A ten-year collaboration between Nigeria's University of Maiduguri and the University of Frankfurt is yielding insights into the basin of Lake Chad and its environment. The lake, once one of Africa's largest bodies of fresh water, is shrinking and is only a 20th of the size it was in the 1960s.
Kyari Tijjani, the main coordinator of the project, who is also director of the Centre for Trans-Saharan Studies (CTSS) at Maiduguri, said that researchers from both universities had carried out joint studies of the ethnoarchaelogy, geology palaeobotany and written and spoken language of the areas around the lake.
Professor Tijjani said: "Frankfurt sent down its senior academics to undertake research in and around Lake Chad, which is less than 200km from the University of Maiduguri. In our case, we went to Frankfurt to do library research work and teach German students working on various aspects of the lake. In the joint research relationship, some 80 academics, on both sides, have so far taken part in the project, which has produced ten doctorates."
The Lake Chad Basin Commission, a multinational institute owned jointly by Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and the Niger Republic, has benefited from the research findings of scholars from both universities.
Sani Abubakar, a research fellow at CTSS, said: "The commission's projects for preservation of the ecosystem of the lake and the fight against desert encroachment rely on our research findings."
Moreover, the multinational oil companies drilling on the Chadian side of the Lake Chad Basin are taking advantage of the Frankfurt-Maiduguri studies to understand the complex ethno-religious communities living within the newly found oil belt.
An international workshop will soon take place at Maiduguri with the aim of assessing the overall impact of the research findings of both universities.
Professor Tijjani said: "The workshop will attract experts from several countries and institutes, including public and private organisations interested in the future of Lake Chad, West Africa's largest hinterland lake basin."