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The study analyzed the effects of arable land tenure and utilization on environmental degradation among small-scale farmers in North-Central Nigeria. Specifically, it: described households’ land tenure and use characteristics; estimated the causal relationship between
tenure security and investment on arable land; assessed arable crop farmers’ perspective on the intensity of environmental degradation; determined the effects of arable land tenure and use practices on intensity of environmental degradation; evaluated the factors influencing
environmental sustainability; examined the effects of environmental degradation adaptation strategies on land use efficiency; assessed the vulnerability of farm households to environmental degradation; and examined factors influencing vulnerability of farm households to environmental degradation in the study area.

Multistage sampling technique was used to select 360 respondents for the study. Data for the study were obtained from primary sources with the aid of a well structured questionnaire and analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics. It was found that, land acquisition was predominantly (47.5%) through inheritance. Majority (79.8%) of the respondents had controlling access to a piece of land. Out of this, 53.7% believed they could transfer their rights to their children, 62.9% believed they could lease it out while 41.6% believed they could sell the land outrightly. Average total size of land holding was 4.422 ha, out of which the farmers cultivated 2.99 ha, while 1.43 ha was left to fallow. Fallow Rotation Intensity was 0.89 indicating continuous cropping.

Averagely, cropping intensity index was 0.47. The result showed a reverse causation from investment to transfer right to land. Farmers perceived environmental degradation with high intensity (2.46). Herbicide use (-0.06) reduced intensity of environmental degradation, while complete tillage (0.78), high frequency of manual weeding (0.96), land conflicts (0.55) and sloppy farm land (1.09) increased intensity of
environmental degradation. A positive coefficient of education of household heads (0.40), farming experience (0.05), extension contact (0.07), crop diversification (0.34), irrigation use (3.89), land tenure security (0.82), tree planting (3.13) and quantity of fertilizer used (0.35)
implied increase in environmental sustainability with increase in these variables. However, population density (-0.19) reduced environmental sustainability. Crop diversification (0.31) and tractorisation (0.99) increased farmers’ economic inefficiency in land use.

Improved varieties (-0.01), crop rotation (-0.53) and clean clearing/burning (-0.33) reduced economic inefficiency. The mean households’ vulnerability index was 2.86, and fell under the vulnerable group. Access to credit (-1.87), land fragmentation (-0.30) and land tenure
security (-2.03) positively favoured less vulnerability, while intensity of environmental hazards (1.33) increased vulnerability to environmental degradation. It was concluded that land tenure security impacted substantially on investment on the arable land, increase in environmental sustainability and reduction in the vulnerability of farm households to environmental degradation in the study area. Also, land use, coupled with management practices is key instrument for achieving environmental security.

It was recommended that, Government should establish a more effective and efficient land title registration system that would enhance individual tenure security; proper teaching of farmers in rural areas on the best ways to cultivate and harvest crops should be done by extension agents; community leaders and farmers should ensure that communal crises and land conflicts are well handled and managed in a way that do not disrupt the goal of sustainable environment.



