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Climate Change

Climate Change and Food Security in Nigeria: A Behemoth impeding Development

Seventy-two year- old Fagbenro sat perplexed on a bamboo chair in front of his farm house in Idiya community in South Western Nigeria. The irregular rainfall at the beginning of 2015 planting season had taken a great toll on the productivity of his cocoa farm. All effort at boosting the yield of his output have achieved minimal success, in his words ‘It hasn’t rained this year and so cocoa has not been producing. Farmers are borrowing to eat’. He narrated his ordeal battling with irregular rainfall and its effect on his livelihoods as a peasant farmer.

Fagbenro’s case is a singular narrative among score other farmers I interviewed during a research project I was involved in across the region in early 2015. These hapless farmers are not only part of the value chain that has been affected by changing temperature but also epitomize the dramatic toll climate change have on the livelihood of the world poorest people. In Nigeria, the rural population produces over 70% of the food consumed and also represent the majority of the population below the poverty line [1]. Changing climate that affects crop yield threatens to compound the problem of rural poverty and widens the gap between the rich and the poor.

The northern parts of the country that have been the food producing region have been under extreme climate crisis in recent times which have hampered their agricultural yields. Heat waves, incessant winds and drought are some of the common phenomena affecting crop yields and livestock. In August 2016, the Nigeria Metrological Agency (NIMET) predicted floods happening in 11 states across the country as a result of rainfall intensity that has made soil moisture to reach saturation level. Climate change already has adverse effects on agriculture and food security in Nigeria. Higher temperature leads to high evaporation rate and reduced soil moisture which lowers the ground table water and lead to a decline in agricultural productivity. Erratic rainfall pattern can affect seed germination and cause crop failure while increased frequency of storms can cause damage to farm land, crops and livestock [2]

Globally, climate change has adverse impact on food security but while developed nations can easily mitigate against this challenge by adopting technologies to scale up agricultural productivity, developing nations with the world poorest people experience difficulty in tackling the impact of changing temperature. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in 2015 revealed that the vast majority of the world’s hungry people live in developing countries with sub-Sahara Africa having the highest prevalence of hunger. A decline in agricultural productivity will further compound food crisis in Nigeria.

Climate change has become one of the dreadful realities of the 21st century. President Barack Obama while delivering his state of the Union Address on January 20th 2015 noted that ‘no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change’. In 2016 alone, incessant rainfall that caused flooding killed hundreds of people in Asian countries of Bangladesh, Nepal and India.  In Africa, heavy rainfall causing flood affected Nigeria, Sudan, Mozambique, South Africa, Niger, Bukina Faso, Senegal, Mali and Ghana between June and September. East Africa countries of Somalia and Ethiopia are constantly threatened by drought.

On 12th December 2015, 195 nations signed the historic Paris agreement on climate change which aims to ‘keep a global temperature rise in this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels’. This move was accentuated by the looming crisis the world will face in 2100 with the current high rate of temperature. Already, the last ten hottest record of high temperatures occurred in this century and 2016 marked the hottest year in global temperature since record keeping began. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) already estimated that between 40 and 70% reduction in greenhouse emission will be needed in 2050 compared to 2010.

Despite the progressive and ambitious targets of the Paris agreement, scientists have raised the need to drop global temperatures further by 0.5 °C which will make a significant difference in some regions of the world particularly developing countries that are faced with the greater threat of climate change. Already some experts warned that current levels of warming are already causing impacts beyond the current adaptive capacity of many people and that there would be significant residual impacts even with 1.5 °C of warming [3]

Food crisis is one of the numerous impact of climate change on human lives. The United Nations estimates that more than 50 million people in Africa are acutely threatened by famine. The clarion call to drop global temperature to 1.5 °C by reducing greenhouse gases and exploring cleaner energy consumption is an imperative to both developed world and developing nations alike. This will not only make Fagbenro a happy and fulfilled farmer having increased yield for his farm output but will also save the  developed world the aid of feeding the world hungry population from food crisis.

 

  1. Rural Poverty in Nigeria http://www.ruralpovertyportal.org/country/home/tags/nigeria
  2. Nwajiuba C (2012): Nigeria Agriculture and Food Security Challenge. Available at ttps://ng.boell.org/sites/default/files/uploads/2013/10/agriculture_-_green_deal_nigeria_study.pdf
  3. Climate Analytics: 1.5 C risk and feasibility. Can be assessed at http://climateanalytics.org/files/1o5_key_points.pdf
Peter Adeyeye
Peter Adeyeye is a development research consultant with expertise in policy analysis and program evaluation. He is passionate on sustainability and cities.