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Climate change threatens Nigeria’s food security, smallholder farming

Across strata, climate change poses a huge threat to Nigeria's food security.

Nigeria’s food security is under siege as climate change continues to disrupt farming activities for smallholders.

70 percent of rural dwellers are subsistence farmers, who produce about 90 percent of Nigeria’s food. According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the disruption by climate change is affecting food production across the country. These farmers actively contribute to economic growth. In 2018, agriculture contributed 21.2 percent to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP) in 2018.

Farmers, however, decry lack of support in combating climate change-induced threats and shocks, which include, high rising temperatures, erratic rainfall patterns, prolonged drought, and flash floods.

All these have led to massive land degradation, poor agricultural input and output, insecurity and unpredictable market prices, which undermine agricultural productivity and threaten the livelihood of millions of rural households.

Across strata, it poses a huge threat to national food security and contributes to the complex web of migration, insecurity and dwindling economy. Oyinkanola Mayowa Hafiz, an agro-processing specialist noted that smallholder farmers in Nigeria feel the crux the most.

HumAngle reports that while climate change is a global issue, and despite Nigeria’s low contribution to global warming, the country is one of the most vulnerable to the resultant, abnormal weather events and risks, especially with little being done by authorities to mitigate the impact.

Painting the picture, Hafiz said, “farming in Nigeria is predominantly dependent by 80 percent on rainfall and we operate a rain-fed cropping system.

“Although there are few alternatives, most of the farms produce 80-90 percent focused on rainfall pattern and distribution.

“In 2020, for example, the forecast predicted early March to early April for rainfall pattern distribution but yet there’s no rain.

“The few drops that ensued last month/early March left a lot of farmers in despair, few that rushed to plant immediately have burnt their seed and hands,” Hafiz said.

He added that climate change affects everyone. Livestock and dairy production has dropped since mid-February due to the heat.

These include the depletion and degradation of environmental resources such as land, water, and the disruption of socio-economic activities.

In 2019, unprecedented extreme high temperatures were recorded nationally, with a devastating impact on crop and livestock production.

The Nigerian Meteorological Agency reported that most parts of the country, including coastal areas, were affected. Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, and Jigawa states experienced the worst temperature.

These states are also part of the frontline states of desert encroachment and desertification where sandstorms and encroaching Sahara deserts are swallowing houses, roads, farmlands, and livelihoods and turning arable lands arid.

Nigeria is estimated to be losing over 350,000 hectares to environmental degradation as a result of climate change-induced trends, unsustainable anthropogenic activities such as poor water management and deforestation related to tree felling for domestic fuel use.

To combat the growing food security problems, farmers urge the government to provide them access to accurate and timely weather information that would enable them to plan better and reduce risks associated with unpredictable weather.

HumAngle reports that farmers also need to be provided with agricultural education and extension systems to enable them to utilize modern farming techniques, especially irrigation and water management.

The promotion of soil conservation, new cropping practice, drought and flood-resistant practices alongside sustainable livestock and pasture management, could also help according to experts.

This will enhance the transition of smallholder farming towards greater productivity, resilience and sustainability.

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