Climate change has adversely affected agricultural productivity in Nigeria and the whole of African continent. It impacts agriculture in several ways, including its direct effect on food production. In this article, we examine the effect of climate change on agriculture in Nigeria. Since, climate change tends to deepen poverty, cripple economic growth, and increase vulnerabilities, there is the need for concerted efforts toward tackling this menace.
The temperature trend in Nigerian since 1901 has been rising and continues till date. Concomitantly, rainfall trend in Nigeria between 1901 till date shows a general decline. Although there is a general decrease in rainfall in Nigeria, the coastal areas of Nigeria like Warri, Brass and Calabar among others experience slightly increasing rainfall in recent times. This is a clear evidence of climate change because a notable impact of climate change is, increasing rainfall in most coastal areas and decreasing rains in the continental interiors.
Indeed, these are major disruptions in climatic patterns of Nigeria showing evidences of a changing climate.
Climate change has adversely affected agricultural productivity in Nigeria and the whole of African continent. Climate change as well as its impacts is global, however, the most adverse effects will be felt mainly by developing countries, especially those in Africa, due to their low level of coping capabilities. Nigeria is one of these developing countries.
Global warming, rainfall patterns shift, and increasing frequency of extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, and forest fires result in poor and unpredictable agricultural yields.
Consequently, farmers face prospects of tragic crop failures, reduced agricultural productivity, increased hunger, malnutrition and diseases. In 2003, it was estimated that crop yield in Africa may fall by 10-20% by 2050 or even up to 50% due to climate change, particularly because African agriculture is predominantly rain-fed and hence fundamentally dependent on the vagaries of weather.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, Nigeria and other African countries are experiencing a trend of warming at a rate faster than the global average, and increasing aridity.
Climate change exerts multiple stresses on the biological, physical, social and institutional environments that underpin agricultural production.
In all, the patterns of impact of climate change on agriculture can be classified into biophysical and socioeconomic impact.
The biophysical impacts include; physiological effects on crop and livestock, change in land, soil and water resources, increased weed and pest challenges, shifts in spatial and temporal distribution of impacts, sea level rise and changes to ocean salinity and sea temperature rise causing fish to inhabit in different ranges.
Some of the direct impacts of climate change on agricultural system include the following:
(a) seasonal changes in rainfall and temperature, which could impact agro-climatic conditions, altering growing seasons, planting and harvesting calendars, water availability, pest, weed and disease populations;
(b) alteration in evapo-transpiration, photosynthesis and biomass production; and
(c) alteration in land suitability for agricultural production.
When looking critically on plant production, the pattern of climate change has both positive and negative impacts. Rises in temperature for example helps to grow crops in high altitude areas and towards the poles. In these areas, increases in temperature extend the length of the potential growing season, allowing earlier planting, early harvesting and opening the possibility of completing two crop cycles in the same season.
The warmer conditions support the process of natural decomposition of organic matter and contribute to the nutrient uptake mechanisms. The process of nitrogen fixation, associated with greater root development is also predicted to increase in warmer conditions. But when temperatures exceed the optimal level for biological processes, crops often respond negatively with a steep drop in net growth and yield.
Consequently, heat stress might affect the whole physiological development, maturation and finally reduces the yield of cultivated crop.
The negative effects on agricultural yields will be exacerbated by more frequent weather events. For example, higher temperatures, changes in annual and seasonal rainfall patterns and in the frequency of extreme events will affect the volume, quality, quantity, stability of food production and the natural environment in which agriculture takes place.
Climatic variations will have consequences for the availability of water resources, frequency of pest and diseases, and soil quality, leading to significant changes in the conditions for agriculture and livestock production. In extreme cases, the degradation of agricultural ecosystems could mean desertification, resulting in a total loss of the productive capacity of the land. This is likely to increase the dependence on food importation and the number of people at risk of famine.
In some parts of Nigeria, climate change has already begun to alter the dynamics of drought, rainfall and heat waves, and trigger secondary stresses such as the spread of pests, increased competition for resources, and attendant biodiversity losses.
In Nigeria, it seems that warmer climates and changes in rainfall will destabilize agricultural production. This is expected to undermine the systems that provide food security. Whilst farmers in some regions may benefit from longer growing seasons and higher yields, the general consequences for Nigeria, are expected to be adverse, and particularly adverse for the poor and the marginalized, who do not have the means to withstand drastic changes.
The socioeconomic impacts result in decline in yield and production, reduced marginal GDP from agriculture, fluctuation in world market price, changes in geographical distribution of trade regime, increased number of people at risk of hunger and food insecurity, migration and civil unrest.
Evidence from the IPCC suggests that areas of Western and Central Africa are among the most vulnerable to climate change by 2100, with likely agricultural losses of between 2 to 4% of affected countries’ GDP.
Climate change-induced reduction in agricultural productivity would lead to an increase prevalence of hunger, starvation, malnutrition, and diseases. In 2003, it was estimated that crop yield in Africa may fall by 10-20% by 2050 or even up to 50% due to climate change, particularly because African agriculture is predominantly rain-fed and hence fundamentally dependent on the vagaries of weather. This would worsen the already poor socioeconomic indices of Nigeria and other African countries.
In the article, we examined some of the challenges encountered by Nigerian agriculture in trying to adapt to the problem of climate change. Unfortunately, both the government and the private sector which ought to drive the agricultural sector through consistent policies, robust funding and infrastructure development have failed to give agricultural adaptation the needed attention.
Furthermore, the typical farmer in Nigeria has been slow in changing their farming practices such as bush burning, deforestation, rain-fed agriculture and land tenure systems, and they lack the requisite education, information and training necessary to adapt to climate change.
From the foregoing, there is the need for the relevant authorities to give urgent attention to the challenges because the problems of climate change are already with us.
There is the need for an explicit national agricultural policy framework, adequate provision for irrigation, drainage, and other agricultural technological infrastructure, an incentive for training in agriculture, on-going capacity building for farmers, drought resistant and short duration high yielding crops development, integration of indigenous and modern knowledge on climate change adaptation, strengthening of the extension services, and encouragement of formation of farmer groups.
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