Climate Change Adaptation in Agriculture needs to be a top Priority at COP26

Dr. Chioma Ewurum*

Nigeria’s agriculture and food production systems depend heavily on the exploitation of natural resources, rain-fed agriculture, hunting, and fishing from natural water bodies. As Nigeria continues to strive to overcome poverty and food insecurity amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change threatens to diminish hard-won development gains and severely undermine development prospects in the agricultural sector.

Agriculture is a critical sector in Nigeria’s economy, contributing to 22.13 percent of the total nominal GDP between April and June 2021. If no urgent adaptation actions are taken, the nation’s GDP will decrease by an estimated 4.5 percent by 2050.

Climate change vulnerabilities are evident across Nigeria’s geographical regions. Flooding, unpredictable rainfall patterns, and increased temperatures in southern states are evident. Under a business-as-usual scenario, there would be a significant decline in agricultural productivity, between 10 to 25 percent and even up to 50% in Northern regions by 2080 due to these climatic changes. This is a massive problem for the most vulnerable groups who produce more than 70% of the food eaten in Nigeria. For example, roughly 80% of rice is produced by small-scale local farmers, and 20% by commercial farmers. Major staple crops such as rice, maize, and sorghum are rain-fed, and so, low crop yield inevitably increases food prices, loss of income, and reduced livelihoods of rural farm households.

Measures must be taken to mitigate the consequences of climate changes felt most gravely by the “foot soldiers” in the agricultural sector. Both government and the private sector, which should propel the agricultural sector through policy implementation, adequate funding, and infrastructure development, have failed to prioritize agricultural development. This neglect has led to the low use of supplementary irrigation systems, poor agricultural practices, lack of access to quality fertilizer and seeds.

Climate Finance for the Agricultural sector

At the end of 2020, small-scale farmers in developing countries, despite being more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, only received 1.7 percent of global climate finance. A larger proportion of climate finance needs to be channeled to small-scale local farmers as a failure of this could push millions of struggling small-holder farmers to abject poverty.

Already, nearly 72% of Nigerian smallholder farmers live on less than $1.90 per day — where women account for 75% of the farming population, having access to less than 20 percent of available agricultural resources.

Small-holder farmers need to employ adaptation strategies to cushion the effects of climate change. Adaptation strategies imply reducing both exposure and vulnerability of the agricultural sector to climate change and require sufficient education, assets, information, and income.

These adaptation solutions Include the following:

  • Improved soil management practices and crop covers, such as the use of potatoes, melon, and groundnut, can be used to protect topsoil from the effects of soil erosion;
  • Crop rotation, mixed cropping practices and the use of water channels as draining systems, mulching, regular weeding, and conservation of soil moisture through appropriate tillage operation;
  • Useful farming and weather-related information and skills training;
  • Increase access to adaptation finance through economic incentives and value chain initiatives;
  • Provision of agro-processing and storage facilities to smallholder farmers especially women;
  • Access to infrastructure and technologies such as small-scale irrigation, rainwater harvesting systems;
  • Provision of insurance to agricultural businesses for climate-related effects;
  • Provision by microfinance institutions of products and services to farmers in need, such that they can build resilience that will maximize agricultural production.

In the face of increasing multiplicity in the nature and character of climate change, urgent adaptation measures aimed at increasing food security are necessary, nevertheless, highly dependent on receiving adequate climate financial, technical, and capacity-building support.

Dr Chioma Ewurum* is a Research Manager at Clean Technology Hub.

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Clean Technology Hub is a hybrid hub for research, policy development, community engagement, & incubation of clean energy & climate resilience ideas in Nigeria.