Open burning mapping in Nigeria and West Africa

With funding from the Coalition's Solution Centre, the International Cryosphere and Climate Initiative (ICCI) and researchers from Miami Ohio University and Michigan Technolgical University are using satellite-derived analytics to determine locations where no-burn and climate smart agricultural interventions can be introduced in West Africa. 


The expert assistance provided to Nigeria sets out to: 

  • Determine the historical and current spatial and temporal patterns of open burning in Nigeria, along with less detailed mapping in neighboring Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire.  
  • Disseminate the results to local and national stakeholders, as well as potential funders for support of demonstration and mitigation projects. 
  • Identify at least two potential cropping systems in Nigeria where no-burn techniques, especially negative emissions land use strategies such as conservation agriculture as delineated in the IPCC Special Reports on 1.5 Degrees (2018) and Climate Change and Land (2019); and including for potential incorporation into Nigeria’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) as a model for other countries. 

Why we're doing this work

The environmental and human costs of agricultural open burning far outweigh the near-term economic benefits for farmers.  

Responsible for more than a third of all black carbon emissions, open burning is the single largest source of black carbon, a short-lived climate pollutant that contributes to air pollution, climate change, and increased melting in the cryosphere (regions of snow and ice). Open burning also represents one of the largest causes of air pollution-related illnesses and deaths after cookstoves. 

Over time, the repeated practice of open burning becomes costly to farmers. Successive fires destroy the organic matter that makes soil fertile, causing crop yields to decrease over time and increasing the need for costly fertilizers. Smoke and spreading flames also pose a risk to neighbouring communities, buildings, and fields.

Agriculture residues can be a valuable resource worth saving. Crop stubble can be used as an energy source when converted into pellets, and straw can be used in livestock feed or bedding. 

Crop stubble burning in Nigeria is responsible for regional-scale air pollution events and damage to sensitive wild ecosystems. Black carbon from burning has also been cited by the International Panel on Climate Change as a source of rain disturbance and patterns over West Africa (IPCC AR5, 2013). 

To scale up and accelerate short-lived cliamate pollutant reductions, Nigeria prepared a National Action Plan in which emission abatement strategies in the agriculture sector are a key focus. This includes reducing open burning of agricultural waste.  

What we're doing

Virtual Geospatial Training of Analysts in Nigeria

On 17 and 18 February 2021, faculty and research staff from Miami University’s Geospatial Analysis Center led synchronous and interactive online training for 16 participants in Nigeria interested in monitoring and leading interventions to open burning. These participants represented seven participating organizations, including the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS); Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) at Ahmadu Bello University; National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI); Federal Ministry of Environment (FMENV); Agricultural Land and Climate Change Management Services (ALCCMS) of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD); the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration (NAFDA); and the Federal Department of Agricultural Extension (FDAE).

This virtual geospatial training was an extension of the CCAC-funded work on Open Burning in Nigeria and West Africa led by CCAC partner International Cryosphere Climate Initiative. Arranged in coordination with Mr. Bala Bappa, National Coordinator for the Climate and Clean Air Coalition at Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Environment, the goal was to transfer technology and knowledge of open source geospatial data and technology methods to monitor open burning within Nigeria, including augmenting black carbon emission estimates to identify communities for interventions. Further, this expands on the completed mapping for open burning activity in Nigeria, Ghana, and Côte d'Ivoire for the years of 2014 through 2019.

The participants learned how to access, download, and transform open source satellite active fire products from NASA WorldView and ESA’s Sentinel Hub within freely available QGIS software. Further, each participant now has no-cost access to commercial very high resolution (<5m) Planet Labs data via Norway’s International Climate & Forests Initiative (NICFI). These <5m monthly mosaic imagery were used to create local inventories of burned area for subregions of Nigeria, further improving estimates of open burning activity, total area burned, and emission estimates. 

Dr. Jessica McCarty and Dr. John Maingi led the Zoom training, with coordination and co-instruction from Mr. Justin Fain, Research Staff and coder, and Dr. Maryam Zamanialaei, Research Staff and Visiting Scholar. The Miami University instruction team has a combined 50+ years experience in GIS, remote sensing, fire science, and agricultural engineering. The geospatial modules were organized in Google Docs, with training sessions recorded over Zoom, and archived so participants can return to the training at any time to review and refresh skills, plus train others. Approximately ⅓ of all participants completed a take home assessment for a certificate of completion, with a rolling deadline for submission since the main goal is to learn the geospatial skills to continue and transfer monitoring and geospatial-driven interventions of open burning by Nigerian ministries and scientists. Feedback from participants will be used to improve this training if ever requested via CCAC. 

Pollutants (SLCPs)