How Africa can withstand the growing threat of climate change, North-west Nigeria as a case study

Climate change is one of the biggest challenge man has had to face as it relates to agriculture and environment, although it is felt more in some regions than others. A couple of weeks ago I took a trip of the North-western part of Nigeria, observing natural terrains, topographies and climate effects in drought, erosion, heat waves and desertification. This was my first trip to northern Nigeria, during this trip I observed firsthand the extent to which climate change affects agricultural activities. The journey started from Ilorin through Niger state then arriving at kebbi state. The journey was long but it was worth it exploring Nigeria’s landscape. I was particularly fascinated with the plain landscapes and guinea/sahel forests which is gradually losing its thickness through kebbi and sokoto states and cut the journey at zaria, kaduna state.

 

water body around the niger region during the dry season

Water body around the niger region during the dry season

One thing common when going through these regions is the vast area of plain land and the approaching extreme temperatures felt in extreme blowing heat (heat waves) and sandstorms. Feeling this extremes firsthand in far kebbi and sokoto states wasnt funny as one who grew up in southern Nigeria. I mostly observed decline in forest resources and the presence of drought prevalent in this region. This situation has made farming in northern Nigeria highly vulnerable to climate effects hence, the need for climate-smart agriculture should be implemented as a trending topic locally and should be discussed more. Agricultural Production activities are more vulnerable to climate change than other sectors in terms of production output, storage and transportation of produce among others.

A while back a farmer friend of mine shared with me of his experience on the farm how he lost all of his farm produce to high solar intensity in Saki Ibadan. He related his experience to the realities involved in climate change, its issues and to practicing agriculture in Nigeria today. As we all know climate change has been a threat to agricultural activities prevalent in northern Nigeria especially as it is mostly dependent on weather conditions. One stark and hurtful reality is the fact that enough investment infrastructures are yet to be built or put in place to support the available resources in the north in physical factors of production in land and labour e.g incentives should be put to encourage the almajiri children in the north who usually roam about begging for alms to get them to the farm.

Climate change pose great threat to the stability and sustainability for sufficient food production in the agricultural sector in Nigeria. To increase food production it is important for Nigeria’s agricultural policy and development plan to give climate change issues serious consideration for agricultural, industrial and commercial activities in Northern Nigeria. In this blogpost I am going to share some of my recommendations in improving agriculture especially in the extreme temperate regions of Northwestern Nigeria

1. Irrigation infrastructures: it is important to note that the north-west is blessed with enough agricultural resources (land, labor) to feed Africa going by the fact that larger percentage of the agricultural land is left plain and unused until the rain comes. One should note that irregular weather patterns play dominant role in agriculture and has direct impacts on soils structure, moisture, fertility and hence productivity. One should understand that irregular rainfall can affect yields negatively if rain fails to come at the critical growing stage for the crop.

Moreso, majority of these farmers are financially incapacitated and have an overwhelming desire for government to support them by helping to construct earth-dams and boreholes for them on their farms and villages.

Bare land found within sahel northern region that could be used with better irrigation infrastructure

 2. Afforestation: deforestation is a situation where forest resources are lost faster than they are replaced and is a major contributor to climate change. In Northwestern Nigeria the primary forest region is the savannah (guinea, sahel) – though unlike the southern region – trees are not able to proliferate in this part of the country because of low amount of water supply due to irregular rainfall season. Supported trees planted here will serve as shade for crops and help alleviate extreme heat providing adaptation for extreme and direct effects of sunshine while also protecting the soil from erosion effects.

Sahel/Guinea Forest region in the north-west

Sahel/Guinea Forest region in the north-west

 3. Indigenous adaptation measures and practices: Adaptation come in form of farming experience – the more experienced farmers are, the more likely they adapt to changes in climate conditions on their farm. These changes in usual method of practicing farming teaches them to diversify. Adapting multiple mixed cropping systems, practicing zero tillage by making ridges, planting cover crops, switching from crops to livestock and from rain fed dry land to irrigation. Access to technical and extension service facilities, credit facilities, encourages farmers to share their experience for other farmers to learn from and influence adaptation positively.

In order words, for development of agriculture in the northwest, government should encourage easy access to farm assets in machineries, improved seed varieties and extension agents, educating farmers providing them with information on technologies and recent adaptation measures. This is usually important for future adaptation and mitigation strategies. The extension service can also help farmers in understanding several variables which are often used in determining the sensitivity of certain crops for optimum productivity. These variables includes; rainfall, potential evaporation, radiation, temperature, humidity, sunshine hours. etc

 4. Assessment and knowledge support: Stakeholders should ensure efforts are put in place to ensure farmers in the northern region continue to practice their trade providing an enabling environment for productive crop production, supporting the farmers while taking critical look at new environmental conditions created by climate change in such areas while ensuring research work reach farmers in the region. More NGOs need to put in more discuss on climate change issues, its adaptation, food security, climate-smart agriculture into their campaigns.

 5.  Capacity building and demonstration: Attention should be catalyzed to focus on funding, advocacy to action to promote resilience to climate change and training of new-entrant farmers on recent technologies and ICTs.

More ways of supporting and relieving climate change impacts on smallholder farmers can be found here “IFDC’s perspective on Alleviating Climate Change – One Farmer at a Time

In conclusion, In line with rainfall pattern of the Nigerian climate, the country has a wetter south and a drier north with vegetation categorized into forest and savannah. The savannah region especially guinea and sudan are the major grains, tubers, grasses, vegetables and cotton growing region, while the tropical evergreen rain forest belt bears timber production, forest development, cassava production and growing of plantations consisting of fruit trees such as citrus, oil-palm, cocoa, rubber among others.

In most scenario impacts of climate change in the Northern part of Nigeria are mostly negative, there is the need for effective and reliable access to information on climate issues with sponsored go-green campaigns, credit and grant facilities in encouraging new-entrant farmers, thereafter combining access to extension which ensures the farmers makes the right decision and protects him reducing the risks involved.

 

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