1.1 Background Information

Attainment of food self-sufficiency is one of the prominent developmental agenda
facing most nations of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) (Saka, Okoruwa, Oni & Oyekale, 2011).
This has severally been attributed to persistent imbalance between population and food
growth rates (Rosegrant, Paisner, Meijer, & Witcover, 2001, United States Development
Agency, USDA, 2006). Nigeria, by virtue of its prominent position as the most populous
nation in the region, is in no way facing lesser challenges of reducing dependence on food
import through improvement in food self sufficiency ratio which, in turn, is pivoted on
increased domestic food production (Saka et al., 2011).
Nigeria is one of the most developed economies in Africa with the petroleum industry
providing 95% of foreign exchange earnings and about 80% of budget revenues. Yet,
agriculture is still the main source of revenue for two-thirds of the population (National
Technical Working Group, 2009). Agriculture has always played a key role in the nation’s
economy, it contributed about 42% to Gross Domestic Product as against 13% for oil and gas
in 2009 and 40% in 2010 (National Bureau of Statistics & Federal Ministry of Agriculture
and Rural Development, 2012). Also, the agricultural sector is pivotal to attainment of
national food security as it is the sole provider of the largest proportion of the national total
food consumption requirement.
The Nigerian agricultural landscape is basically dominated by small-scale farmers
who form about 90% of the farming population. The bulk of farms are both physically small
(less than two hectares of good arable land) and operated at the household level using, for the
most part, family labour. Hence, for the majority of poor households, improving the
productivity of the domestic food and agricultural systems is key to enhancing well-being and
escape from poverty (Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), 2004). Despite the nation’s
over-dependence on oil revenue since the 1970s, land remains the most important long-term
resource base for the direct and indirect support of plants and animals, which man uses
(National Environmental Study Team (NEST), 1991).
As the main foundation for agricultural production and rural livelihoods, land is at the
core of the challenges of triggering off a Green Revolution for improved food security and
poverty reduction. Consequently, access to, and security of land rights are prime concerns for
policies and strategies aimed at reducing food insecurity and poverty. Land is therefore, a
very strategic socio-economic asset, particularly in poor societies where wealth and survival
are measured by control of, and access to land.
The economic fortune of most developing countries, including Nigeria, however,
revolves, largely around the ownership and use of land resources especially in the primary
industry such as, agriculture (Titilola & Jeje, 2008). It is estimated that about 75% (68 million
hectares) of the total land area in Nigeria has potential for agricultural activities with about 33
million hectares under cultivation (Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources,
2008; Abdulazeez, 2011). Furthermore, Nigeria has a land area of about 923 769 km2
(Federal Office of Statistics, 1989). Out of this, the Federal Ministry of Environment of
Nigeria (2001) estimated irrigated land to be 9570 km2, arable land about 35 %; 15 % of
pasture; 10% of forest reserve; 10% for settlements and the remaining 30% considered
uncultivable for one reason or the other.
Land as a factor of production and as a natural resource is critical in agricultural
production. Its importance is expressed in terms of availability, accessibility, quantity and
quality. In Nigerian agriculture, the accessibility and quality factors stand out as major
determinants of productivity. This is due to the problems associated with artificial
amendments that can improve productivity of land (Fakoya, Agbonlahor & Dipeolu, 2007).
The accessibility of most agricultural lands especially in the North-central part of the country,
depends largely on land tenure system and the extent of competition by non-agricultural land
uses (Udoh, 2000). Land tenure systems influence the use to which land is put for economic
and social development. Land tenure is a mix or bundle of entitlements (rights and duties)
concerning the use of land resources. It covers the rules under which those rights and duties
are exercised and the time horizon or guarantee of continued claim to such entitlements
(Bromley, 1991). It is the integral set of principles, criteria and practices that reflects,
operationalises and regulates people’s rights, privileges, duties, obligations in relation to
ownership of, access to and use/alienation of land, including any conditionalities and time
dimension of these attributes (Adedipe, 1997). Land rights are fundamental to the use and
sustainable land management, since they specify access to land resources and the rights of
use. Most land resource management problems are often seen as related to incomplete,
inconsistent or ineffective tenure regimes. Land rights provide owners with the incentives to
use land efficiently and to invest in land conservation and improvements (Feder & Feeny,
1991). Although, tenure systems vary from one rural community to another, it is pivoted on
three broad systems of communal, individual and family ownership.
With the continued growth of the human population, competition for limited land
resources has steadily increased over recent years and most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa
like Nigeria, have experienced an intensive use of the arable land. Although, scholars like
Boserup (1981), Buckles and Erenstein (1996) and Erbaugh (1999) had affirmed the potential
of achieving agricultural growth through intensification. However, commensurate use of
modern inputs were identified as fundamental condition for sustainable growth through
increased land-use intensity. In the absence of this, increased land-use intensity could lead to
continuous depletion of soil fertility, decline in productivity, loss of soil structure, soil
erosion and land degradation (Sivanappan, 1995; Cassman 1999; Erbaugh 1999). The
