REGIONAL GEOGRAPHY

THE SOKOTO PLAIN

Physical Features

The Sokoto plain in northwest Nigeria is essentially a dissected lowland, about 300metres above sea level. It is drained by two major rivers and their tributaries; these are the Sokoto and Rima rivers. These rivers have extensive flat floodplains that are usually flooded during the rainy season. The flow of the rivers is split into several small channels (braiding) during the dry season.

The region enjoys a tropical continental climate with a long dry season and a short rainy season. Due to the dry climate, the soils are essentially dry and frail. Sandy soils dominate the top soils but the subsoils are essentially clayey in nature. Sudan savanna is the dominant vegetation type, consisting of grasses and a few scattered shrubs.

 

People and Population

The dominant ethnic group is the Hausa. Other major ethnic groups in the area include the Fulani, the Zuru and Buzu.

The region is generally sparsely populated and the rural settlements are dispersed. The major urban settlements are Sokoto, Gusau, Kaura Namoda, Birnin Kebbi, Zuru, and Argungu.

 

Transport

The road transport system is poorly developed in this region, as most parts of the region are linked only by untarred and sandy roads, which are usually dusty during the dry season. However, the major towns and settlements are connected by modern roads. Donkeys and camels are common modes of transportation especially in the rural areas. There is an international airport in Sokoto.

 

Resources and Economic Activities

Immense agricultural resources abound in this region, hence, agricultural production is a major economic activity in the area, particularly on the extensive and fertile flood plains (usually referred to as fadama) of the Sokoto and Rima river basins. Groundnut, cotton, tomatoes, guinea corn, onions, rice and cowpeas are grown in commercial quantities during the short rainy season. But, irrigation farming is also practised. The Sokoto-Rima irrigation scheme based on the Bakolori dam is a major source of water supply to many farmlands in the area.

Livestock farming is an important economic activity in the area. Large herds of cattle, sheep and goats are reared in the region. ‘Sokoto goats’ are popular in most markets in the southern parts of Nigeria.

Apart from agricultural resources, mineral resources found in the area include limestone, phosphate, gypsum, and alluvial gold. The presence of limestone led to the establishment of the Sokoto cement factory. Still, very few modern industries exist in the area, but, local arts and craft are practised in many parts of the region.

 

Problems of Development

  1. Desertification is a serious developmental problem in this region, with the continued encroachment of the Sahara desert.
  2. The region is usually very hot during the dry season, and this discourages people to settle and invest in the area. The weather is not very friendly as the fierce winds and dust storms are very common.
  3. The short rainy season which lasts for about four months each year causes shortage of water for various productive activities, such as, farming.
  4. The weather in this region is very unpredictable, as the rains are often delayed. The area is therefore prone to drought.
  5. The region is very remote because of its long distance away from the major economic centres and markets in the southern parts of Nigeria.
  6. The scattered pattern of settlement makes communication between settlements difficult. The region is expansive, hence, constructing roads to link the settlements that are scattered all over the region is very expensive.