The decline in the viability of biological resources in the Lake Chad Basin refers to the inability of the regeneration of plant and animal resources to keep up with the rate of exploitation and disturbances (loss of tree seedlings, collapse of fisheries, soil sterilization, etc. ..), which are caused by population pressure, low environmental awareness levels and the absence of the concept of sustainable development in the political agenda of Member States. This phenomenon has a spiralling effect as shortages cause more instability in resource harvesting and thus, more degradation. The net socio-economic result is entrenchment of poverty due to resource shortages. It also contributes to biodiversity loss and increasing variability of the hydrological regime and fresh water availability.
Biological resources consist of biomass, agricultural land, fish and wildlife stocks and forests in the Basin. As these biological resource stocks are limited, they get depleted with exploitation. Given that they are renewable, these stocks can be reconstituted over one or more generations. However, if they are overexploited, alongside an imbalance in ecological and climatic conditions and if the quality of natural resources is too greatly deteriorated, their stocks may not be rebuilt.
The chief causes of this decline in viability of biological resources are the drastic shrinkage of the Lake’s waters and population pressure.
Decrease in the Lake’s water
Between 1960 and 2000, Lake Chad shrank from 25,000 km ² to 2500 km ². This decrease has resulted in the reduction of cultivable land, grazing areas and especially the natural environment for wildlife breeding, foraging and shelter (fish, hippopotamuses, crocodiles ...).
The Lake’s population is rapidly expanding by way of natural population growth, the influx of migrants in search of fish, grazing land and employment. This rapid growth has led to the loss of natural animal habitats and grazing areas in favour of farmland; disruption of breeding areas for fish and other aquatic animals. The use of unconventional fishing gear and over-hunting of certain animals are other practices that contribute to biodiversity loss.
Another cause of decreased viability of biological resources
Overgrazing is one of the causes of the declining viability of biological resources. Cattle herders who bring their animals to a very small space cause regular epidemic outbreaks in animals and destroy the natural wildlife habitats.
Overuse of pesticides on crops and in ponds is equally a factor in the disruption of biodiversity.
Biological resource stocks being limited, they get depleted with use. Since they are renewable, these stocks can recover over one or more generations. However, if they are overexploited, if there are imbalances in ecological and climatic conditions and if natural resource quality is highly degraded, their stocks may not be reconstituted.
As part of the fight against the decline in the viability of the Lake’s biological resources, the LCBC with the support of some donors (ADB) has established the Lake Chad Basin Sustainable Development Program. The program aims at environmental rehabilitation among others by:
- soil protection and restoration and water and soil conservation;
- regeneration of degraded grazing-land ecosystems;
- control of proliferation of invasive aquatic species and pollution ;
- biodiversity conservation (the Kouri cow species) ;
- management of the Lake’s water supply points ;
- sustainable management of forestry, pasture and fishery resources
The riparian States have, in addition to their prerogative of environmental conservation, concurrently established development agencies to help in the fight against the decline in viability of biological resources. For instance:
- in Cameroon : The Integrated Rural Development of the Chari-Logone sub-basin (PDRI-CL) Project
- in Niger :
- in Nigeria: the Chad Basin Development Authority (CBDA), the Lake Chad Research institute,
- in Chad : the Société de Développement du Lac [the Lake development Company (SODELAC)], Projet de la conservation de la vache Kouri [the Kouri cow conservation project]in Bol,