Experience from across the world has shown that women are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Female farmers in Niger State have raised the alarm that Nigeria might experience the worst food crisis beginning from this year because of the adverse effects of climate change, insecurity and other challenges. In this report, DANIEL ATORI examines stakeholders’ views and solutions suggested to avert food crisis
In her submission, the Deputy Head, Women in Agriculture (WIA), NAMDA, Niger State Ministry of Agriculture, Halima Abubakar, said the government has Extension Agents (EA) saddled with monitoring while the headquarters supervises what the EAs do. She said: “We also see these farmers directly to see how far they have gone with the technology being transferred, the input they have accessed, how far they have gone with it, what have they done with it.
The field will tell you; from the field you will know somebody who is a serious farmer. “With global climate change, it has not been easy, in cases like that we usually advise the farmers to do early planting, before it gets that bad, their crops will be able to gain some stands that will withstand such situations. But last year, that didn’t even work because the flood started very early.
So, it’s still a problem, to be honest. “For those who want to go into dry season farming, we usually encourage them to do water harvesting, since irrigation equipment is expensive, it is not forthcoming from the government, so we advised them to do water harvesting during the rainy season since most of them who do this dry season farming are basically vegetable farmers.
We have more men who plant maize and rice, but for the women basically it is vegetables, so we ask them to do water harvesting.” Abubakar advised women, especially those in areas that experience drought to construct wells in such a way that it can retain water for a period of time.
She added: “We also advise them to get these ‘Geepee’ tanks that they can use as reservoirs. Some of them are even lucky to be around areas with rivers, so it is usually helpful, and we advise these ones to get pumping machines.” The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Lucky S. Barau, said flooding has been prevalent in Niger State in the last couple of years and whenever there is flooding most farmlands and their produce are washed away. According to him, Niger State is a floodplain zone and the government is trying to be proactive. Barau also spoke on the effects of climate change on farmers.
He said: “In the rural areas we try to encourage the farmers and locals to plant a lot of trees to serve as canopies so that when the rain falls, it does not drop directly on their farmlands because it will fall on the trees before touching the ground. This will reduce the intensity of the rain falling directly on the ground.
We have tried to plant economic trees to open up the soil so that the water, instead of running, goes down and through that flooding is prevented.” The lasting solution to flooding in the state, according to Barau, is capital intensive.
He said: “We have tried to build buffers apart from the natural causes of the flood and there are allegations that the flood comes from the release of water from the dams. We have heard it but it is always a controversy between the dam management and the farmers. The dam managers claim they did not open the dam but farmers always insist they do.
So, the solution is to create buffers. But as it is now, it is capital intensive. The last time we had a meeting with the Commissioner for Water and Dam Development, we were told they were planning to get the buffers done. “Again, what we also try to do is to encourage climate change mitigation to plant one million trees. It is going to be very massive planting this year.
The Commissioner for Agriculture also told us that they are educating the farmers on the kind of crops to plant and the way to lay their ridges to help reduce the impact of flooding, in case it comes.” Those practicing aquaculture in the state are not left out as they also face problems. Two years ago, during the flooding, they lost most of their fishes and valuables worth millions of naira. This year, according to Barau, they are adopting ways to protect their fishes so that they will not be affected adversely again.
He said: “We are working with locals and ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to see how we can give technical advice on how farmers can go about their farming. As a ministry we don’t really have much to do as regards to how people do their farming. What we really do is to try to encourage people to stop massive deforestation because the more trees are cut down the more the soil is opened and the more the erosion. “To address land degradation in the state, what we are trying to do is to give farmers seedlings like 100 and we are expecting at least 50 per cent to survive.
That way we are fighting climate affects, which is climate mitigation. We try to encourage farmers to do the dry season farming. There must be access to water bodies, wells, streams, rivers or boreholes. This can save their animals too during drought. I will advise these women farmers to form clusters or associations so that they can easily and collectively get support.”
The permanent secretary said if he had the opportunity, he would provide an adequate source of water so that farmers can farm throughout the year and help them have easy access to implements and encourage combusting and organic manure. In addition, he would also make markets readily available for farmers so that they can easily sell their produce. Barau promised to encourage the women to practice how to save because they don’t just live from hand-tomouth. According to him, they need to also have plans to diversify and try to promote commerce if they must meet international standards; then they are in business. Barau also promised to help them access credit facilities.
He added: “We received several calls from some local government areas seeking our permission to fell trees so that they can open up the forests to deprive criminals of their hideouts. But we feel that won’t be the best option because the climate effect on humans will be on the increase; there won’t be birds, insects and other creatures that will help the soil in fixing the nitrogen.
They won’t be there anymore. There will be hunger in the land because there is less food production and there will be drought.” The United Nations (UN) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the humanitarian impacts of climate change will be far worse in the decades to come if there are no radical efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In 2019, over 34 million people globally were acutely faced with food insecurity due to climate extremes. Now, given the experiences of these women, who form the fulcrum of the workforce in the agricultural sector, experts said Nigeria faces a serious food crisis unless the government takes necessary actions. Recently, the Federal Ministry of Environment, while quoting a report by the Department for International Development (DFID), noted that the impact of these changes without adaptation could cost between six per cent and 30 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP by 2050, amounting to between $100 billion and $460 billion.
