Nigerian Forestry Delegation Sees KKL-JNF Desert Afforestation First-hand

Tuesday, December 02, 2014 3:10 PM

Nigerian Forestry delegation learns about KKL-JNF methods of afforestation and erosion prevention in Israel, which they hope to apply in Nigeria.

KKL-JNF is world famous for its water management techniques and innovative methods of erosion provention and gully head control. A delegation of 23 professionals from Nigeria, guests of the Weitz Center for Development Studies, spent an afternoon in the Negev and saw how KKL-JNF takes advantage of a limited water supply to plant trees and control land degradation.

Nigerian Forestry delegation. Photo: Tania Susskind

On Sunday, November 30, a group of 23 Nigerian professionals joined KKL-JNF's Gil Siaki for a visit to the western Negev, where they saw how KKL-JNF water management methods makes it possible to plant trees in the desert and fight erosion caused by land abuse. The group, who are guests of the Weitz Center for Development Studies in Rehovot, are here for about ten days to participate in a seminar on climate change. They were accompanied by Jeremy Ben Shalom, Head of Sustainable Development at the Weitz Center, which is a non-profit NGO engaged in training and consulting on assets-based local development in Israel and in the developing world. More than 4,000 professionals from developing countries have taken part in the Weitz Center training programs, based on leveraging local assets for development and poverty alleviation.
Combating Gully Erosion 

Gully head in Carmit. Photo: Tania Susskind

The afternoon began with a visit to a ravine near the new community of Carmit, which is being built with KKL-JNF's assistance. Gil noted that the loess soil there becomes sealed even after a short rain, which leads to water runoff that creates erosion. Particularly problematic are the formation of new gullies, which are caused by a shallow cut in the landscape along a natural drainage path. The cut is known as a gully head, which affects the water flow and causes further erosion, eventually creating a gully with unstable walls.  Gully heads expand every year by a few hundred meters, and if the problem is not dealt with, it threatens roads and houses in the nearby village.
A New Community Forest in the Desert
The group proceeded to a vantage point located next to the recently completed synagogue in Carmit. Gil explained how planning for the new community includes creating a green belt around the village as part of the infrastructure works, which KKL-JNF is also involved in. He pointed to the nearby pine forest, which was planted in the 1960s and is very healthy thanks to the last thinning carried out by KKL-JNF foresters.

New saplings for forest using water harvesting and tree protection techniques. Photo: Tania Susskind

"The new forest we are planting here will be different," Gil said, "as it will be comprised of about 15 species of broadleaf trees such as eucalyptus, carobs, acacia, pistachio and more. The trees are able to survive in this semi-arid climate thanks to our water management methods, which are based on the agricultural techniques of the Nabateans, who lived here many years ago. We create limans by damming the earth and trapping the water, along with trenches that take advantage of the land's natural contour. During the first three years of the trees' growth, we have to water them by hand. They are like babies who need to be taken care of."

In answer to one of the many questions asked by members of the group, Gil said that the survival rate of the trees is 90% after the first year of growth, and not less than 80% after six years, a statistic that elicited expressions of surprise from Gil's listeners. One of the Nigerian professionals remarked that on a future visit, he would very much like to visit the KKL-JNF tree nursery in Gilat to see how trees that are suitable to dry climates are propagated. The group was also impressed by KKL-JNF's tree planting system, which includes plastic mulching with small holes for water penetration and sleeves for the tree saplings that protect them from grazing animals and encourage them to grow higher.

 Obiageli Nwanko. Photo: Tania Susskind
Mrs. Obiageli Nwanko, Public Secretary of the Ministry of the Environment of the Anambra State of Nigeria, said that the group came to Israel "to see watershed projects and to get an idea of what you have accomplished here. I am especially interested in the processes and procedures of water management, gully erosion, and land use by the state, which is what we just saw with KKL-JNF. I was in Israel previously, in 2008, when I came here on a pilgrimage. I'm very happy to be here again."

Before dark, the group visited the nearby town of Meitar, which is nestled in the bosom of the green forest that encircles it from all sides. Gil explained how KKL-JNF avoids flow concentration in the middle of the valleys, thereby reducing water energy and allowing the water to spread throughout the entire valley. He also spoke about the idea of planting forests around urban centers, which is accomplished with the full cooperation of local residents. Trees are also planted in the town's dry riverbeds to create a connection with the surrounding woodlands.
Applying KKL-JNF techniques in Nigeria
Reverend Engineer Kelvin E. Igbanigbor, who works with the Ministry of Environment of the Abia States of Nigeria, found KKL-JNF's achievements especially interesting, "since we are working together with the World Bank on a project to control erosion. In Nigeria we have more area than you do here, and more area means more erosion. We have seen some solutions to this problem that I think we can put into place in Nigeria."

Reverend Engineer Kelvin E. Igbanigbor

Chikelo Nwune.  Photos: Tania Susskind

Chikelo Nwune, National Coordinator for the Nigerian Erosion and Watershed Management Project said that he wanted to come to Israel "because I read so much about Israel's accomplishments in scientific literature and on the internet, and I see so many Israelis at international scientific conferences. There are regions of Nigeria with a climate similar to yours, and water is certainly a problem, particularly in the dry season. We encourage our people to harvest water and we teach them how to manage water.

Meitar has forest planted in its gully beds, forming continuity within the town to the community forest. Photo: Tania Susskind

"Discipline and enforcement of the laws related to water management are very important. We have a population of over 150 million people in Nigeria, and land abuse is a serious problem. When you have land abuse, you lose it and then you can't use it for anything. I was very excited to come to Israel, because my brother was here on pilgrimage and he told me very nice things about the country. If given the opportunity, I would certainly like to come back here and learn more."

On Thursday, December 4, KKL-JNF's Anat Gold will take the delegation for a tour of Beersheba River Park, where they will see how KKL-JNF uses recycled effluents to transform an environmental hazard into a huge green urban park that has upgraded quality of life for Beersheba's citizens.