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Mitigating scourge of climate change on agricultural productivity

By Gbenga Akinfenwa
22 May 2022   |   2:43 am
From the array of challenges confronting farmers in the country, climate change appears to be grievous, constituting threat to her food security plan.

A rice plain submerged by flooding in Kebbi State

From the array of challenges confronting farmers in the country, climate change appears to be the grievous, constituting threat to her food security plan.

According to the report of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released recently, in Africa, climate change has reduced agricultural productivity growth by more than a third (34 per cent) since 1961, more than in any other region.

The report warns that future warming will negatively affect food systems in the continent by shortening growing seasons and increasing water stress. “Global warming above 2°C will result in yield reductions for staple crops across most of Africa compared to 2005 yields.”

In Nigeria, climate change has really impacted the agric sector, resulting in seasons of drought and excess floods that have affected agricultural activities and caused a loss of shelter. According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), in 2019, floods displaced approximately 1.9 million Nigerians.

A study conducted by the Department for International Development (DFID), revealed that climate change would cost Nigeria between six and 30 per cent of its Gross Domestic Products (GDP) by 2050, worth between $100b and $460b.

Though there seems to be no solution yet in sight as the country grapples with reduced agricultural productivity caused by this challenge, experts claimed that the introduction of climate change-resistant crops or seeds; adoption of technologies that can adapt to the climate; and increase awareness among farmers, among other options, would serve as leeway.

There are two ways to address these perennial challenges – mitigation or adaptation, says Dr. S.M Balarabe, a lecturer at the Department of Geography and Environmental Management, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Kaduna State.

“Mitigating climate change will be difficult for farmers because it involves policies, but for adaptation, the most important thing to do is the adoption of adaptation strategies – helping farmers to cope with the effect of climate change, especially through the provision of drought-resistant crops in the Northern parts, where drought and desertification are being triggered.

“Two, farmers should be able to harvest water, as much as they can, through the process called water-harvesting. It is the ability to store water during the rainy season and utilise it during the dry season. Then, the ability of government and other concerned stakeholders, especially non-governmental organisations to help farmers in creating awareness about the natural disaster, educating farmers that the irregularities in the climate system are a result of climate change and the ways to control it.

“Then, the ability of farmers to control climate change through the use of organic manure. So farmers should be able to use organic manure, to curb the issue of climate change.”

While noting that the northern part of the country is the worst hit by draughts, Balarabe said the climate change challenge facing the South differs. “The South is not experiencing moisture deficiency, but increasing rainfall, causing flooding.

“Control of flooding is also somehow beyond farmers because it has to do with early warning system – being able to warn farmers beforehand on the possibility of flooding in some areas, ability to redirect rivers, construction of levees – a surge barrier used as flood protection system.”

To an Environmentalist based in Kaduna State, Dr. Abdullahi Hussain, the first and most important factor to stem the tide of climate change in the country, is to educate farmers about the nitty-gritty of the phenomenon.

He said: “There is a need to stop all activities that can enhance climate change like indiscriminate bush burning, cutting down of trees and others. If you cut down your tree, you are increasing carbon in the atmosphere and when carbon is in the atmosphere, it’s one of the greenhouse gases that can deplete the ozone layer, causing the global warming and climate change we are experiencing.

“The farmers and the locals around should be properly educated to know what they should do, in order to mitigate climate change. Then, there are also adaptive agricultural measures that can be used, as the usage of climate change-resistant crops or seeds, using technologies that can adapt to the climate.

“Climate change can influence flood, it can also influence erosion because of desertification and others, which are seriously affecting farmers. So, there are methods of farming too that when it’s adopted, can mitigate climate change problem like terrace farming.”

Hussain urged the government at all levels to do more in educating farmers because the trees are carbon-sink, used as a source of photosynthesis to manufacture their food. “So, the more trees you have around, the more they are reducing climate change because they are using it as their food. But if you cut down trees, you are allowing carbon to go into the atmosphere.

“The carbon and the methane can be gotten from farming activities too. If you are burning bush, you are extracting methane into the atmosphere and this is very dangerous, in order to get fertiliser – composting manure. The important thing is for the farmers to be properly educated, to use farming techniques that can adapt to the climate change.”