Globally, extreme weather is predicted to become more common and animals, plants and crops are all expected to be badly affected. Indeed, climate change affects various agricultural production processes. In this article, we examine the effects/impacts of climate change on agriculture in Nigeria.
Climate change is the variation of the average state of the atmosphere over time, ranging from decades to millions of years in a region or across the entire globe. Climate change results mainly from human (anthropological) activities that generate greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
More recently, especially in the context of environmental policy, climate change has often been referred to as the noticeable variation in environmental and atmospheric composition attributed to human activities. The environmental changes induced by climate change have direct and/or indirect effects on agricultural production.
Indeed, agriculture has been an important component of Nigerian society because it generates revenue for the government, and provides employment for farmers, marketers and processors of agricultural products.
The main effect of climate change is the increased average temperature which causes a variety of secondary effects. The secondary effects caused by increased temperature include, change in rainfall patterns, rise in sea level leading to coastal erosion and flooding, altered patterns of agricultural practices, extreme weather events and expansion of range of tropical diseases.
These effects affect Nigeria in varying degree of impacts in different regions. Drought and desertification is becoming more severe in the northern region of the country. On the other hand, increased flooding from overflowing seas and rivers, threatens coastal areas, especially heavily populated delta regions in Southern and Eastern parts of the country.
Across Nigeria, the effects of climate change are manifesting already through changes in land and water regimes. Already we are experiencing changes in the frequency and intensity of droughts, flooding, water shortages, worsening of droughts, worsening soil conditions, desertification, disease and pest outbreaks on crops and livestock.
The South south geopolitical zone is mainly affected by sea level rise and deforestation-induced changes; the South west zone also is affected by sea level rise and deforestation-induced changes; South east by erosion, flooding and land degradation; North-central by changes due to loss of vegetation and overgrazing; North east by drought, desertification and heat stress; and North west also by drought, desertification and heat stress.
Extreme weather events such as floods, thunderstorms, and heavy winds devastate farmlands and can lead to crop failure. Parts of Nigeria that experienced soil erosion and operate rain fed agriculture could have decline in agricultural yield of up to half between 2000 and 2020 due to increasing impact of climate change.
Even if there is sufficient rain, it irregularity can affect yields adversely if rain fail to arrive during the crucial growing stage of the crops. Also northern part of the country is experiencing drying up of streams which are sources of irrigation water used by farmers during dry season crop production.
Some of the significant effects of climate change on crop production include the following: low yield of crop, stunted growth of crop, ease spread of pest and disease attack on crops, drying of seedling after germination and ineffectiveness of agricultural chemicals due to delay of rainfall.
Changes in crop development as a result of climate change can cause shortening or lengthening of crop cycles that could lead to decreases or increases in productivity. Structural changes especially in carbohydrate status of plants can also occur. This changes, when they occur, will surely affect the nutritional value, taste and storage quality of some fruits and vegetables.
The region here comprises of Guinea, Sudan and Sahel Savannah from Lokoja, Markudi, Ilorin in the southern part of the region to Gussa, Sokoto, Katsina, and Maiduguri in the north most fringes.
The region is rich in agricultural production but the large inter annual variability of rainfall subjects it to frequent dry spells. Agriculture through irrigation is widely practiced in order to improve on soil moisture content.
The GSSZ of Nigeria occupies more than 60%of land surface in Nigeria. The people in these areas are predominantly farmers. Climate determines the location of the crops and animals and the farm routine in GSSZ of Nigeria. Thus, any drastic change in climate in Nigeria will affect the food production capacity of the country.
As a result of the increasing aridity and desert encroachment from the far north fringes of Nigeria around the Sahel region, there have been unplanned and chaotic population displacement and drift towards the southern axis of the GSSZ.
Climate Variability (Rainfall) and Food Production in GSSZ: Food items production in the GSSZ of Nigeria is largely dependent on the climate variability regime, especially on the amount of rainfall. However, from1960, there has been more drought than rainfall in the GSSZ of Nigeria.
The implication from this is that the region has experienced more drought years compared to the normal years of rainfall, which could cause serious shortage of water supply in the region as the rivers dry. This situation in turn decreases the quantity of water available for use. At this instance, agricultural project maybe seriously hampered, as it is not likely to be successful because of the low availability of water.
For instance, during the 1972-1973 drought , in the Savannah zone of Nigeria, about 300,000 animals died and farm yields dropped by up to 60% in Nigeria. This implies that drought may portend adverse effect on food production, resulting to food insecurity.
Without doubt, drought has caused serious food insecurity situation in some African countries, including Nigeria. The general situation of food production and security in Nigeria depicts a state of food insecurity. Drought and desertification are the most important twin environmental problems affecting the 15 northernmost states of Nigeria. This climate problem has resulted to decline in arable and fish production in most states of the zone, especially the north most ones that experience more dryness and desert encroachment.
The Niger Delta region like most coastal low lying regions of the world is constantly faced with threats of flooding. However, due to increased and varying extent of rainfall attributable to climate change, the occurrence of flooding has increased with rivers and oceans easily overflowing their banks. This has impacted negatively on agriculture in the region. The flood ravaged farmlands, storage buildings and farmers houses.
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