An expert in Agriculture Extension and Forestry from the University of Ibadan, Prof. Mohammed Kuta Yahaya, said in a telephone interview that climate change is a reality in the Nigeria agricultural sector. Yahaya captured the change in a vivid picture of weather patterns in the recent past and now.
He said: “In the near past, Niger State was almost like the southern part of Nigeria in terms of vegetation, in terms of duration and lasting rains but of late you will realise that things have changed. I give an example of when I was doing my National Youth Service in Borno State now Yobe State, if it’s about to rain, what you will witness is a heavy windstorm that will herald the rainfall.
Then you will see rain. “But, in the past, in Niger State, it will just start raining. You will just see the cloud building up and there will be rain. Suddenly, less than 10 years after, the same windstorm started happening in Niger State. Up until this moment, it is escalating and it is moving towards the South, because I also notice it lately even in Ibadan which is like in the rainforest. “Climate change is a result of the activities of human beings. You are having issues with a lot of logging, deforestation turning a lot of our forest into empty spaces because of charcoal. All these things have an impact on climate change.
These are some of the things which constitute the changes that we witness.” Yahaya said the entire agriculture value chain is incomplete without women, adding that, in some communities, they are the core labourers that work on the farm. He added: “Some of them own their farms but some of them are very vital in the value chain, that is, after production they are into processing, packaging and marketing. Women are deeply involved. So, you see, women are the ones who are victims of excess exposure to sun, excess exposure to rain, excess exposure to weather and changes in weather conditions.
Women bear the brunt. “So, I will say in a nutshell that agricultural system is violated because of the activities of human being in terms of environmental degradation, which will further precipitate into harmful platitude that people want to cope with the changes in the environment, with changes in climate and they want to look for far way to cope with.
“We need a new dawn; we need a new mechanism of encouraging mass tree planting to replace the vanishing vegetation. We also need to engage young people into embracing new modern horticultural practices where they can plant trees that are of economic value so that in a couple of years they can benefit and become economically empowered, instead of just leaving our environment there.” Yahaya asserted that desert encroachment is not only in the desert region but in any environment that is exposed to excess wind or sun which will in turn affect agriculture. He said: “Even the creatures that live in the soil are affected because of the excess exposure to sun rays, because of the depletion in what we call the ozone layer. Any activity you do on earth affects the ozone layer and when you violate the ozone layer, the direct consequence is its effects.”
The professor encouraged SWOFON to register with FADAMA III. He said: “If they are registered, FADAMA has provisions for supplying some of these equipment that can enable them to access water in terms of irrigation farming, either surface irrigation or pump where they can provide boreholes around where they are into cooperatives. “So, I think the most important thing is that they must get into cooperative groups where they can be together and collectively service their farms with any unit of borehole that is provided.” The SWOFON Coordinator in Edati Local Government Area, Mrs. Susan Kolo, expressed fears over climate change. She said: “Our challenge here during the rainy season is that we cannot farm here because this water is channelled directly to River Niger.
The water comes from Kainji Dam and goes directly into River Niger, so during the rainy season you cannot see anything here, except water. “Even during the dry season that you can farm, we have to channel water. As you can see, we are using a lot of money, because the water moves straight, you can see it is not so big now. It’s because we channel it to many farms; that is why you cannot see how big it is now. When the flood comes, it destroys our farm produce. Anything we plant when the water comes, it washes them away.” Sadly, according to her, the government does not offer the hapless women farmers any help. “Anytime the flood comes, the government will promise us that they will bring things for us. But at the end of the day, we don’t see anything.
There is no assistance from the government except failed promises,” Kolo said. Pointing to sections of the farm, she said “for this one, the fear is that it may not produce before the rain comes and when the rain comes, it will destroy this farm. But like this one now, we have assurance of harvesting it before the rain comes.
You can see the other side, those ones are okay now. Like a month from now, those ones will be okay. But for this side, we still have fear because if the rain starts it will sweep them away.” On her path, the SWOFON Coordinator in Lavun Local Government Area, Mrs. Sarah Kolo, said they are just 10 members but lamented that they suffer most during the dry season because of inadequate water. She said: “Most of our crops die, because there is no water. We plant yam, guinea corn and maize.
In Kutigi, our problem has been drought. Without water, our crops won’t germinate in this part of the town. As you can see, these are shafts from guinea corn that have been harvested before. Farming can’t take place without water. It is so expensive for us to pay people who get water for us to water the farms.
A member of SWOFON in Lavun Local Government Area, Mrs. Esther Dua, also complained of lack of water. According to her, the only thing they do during the dry season is to gather firewood to sell and wait for the rainy season. She said: “The soil is so hard at this moment we are experiencing drought and we can’t farm in this land.”
•This report was made possible with support from the International Budget Partnership (IBP)