dynamic strategies to counter extremist messages and promote peace and tolerance.

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The opening remarks was followed by a “speed – geeking” session, a fast paced project presentation where each trainer spoke for 5-minutes on how he used Social Media to sensitize and mobilize the public. The participants were broken down into smaller groups and spent 5 minutes at each stand listening to each trainer.

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It was then followed by topics which included:
1. your audience into a community by Jamila Fagge from Voice of America Radio Hausa
2. Multimedia story Telling by Gino Hadji – A presenter and producer with Canal 3 Niger TV
3. Storytelling for Radio by Inne Kaka Moussa from Equal Access Radio
4. Social Radio for Religious Leaders by Shiek Bourama Dauoda
5. Digital Skills for job seekers by Oussama Abdelah Benhmida from LabNet – Morocco showed how 10,000 youths can be employed by learning skills like infographics making, creating digital contents etc
6. Mobile App Development by Mamadou Drame, Digital School Technologies and Mandela Washington Fellow ( YALI)
7. Connectivity, Computing access in rural areas by Ali Karim Alio, Nova Technologies, Mandela Washington (YALI)
8. Community Mapping by Orsoly Ajenei, PDEV. The Mapping for Niger which involved about thirty Geography students in mapping their communities that largely lack geographic data, and using social media to talk about the life in Niger.
9. Digital Media Strategies for Advocacy by Daouda Hamadou, NOVATECH Houssein Abil, L’Incubateur CIPMEN
10. Video Production by Sopien Ben-Achour from “Search for Common Ground”.

The first day ended with a session where the participants and the trainers developed a “Challenge statement”.

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The second day kicked off with Networking, discussion of problem statements/challenges, brainstorming sessions of Day 1, with small group work on identifying solutions, small group problem definition refinement and action planning. I was opportune to be part of the team that worked on “How to use Information Technology(IT) as tools of communication and/for conflict resolution”.

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Interesting and educative camps like this would not have been complete without dinners like the one at Hotel Gaweye hosted by Ambassador Eunice Reddick with all the great TechCamp Niamey committee, Trainers and participants. Many thanks to Hon Ahmed Bachaka, and my happy friends from Mauritania (Morocco), Hungary, USA, Senegal etc who made my two day in Niamey pleasant.

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Skin & Bones: The Great Green Wall Project

Hamzat Lawal January 7, 2016 0

The dry, dusty trade wind, blows over the West African subcontinent thinly coating surfaces with dust, cracking up skins and drying up moisture in the atmosphere. Harmattan – the yearly phenomenon which sends winds from the Sahara Desert into the Gulf of Guinea has brought with it a period of hotter days and colder nights than experienced in recent years.

The earth is getting warmer; climate change is tipping on the negative.

The Great Green Wall Project or Great Green Wall of the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative is a planned project to plant a wall of trees across Africa at the southern edge of the Sahara desert as a means to prevent desertification. It was developed by the African Union to address the detrimental social, economic and environmental impacts of land degradation and desertification in the Sahel and the Sahara.

Contributing to improved local incomes, the Great Green Wall will be a global answer to the combined effect of natural resources degradation and drought in rural areas. The Initiative is a partnership that supports the effort of local communities in the sustainable management and use of forests and other natural resources in drylands.
The bulk of the work on the ground was initially slated to be concentrated along a stretch of land from Djibouti, in the east to Dakar, Senegal, in the west—an expanse 15 kilometers (9 miles) wide and 7,775 kilometers (4,831 miles) long. The project later expanded to include countries in both northern and western Africa.

In 2007, during the eight ordinary session of the Conference of Heads of State and Governments held on January 29 and 30, 2007 in Addis-Ababa (Ethiopia), African Heads of State and Government endorsed the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative.
Subsequently, in June 2010, a convention was signed by Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan in Ndjamena, Chad, to create the Great Green Wall (GGW) Agency which created the Panafrican Agency of the Great Green Wall (PAGGW).

The land degradation experienced is a factor of both human-related and natural activities; poor farming activities, overgrazing, illegal waste management, and extreme weather are the most common causes.
It is estimated that 500 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are affected by land degradation which poses threats to agricultural productivity which is a main source of livelihood.

The project’s $2 billion budget, stemming largely from World Bank co-financing and partnerships fostered by the African Union, ensures participating countries will have the means to see the project through to the end. Examples of success include more than 50,000 acres of trees planted in Senegal.

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Figure 1: The expected growth path of the GGW project

Implementation of the project in Nigeria takes place in eleven frontline States of Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Yobe and Borno. Covering over 43 LGAs and rehabilitate 225,000 Hectares of land.

The Follow The Money team decided to do on-site visit in November 2015 to the projects in Kebbi [Bachaka], Kano [Kadandanni] and Jigawa [Jeke]; Kebbi because the GGW was flagged – off in Kebbi State in November 2014, Kano to compare the success of the GGW to the state’s government reforestation program, and Jigawa because it shares an international border with the Republic of Niger.

Abubakar Maiyaki (Mai Yakin Bachaka) the deputy of the traditional leader of Bachaka said the Great Green Wall project has made significant impact in their community. “Community members have undergone training and recruited as forest and security guards, an orchard was created where economic trees were planted, shelter belts were also planted and are flourishing, two boreholes were provided to the community, social mobilization and sensitization of the community on the importance of tree planting were carried out, school children were trained on how to plant trees and gardening”

For Maiyaki, the Great Green Wall project provides an opportunity to empower and educate the community on the importance of tree planting

In Kano, the team visited Kadandanni community in Makoda LGA and welcomed by Adamu Abdullahi, the traditional leader of the community who expressed that the community were initially excited about the project; an optimism that has waned with the passing months.

“The Kadandani inhabitants are much aware about the benefit of planting trees, owing to awareness and training programmes by the government, but it has had its own challenges, at the beginning of the GGW, we were promised water, an important amenity to us and our livestocks, but looking back, this is not the case if you visit the proposed site for this amenities”

Abdullahi felt that the project had become politicised as the norm with pressing issues in Nigeria.
An assessment of the existing infrastructure in the community showed poor maintenance of the solar powered pumps for water – the borehole had stopped working six months ago, the storage shed for tools had been blown away winds earlier, the orchard was drying up and dying.

The team also met with the representative of the women association, Hajiya Mari who was selected to head to Katsina state for 2-day seminar on the importance of the project. Mari said they were trained on how to grow plants and given date seedlings to plant in the community to fight off desertification, and she has planted 10 in her house.

The story isn’t any different at Jeke, a dry community located in Sule Tankarkar LGA in Jigawa state. Yakubu Magaji, the community leader who took the team to inspect the site of the project expressed dismay at the state of the nursery, orchard and wind-powered borehole.

“The wind is not strong enough to fully power the borehole”

Magaji says as the community has to subsidise using the borehole three times a week to generate water needed.

As much as the Great Green Wall project is seen as means to reduce the expansion of the Sahara into Nigeria, it represents an opportunity to restore land once rich with biodiversity and vegetation. There is a commitment by the Federal Government of Nigeria and other governments to the project but the pace is almost negligible.

If the project comes to fruition, it can really help the sub-Saharan part of Africa and the continent on a whole in its drive to help the climate, provide a means of empowering communities and create a large social impact.