Relief and Drainage: The state may be divided into three topographic
regions. West of the River Benue, covering mostly Ibi and Karim Lamido Local
Government Areas, are the extensive Fadama swamps of the Muri plains. This region
is very thinly settled and virtually uncultivated.
A marked contrast to the floodplains is the undulating lowland of the eastern
Muri plains. This is broken intermittently by high rising hills such as the
Kungana, Fali and Bali hills which developed on sandstones. Standing above the
350m contour, the hills are developed on both sedimentary and crystalline rocks.
Usually, hills on sedimentary formations tend to have flat tops due most probably
to lateritic capping. On the other hand, the hills which s developed on crystalline
rocks consist of dome shaped inselbergs. The Mambilla Plateau is a unique topographic
region with some of the largest and highest mountains in Nigeria, with peaks
reaching over 1840m. The Chabbal Hendu, for example, is over 2000m above sea
The Plateau which developed on basement complex rocks, measures about 96km
along its curved length and 40km wide, and bound ed by an escarpment which is
about 900m high in some places. The Mambilla Plateau forms the watershed from
which the major drainage systems in Taraba State take their source. Rivers Benue,Donga
and Taraba (from which the state derives its name) are the dominant drainage
systems which flow across the Muri plains to drain the entire state.
Together with the minor ones, such as the Lamorde and Mayo Randewo, they form
extensive flood plains in the central part of the state, providing suf ficiently
fertile agricultural land which is presently underutilized. The undulating hilly
surface of the plateau is uniquely attractive for its scenic beauty.
The bas ketofegglike surface of the plateau with its blend of evergreen lowgrowing
grass vegetation, neatly demarcated into some kind of ranches/grazing reserves,
and the sharply meandering road with hairpin corners across hill slopes, ravines
and deep gorges, make driving to and from the plateau most astounding and interesting
to a visitor.
Climate: Like most parts of northern Nigeria, Taraba State has a wet
and dry climate. The wet season lasts, on the average, from April to October.
Mean annual rainfall varies between 1058mm in the north around Jalingo and Zing,
to over 1300mm in the South around Serti and Takum. The wettest months are August
The dry season lasts from November to March. The driest months are December
and January with relative humidity dropping to about 15 percent. Mean annual
temperature around Jalingo is about 28°C with maximum temperatures varying between
30°C and 39.4°C. The minimum temperatures range between 15°C to 23°C. The Mambilla
plateau has climatic characteristics typical of a temperate climate.
Temperatures are tow throughout the year and the rainy season lasts from February
to November with a mean annual rainfall of over 1850mm. Vegetation: Rainfall
distribution and topogra phy are the most important factors influencing the
pattern of vegetation in Taraba State. The vegetation may be classified into
three broad types: the Northern Guinea, the Southern Guinea and the Mountain
Grassland and forest vegetation.
The boundary between the Northern Guinea and Southern Guinea corresponds fairly
closely with the 1400mm mean annual rainfall isohyet, while the mountain forest
and grassland vegetation occur mainly on the Mambilla plateau. Most of the lowland
area is made up of ferruginous tropical soils which developed on crystalline
acid rocks and sandy parent materials. The upland areas, especially the Mambilla
Plateau, are covered by humic ferrosols and lithosols which are highly weathered
and markedly lateritised, due to leaching.
Ecological Problems: Excessive deliberate bush burning, soil erosion,
desertification and river blindness (onchocerciasis) are among the most adverse
ecological problems in the state. From December to February (during the peak
of the dry Harmattan season), a large part of the natural vegetation especially
in the northern part of the state, is easily turned into an ash laden, dark
looking wilderness of burnt vegetation, posing serious threat to livestock rearing
activities in the state. Bush burning, fuelwood exploitation and the traditional
slash and bum agriculture practised by the peasant farmers are gradually but
consistently causing desertification and soil erosion especially in the northern
part of the state.
River blindness is another major environmental problem in the state. Onchocerciasis
is particularly a serious health hazard in the Gashaka, Bakundi and Gassol districts.
It is a form of filariat disease caused by a nematode (fly) called Onchocerca
volvulus. The vector (called the black fly), takes advantage of the fastflowing
sections of rivers, such as rapids or rock surfaces, as breeding grounds.
Such conditions are provided by River Taraba which in fact traverses the three
districts of Gashaka, Bukundi and Gassol, in the Gashaka, Bali, and Gassol LGAs.
It has been speculated that the Taraba river valley may be one of the worst
Onchocerciasis zones in West Africa. The socioeconomic consequences of onchocerciasis
on the people of Taraba State is enormous.
The disease has affected between three to fortyeight percent of the productive
age groups of the population living near the river valleys in these districts.
It also reduces the economic productivity of the rural dwellers and undermines
primary school enrolment and school attendance. In many cases, it results in
the complete abandonment of a whole village for fear of the disease.
The Federal Ministry of Health and the state govern ment, in collaboration
with AFRICARE (an interna tional nongovernmental organisation), are, however,
working seriously to control the incidence and reduce the effects of onchocerciasis
in Taraba State. While measures taken so far are mainly direct ed at attacking
the direct causal agent of the disease, the focus of government in the new millennium
should also be directed primarily at environmental education, awareness and
control within the affected communities.