The members of the Kurna Community addressed climate change impacts by using nature-based solutions such as afforestation by leveraging indigenous resources.
Kurna community, located in Kano State in Northern Nigeria, is particularly vulnerable to climate impacts like extreme heat and is already experiencing detrimental effects. Over the past two decades, the Kurna community has been suffering from the socio-economic impacts of climate change like reduced farm yield and business growth.
Locally-led Adaptation through Nature-Based Solutions
Dr. Dahiru Muhammad Hashim, Founder of Panacea Foundation, was born in the Kurna community. As a medical professional, he observed increased cases of respiratory diseases as a result of decreased air quality due to deforestation-induced air pollution. As a result of climate change impacts leading to extreme events also affect the agriculture. Dr. Dahiru along with many other community members co-created the Afforestation Drive initiative, a locally-led adaptation (LLA) project helping to address some of the impacts that climate change has had on their health, food, and agricultural systems via innovative nature-based solutions such as tree planting.
“Trees play a vital role in cleaning the air, absorbing CO2, and releasing oxygen. Without trees, the air in Kurna local community was polluted and unhealthy to breathe, leading to an increase in respiratory problems and other health issues,” Dr. Dahiru said.
Leveraging Digital and Local Resources for Afforestation
The Kurna people planted trees to help reduce extreme heat, serve as windbreakers and improve the air quality. Dr. Dahiru and his organisation, Panacea Foundation contributed to this by leveraging local partnerships to shift the status quo from current top-down approaches to a new model where local actors have greater power and resources to build resilience to climate change.
They also ensured transparency and accountability by creating an online open-source data kit application (https://www.kobotoolbox.org/) for primary data collection on tree plantation, humanitarian emergencies, and other challenging climate and environmental problems. This innovative digital solution helped the Kurna community track not just trees planted but rare indigenous trees that are threatened by the climate crisis. The initiative is also improving collaborative action with the Kurna people and scaling investments from the private sector to enhance efficiencies and good practices. The Kurna community leveraged local content (available resources and knowledge in their community) to ensure that the 2,000+ trees they planted were more adaptive and resilient to drought and heatwaves.
Improved Economic Growth & Resilience
The initiative helped rural and smallholder farmers from the community access improved tree seedling varieties (adaptive to their changing climate and environment) and local resources to help them nurture the planted trees among others. Beside improving the air quality these trees have also created livelihood opportunities for rural dwellers who are making an income from trading food crops like maize and rice. The resulting sustainable economic growth as the local businesses are booming is also helping the community to build resilience in a changing climate.
“The orchards planted in the Kurna community by Kurna people are not only fostering an enabling atmosphere in schools and homes for sustainable production practices, but they are also starting to supply the community with fruits that are offered at a discounted price while also generating revenue,” he explained.
People living in rural areas could not stay outside at night due to increased air temperature five years ago but today, the trees provide fresh air and have helped cool the environment. Dr. Dahiru said, “I also noticed a drop in cases of respiratory diseases in my community.” Today, this locally led adaptation Initiative provides the local community members with more direct access to resources and decision-making power. It has also taught them how tree planting as an adaptation action can be defined, prioritized, designed, and implemented; how progress can be monitored, and success evaluated. The initiative has been replicated in other local communities in the Kano State with a total number of 135,382 trees planted and monitored through the online data kits.
Addressing Local Barriers
According to Dr. Dahiru and his organisation, the Kurna people face some key barriers faced including lack of technical know-how, lack of capacity-building programs, lack of funding, local government bureaucracy, lack of coordination, and lack of transparency and accountability while carrying out the LLA initiative. In order to overcome these challenges, the community took collaborative actions with their key local stakeholders to develop capacity-building programs with the local authority, thus, improving the technical know-how on planting improved tree seedlings to adapt to increased air temperatures caused by climate change. Dr. Dahiru stated that they overcame the bureaucracy by using their influence and network of strategic partners such as the Forestry Department and some local institutions, creating easier access to finance for the local actors.
The Locally-led Adaptation project is designed to unlock, support, and leverage the creativity of the Kurna frontline community to develop and implement solutions. By transferring power to local stakeholders, this project presents a unique opportunity for effective, equitable, and transparent adaptation without placing the burden solely on them. However, Dr. Dahiru felt that the residents need more support from the local government, especially in terms of policy in the area of just transition (green jobs), which is expected to build more resilience against climate vulnerabilities associated with people living in the Kurna community. He also mentioned that in order to swiftly address climate impacts it is important to transfer decision-making to local Kurna stakeholders and that attitude changes need to happen across all sectors and levels to encourage investments in local capabilities.
The local government must recognize that everyone has to safeguard the environment and the climate. The urgency of the climate catastrophe must be acknowledged. Dr. Dahiru wants to see more private sector companies prioritising the needs of people over business interests and upholding corporate social responsibility to aid community-based organizations’ locally led adaptation efforts. He concluded by saying that local community members and local authorities should take collaborative action to address structural inequalities faced by women, youth, children, people with disabilities, people who are displaced, indigenous peoples, and marginalized ethnic groups.
Local communities are experiencing the effects of climate change firsthand, but they and other local actors rarely have a say in the decisions that have the greatest influence on them. They are some of the most innovative and creative people when it comes to adaptation actions but they are unable to effectively implement them due to a lack of resources and technical know-how. We must change the narrative from the current top-down strategies to a new model where local actors have more authority and resources to develop climate change resilience. This can unlock the capacity of frontline communities to create and execute locally-led adaptation solutions. By devolving decision-making to the local community members, effective, equitable, and transparent adaptation can be sparked.
About the interviewer
Azeez Abubakar is a climate champion and sustainability professional with a background in Engineering. He is a LEED Green Associate, 2021/22 Global Citizen Fellow, Global Shaper, and Partnerships and Engagement Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network. He found the Sustainable Solutions for Green Growth Development Initiative and has led several SDG-focused projects such as the Ilorin Climate Action, #YouthLeadSDG13, and #YouthLeadSDG14 campaigns, championing action for positive change in the most affected communities in his country and across the world. Learn more about him here.
About the Interviewee
Dr. Dahiru Muhammad Hashim is a 29-year-old doctor born and raised in the Kurna. He completed his medical studies from Egypt. In early 2018, Dr. Dahiru co-created of a community-based organization, Panacea. Their focus has been on planting trees for adaptation and ensuring sustainability through climate awareness and advocacy. In 2020, they were able to plant well over 5,000 tree seedlings through their project called the ‘Kano Afforestation Drive’. In 2022, they partnered with the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN) to plant 100,000 trees across Kano, Jigawa, Katsina, Plateau, and Kaduna. It is for this effort that they were nominated by the Nigerian Government to attend the COP27 – UN Climate Change Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.