By Chuku Wachuku
Chuku Wachuku, a US-educated Nigerian economist and specialist in entrepreneurship development & MSMEs, was a Director-General of National Directorate of Employment (NDE) and National President of Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI). He is the President of Association of Agricultural and Industrial Entrepreneurs of Nigeria (AIEN) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and +2348020824716 (WhatsApp only).
The Climate Change Series (2)
The odds are stacked against them.
Increasingly high temperatures, seasonal and rainfall pattern shifts, long dry spells and floods, greenhouse and storage infrastructure damage, and rising heat stress among agricultural workers. Then add the incidence of increasingly less fertile soil, new crop pests’ diseases, and reduced yields.
Climate change is negatively impacting food production in Nigeria. The current climatic reality has continually reduced the incomes of households, worsening food insecurity, nutrition, employment, and access to the market. With a weather-dependent agricultural economy like ours, the odds are indeed stacked against the farmers.
On the other hand, agriculture is a big contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to the improper use of fertilizers, the occurrence of methane gas emissions by rice paddies, carbon and moisture loss due to over-tilling the soil, and the conversion of forests to agricultural uses. In 2005, Nigeria had the highest deforestation rate in the world, having lost 55.7 percent of its primary forest in five years. With the rising cost of alternatives, reliance on wood for fuel will grow further, despite being a major driver of deforestation in Nigeria. This leads us to my next point.
According to findings by USAID, Nigeria accounts for 1.01 percent of GHGs in the world. While this seemingly low figure is due to our high energy poverty levels, the worrying part is that the change in land use (38.2%) and agricultural practices (13.3%), both key factors in food production, makes the most of it. For comparison, our industrial process makes up only 2.1 percent of the gross amount. Biomass, derived from wood and crops burning, amongst others, make up the majority of Nigeria’s energy supply as 85 percent of the population lacks access to clean energy for cooking. In 2018, our total fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions equaled a third of Africa’s emissions – largely as a result of household biomass burning.
At this junction, it is important to distinguish between climate variability (which our farmers understand) and climate change (which still sounds like a white man’s disease to them). Climate variability includes all the variations in the climate that last longer than individual weather events, whereas the term “climate change” only refers to those variations that persist for a longer period, typically decades or more. Climate variability is often natural. However, climate change is causing an increase in the probability of many extreme weather events, and those events contribute to climate variability.
Climate variability has been a known occurrence as old as our oldest farmers, and they have traditionally used some practices like low-till, conservation agriculture, crop rotations, rainfall capturing, and use of shade trees and cover crops to improve resilience; this, to some extent, reduces emissions. But for climate change, that is another deal entirely, as the whole concept is hard to grasp and even harder to disseminate its components in its entirety.
The catch is making the farming and non-farming communities know that everyone is the reason why the debilitating conditions listed in the first three paragraphs have come to be. And the federal government has been doing their bit in that regard, but again, not with the pedagogical model approach I wrote about (here). Hence, the pertinent need for cluster farms, where climate change challenges will be addressed at scale using the farmers’ peer-to-peer networking to drive its last-mile adoption. This is why AIEN developed the RMBCI ecosystem to surmount these difficulties using cluster farms.
A 2015 survey showed that 61 percent of Nigeria’s population consider climate change to be a very serious problem compared to a global average of 54 percent. In 2019, environmental activist Oladosu Adenike told the Guardian that the “[Climate Change] crisis is already here”. Also, Nigeria has one of the fastest-growing youth climate movement. The irony is that the youths that have this sought-after awareness aren’t taking to farming to transfer this knowledge to the traditional farmers because it isn’t fun – yet.
AIEN’s RMBCI is working to change that.
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