By Titilola Kazeem-Arnold
The Federal Republic of Nigeria is in West Africa between Latitudes 4° to 14° North and between Longitudes 2°2` and 14° 30` East. To the north, the country is bounded by the Niger Republic and Chad; in the west by the Benin Republic, in the East by the Cameroon Republic and to the south by the Atlantic Ocean.
The environment of Nigeria (FMEN, 2011) 1993 estimate of irrigated land is 9 570km² and arable land about 35%; 15% pasture; 10% forest reserve; 10% for settlements and the remaining 30% considered uncultivable for one reason or the other.
Nigeria is a country with diverse agro-ecological zones, seasons, crops and farming systems. For a majority of people in Nigeria, to this day, agriculture is the main source of livelihood and contributes over 40% of the country`s total GDP. Agriculture is one of the sectors most vulnerable to global climate change impact; the impact is even stronger in Nigeria as it is inherently sensitive to climate variability and climate change which is already impacting Nigerian Agriculture in various direct and indirect ways.
This means an impact on the lives and livelihoods of millions of Nigerians, where agriculture is truly essential for daily subsistence, and where adaptive capacity is low. IPCC (2007) indicated that smallholder and subsistence farmers will suffer complex, localized impacts of climate change. Climate change is already manifesting itself in many ways across the country.
Among the indicators, is the 150 per cent above normal rainfall that lashed the country in 2019 leaving many homeless, destroying and sacking farmlands Uncertainties in the onset of the farming season, due to changes in rainfall characteristics; extreme weather events such as thunderstorms, heavy winds, and floods, devastate farmlands and can lead to crop failure; Insecurity – conflict between farmers and pastoralist and parts of the country that experienced soil erosion and operate rain-fed agriculture could have declined in agricultural yield of up to 50 % between 2000 – 2020 due to increasing impact of climate change (Agoumi, 2003; IPCC, 2007).
While climate change affects Nigerian farming and farmers` livelihoods adversely, the converse is also true- Nigerian agriculture, even if not to the same degree as the developed world`s agriculture, does contribute to climate change, Farming activities – bush burning, overgrazing, fertilizer application etc.
Extreme and unpredictable weather conditions are part of the reality of climate change even as the temperature rises and changes in rainfall, changes in pest and disease incidence etc., will also be the stark reality for farmers.
What the situation then requires are resilient and adaptive farming systems with the least amount of loss to the productive resources, production and the farmer. One of the most important requirements for adaptation would be farmers` knowledge, in negotiating complex agro-systems.
Several large organic farming projects across the world have built successful institutional models for systematic support for farmers` knowledge, innovation and constant enhancement. This forms a key part of the adaptation potential for sustainable agriculture.
To address extreme weather conditions, organic farms will be better suited. The better drainage and water holding capacity of organic soils reduces the risk of drought and soil erosion.
For instance, Organic farming practices are in a good position to maintain productivity in the event of drought, irregular rainfall events and rising temperatures, note a technical paper from International Trade Center (WTO) and FiBL.
This paper notes that soils under organic management retain significantly more rainwater, thanks to the “sponge properties” of organic matter. Water percolation is 15-20% more in organic systems. Water capture in organic plots was twice as high as conventional plots during torrential rains, which in turn reduces the risk of floods.
The most important component of organic systems – diversity- contributes a lot to the resilience of organic farms. Enhanced biodiversity of organic farms has several positive implications- pest prevention, and similar effects on diseases, better utilization of soil nutrients and water etc.
Organic farming is also associated with decreased irrigation needs by about 30-50%. This becomes an important part of adaptation in drought conditions. Given the mitigation and adaptation potential of organic systems, as well as the potential to increase food security, it becomes imperative to shift agriculture in Nigeria towards more ecological farming models which are sustainable.
Furthermore, sustainable agriculture holds great potential for meeting global and national food security requirements even as it leads to the improvement of farmers` livelihoods through enhancing their net incomes and improving the productivity of their resources in the long run.