intensity of land use has been recognised as one of the most significant human alteration to
the global environment (Matson, Parton, Power and Swift, 1997). Meanwhile, land
degradation, the weakening of the structure, stability and productive potential of the soil, is
one of the worst environmental problems facing many people world–wide, with over 40
million affected in Nigeria (Etuonovbe, 2009).
The persistent abuse of land resources for any reason will usually lead to irreversible
degradation, while if economically or properly used will lead to sustainable development and
poverty reduction through provision of both food and wealth (Fakoya, et al., 2007; Ezeaku &
Davidson, 2008). Efficient land utilization and management practices ensure achievement of
farm level objectives in terms of economic viability, food security and environmental
sustainability, amounting to risk aversion (Udoh & Akintola, 2002). According to Fagbohun
(2010), improper land utilisation coupled with natural disasters often lead to environmental
The United Nations has identified environmental degradation as one of six the
clustered threats with which the world must be concerned now and in the decades ahead
(United Nations, 2004). It is the erosion of the quality of the natural environment caused,
directly or indirectly, by human activities. The United Nations International Strategy for
Disaster Reduction defined environmental degradation as the reduction of the capacity of the
environment to meet social and ecological objectives and needs (Fagbohun, 2010).
The use of land for agricultural production remains one of the strongest influences
affecting environmental quality in North-central Nigeria. According to the IPCC (2007), most
of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very
likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic green house gas (GHG) concentrations.
Agricultural activities including indirect effects through deforestation and other forms of land
conversion account for about one third of total global warming potential from GHG
emissions today. Therefore, reducing the direct and indirect emissions from agriculture is an
essential part of the larger effort to slow the pace of environmental degradation (High Level
Panel of Experts, 2012). Environmental change processes lead to changes in the biophysical
life support system including land surface (vegetation), water resources, soil and atmosphere
which constitute the elements that support the long-term sustainability of life on earth (Iheke
& Oliver-Abali, 2011).
Land use does not necessarily lead to environmental degradation, not even intensive
land use. Proper short term investments in inputs (water, fertilizer, seeds) and long term
investments in structures and equipment (pumps, tractors, dams, terraces) can conserve soil
and water, while allowing productive and sustainable agricultural land use. However, if
conditions are such that farmers cannot invest in these inputs and structures, human activity
will continue to degrade natural resources and peoples livelihoods, unless some adaptation
strategies can help provide food and income without destroying the natural resource base.
Many steps to improve the management of land resources require long term investments
(IFPRI, 1999). Farmers will, however, make these investments only if they have sufficient
access, secured and long-term rights to their land to ensure that, they will reap the benefits of
their investments on the use of land. This study analysed the effects of arable land tenure and
use at the household level on environmental degradation in North Central Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Proper utilisation of land is essential to sustainable agricultural production and
improvement in environmental quality. In much of North Central Nigeria, crop production is
in serious competition, sometimes to the point of open conflict with nomadic cattle rearers.
This is aggravated by urbanisation and growth of villages into towns, industrialisation and
construction of roads, which have resulted in cultivable land being withdrawn from its
traditional agricultural uses, reduction in land-man ratio and average size of farmland
(Lockwood, 1991).
Crop land expansion is increasingly taking place on marginal land where yields are
lower (National Technical Working Group, 2009). Previous increase in food production has
been attributed mainly to expansion in cultivated land areas (areas cultivated to food crop)
rather than productivity of the arable lands. The inherent limitation of this approach is,
however, evident in the decline in Nigerian agricultural land area by 15.4%, attributable to
land alienation, degradation and loss of about 351000 hectares annually to desertification
(Brown, 2005). The problem of sustaining growth in agricultural production in many
developing countries emanates from unplanned land use and inability to give adequate
attention to the physical, biological and ecological implications of agricultural intensification
(Cleaver & Schreiber, 1994; Barbier, 2001). Therefore, the yields of some tropical crops have
started to decrease, and the reserves of unused land areas are decreasing, thereby leading to
rapid depletion of natural resources.
In addition, land use activities like, improper land management, destructive logging of
forest, over-grazing, over-cropping of arable land, strip mining, wrong application of agrochemicals
and the use of inappropriate technology for farming, often affect the quality of soil
and vegetative covers (Scher, 1999). Land use activities contribute to the overall development
of the country but they equally produce negative impact on the environment. These negative
impacts are referred to as environmental degradation which implies “abuse of the
environment” due to improper resources management.
The widening degradation of agricultural land, coupled with the low adoption/use of
environmentally friendly and socio-economically robust technologies among resource-poor
rural households have created a serious gap in meeting the objective of food production to
feed the ever increasing population. More so, in the last three decades, the land tenure



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