More rain means more farmland will be flooded, creating a major environmental problem for Nigeria

The problems started a few years ago with Nigeria’s rapid urbanization and abandonment of traditional household farming. The result was destruction of the Channels of the Nile, which were then piled atop themselves in erosion and swelling. The Nile is estimated to have risen by two inches since 2013 alone.

The crisis has been most dramatic in the Niger Delta, where the country sits on the productive Delta Basin. Communities that populated the river basin today are themselves rapidly disappearing: According to Human Rights Watch, 53 communities have been displaced over the past five years, many of them in the last six months. Additions to the riverbed are carrying soil away from the delta, prompting the Niger Delta Development Commission, one of the government agencies responsible for economic development in the region, to issue a major, $5.1 billion plan to alleviate the area’s worsening water crisis.

Farmers move away from settlements to begin new communities, where farmland is underwater and owners are forced to find fields elsewhere. When they get to the new lands, they become shocked at the swamps they find them in. The environment has been made worse by flooding, rapid erosion and more frequent droughts. The West African country is also threatened by global warming, as recent episodes of extreme weather — from an early dry spell to torrential rain — suggest.

The solutions are numerous. Worsening ecological problems prompt immediate attention, while lack of governmental capacity holds back long-term responses.

In Lake Chad region, more flooding in the next 100 years would lead to continuous flooding of 3.7 million acres of farmland and 230 villages and communities, according to a 2009 U.N. report. A 2015 study by Climate Central suggests that this increase could result in annual crop losses of $4.9 billion to $10.3 billion — enough money for thousands of other projects. To prevent flooding, damming up the Niger River is one step — a riverbank creation that would slow flooding, mitigating the effects of severe rains.

But damming a river can bring challenges, particularly the possibility of wildlife poaching, the movement of farm animals downstream and other unforeseen ecological problems. Much attention is given to landslides — whether they’re caused by torrential rains, loss of hydropower or a landslide-induced landslide. The next steps in slowing down agricultural impacts are to shift how we farm, more environmentally friendly technologies to improve water utilization and mitigating climate change effects.

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