The study was undertaken to examine the effect of land degradation on agricultural activities in Ethiope East Local Government Area of Delta state. A multistage random sampling technique was used to select six communities mostly affected by land degradation and a total of sixty respondents (farmers) was use for the study. A structured interview schedule was used in collecting data from the respondents. Frequency counts, percentages, charts and mean statistics were used to analyze objectives 1, 2, 3, and 4. The result of the study revealed that greater percent of respondents were females, married and educated with an average age of 53.7 years. The average farming experience of the respondents was 18.9 years, family size of 7 and farm size of 1.2 hectares. The major perceived cause of land degradation in the area includes pollution, fire outbreak, unstable agricultural practices, oil spillage and oil exploration. The major perceived effects of land degradation include decrease in farmland available for cultivation, reduction in farm yield (output), reduction in farmer’s income and loss of nutrients/organic matter. Based on the major findings, of the study it was recommended that awareness campaign on the proper use of agricultural land should be mounted at all levels and government should prevail on oil companies to pay compensation for farm lands lost due to oil spillage and exploration. Additionally, mopping up of oil spills should be enforced so as to punish the indiscriminate use of land, like bush burning, deforestation and so on.
1.2 Problem statement
Land degradation, as a decline in land quality caused by human activities has been a major global issue during the 20th century and will remain on the international agenda in the 21st century. The importance of land degradation among global issues is placed on because of its impact on world food security and quality of the environment.
According to Akamigbo (2005), land degradation assume varying various dimensions depending on one’s location in the country. For example, inhabitants of the coastal areas are not as worried by the fear of desert encroachment as those who reside in Borno, Sokoto, Katsina, and Kano states of Nigeria, just as they worry about oil pollution and spillage, accompanied with coastal erosion and flooding. Sheet erosion is nation-wide while gully erosion is most severe and dense in certain southern states of Anambra, Imo, Abia, Enugu, Ondo, Delta and Akwa Ibom. Other states outside the southern zone such as Kogi, Jigawa, Adamawa and Gombe. Flooding occurs throughout Nigeria. Land degradation in the extreme form of gully erosion, can cause the loss of human life and other economic resources, roads and houses are destroyed.
Land degradation in an agrarian economy can lead to unsustainable agriculture and development, thereby precipitating starvation and poverty. It can cause siltation of reservoirs, lakes, stream and rivers. Such phenomenon will lead to scarcity of water for both humans and livestock. The water may be polluted and thereby cause various types of health problems.
As population continues to grow and towns and villages continue to develop, demand for more land for economic activities such as oil exploration, road, building construction and industrialization become high. These activities lead to land degradation through oil spillage, erosion and pollution which led to shortage of agricultural land (Orji, Ugwumba and Ugo, 2006). Land degradation may also caused by soil erosion, deforestation, overgrazing, shortened circles of shiing cultivation and cultivation on sloped areas without any form of conservation (Okon and Amalu, 2003; Robert, 1991; Mortis, 1990).
According to Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (2003), Nigeria has lost about 285,000sqm of her land to various form of land degradation. Again, during oil exploration, oil spillage gas flaring and other seismic operations, toxic substances are introduced into the surrounding environment consequently, the air, rivers and land becomes damaged and polluted.
These therefore raised some pertinent questions. What are the perceived effects of these activities on agricultural activities? What are the various ways of improving these degraded lands?
1.3 Objective of the study
The overall objective of the study was to ascertain the perceived effects of land degradation in the study area.
The specific objectives are to:
1. describe the socioeconomic characteristics of respondents in the study areas;
2. ascertain the perceived effects of land degradation;
3. identify the causes of land degradation on the agricultural activities; and ascertain the strategies for improving the degraded area.
1.4 Significance of the study
This study will be useful to the community for adopting more seriously soil conservation measures and to the government. It will be an aid towards the formulation of concrete policies for the amelioration of land degradation in the area.
This work will help to explore, analyze and make policy and recommendations for possible adoption by the authorities concern. The findings of this research will also strengthen agricultural production in the area, enrich literature on the area and open up new areas for research.