Hunger Looms •As delayed rains deal hammer blow on farmers

IMOLEAYO OYEDEYI and DEOLA OTEMADE report that the poor rainfall recorded in the first half of the rainy season and the lateness in the onset of the second half, coupled with the experience of farmers in the North may spell doom for food security in the coming months.

Before the onset of the 2020 rainy season, as is the custom, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET) released its annual Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP) report to guide various sectors of the country, including the agricultural sector and its stakeholders.

The agency predicted in its report that the rainy season was expected to range from “near-normal to earlier than normal in most parts of the country.”

The forecast for earliest rain was February 24 in the coastal areas of the South-South states while the North-East and North-West zones were likely to have their onset from June 2.

NiMET also predicted that “in the year 2020, the length of growing season is expected to span for 110 to 160 days in the Sahelian region of the North and for 210 to 280 days in the South,” adding that “a normal to above normal” rainfall is expected generally in the country. The agency further envisaged total rainfall amounts to be in the region of 400mm in the North and about 3000mm in the South.

However, the northern part of the country is currently recovering from flooding arising from downpours which had submerged hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmlands raising fears of likely food shortage.

In the southern part of the country, the reverse is the case as rainfall was in short supply before a cessation took effect in early July only to resume in the second week of September, a period of almost eight weeks.

As a result of this, farmers in the South are complaining. In Enugu State, farmers are currently bemoaning the likely negative effects of late rainfall in the area this year. There are palpable fears of a poor harvest.

 

Mazi Simeon Nweke, the Public Relations Officer of Farmers’ Association of Amagu community in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of the state, agrees that rain is a natural phenomenon which could not be predicted, but the effect is predictable.

“Rain is a thing of nature. It is disheartening to us the local farmers in this area that rain did not fall as expected. For example, as a rice farmer, my rice field was already turning yellow until this recent rainfall.

“The late rain will definitely reduce our rice production. How do we cope? I want the government to help us by providing fertilizer at a very subsidised rate, as there is fear that there is likely going to be food scarcity in the country,” he said.

Nweke is not alone. Ikechukwu Nwadu, also a farmer, says others like him have resigned themselves to fate.

“As I am talking to you now, I am really disturbed by the climate change which led to late rainfall, not only in Enugu State but in some other parts of the country,” he said, adding that getting input like cassava stems to plant had been a difficult task as it is now costly.

According to him, a bundle of cassava stems which formerly sold for between N300 and N400 now goes for between N1,200 and N1, 500 at the rural markets in Enugu communities, while expressing fears that the situation might result in poor or low yields and late harvest in the state.

Farmers in other states of the South-East, including other parts of the South such as the South- West have similar experiences.

Tola Bamiro, an agripreneur sees the looming food crisis arising from late or fewer rain from a climatic point of view, while advising farmers to brace up to a more difficult situation next year.

“It’s obvious we are experiencing low or late rainfall this year which I believe could be attributed to climate change, which as a result might affect food productivity and security. By this time, that is between late August and September, we should be preparing for the exit of the rainy season but it came in rather late, and the effect can be seen on the increase in food prices. Commodity prices have gone up in market because of low yield due to low rainfall; a good example is maize, rice, cassava and others, and sadly Nigerian farmers don’t have the technology for irrigation.

“Farmers should prepare for more unstable climate change next year by implementing irrigation and storage facilities. This year’s epileptic rainfall is just an indication of what’s to come next year. Government should also provide flexible and low-rate loan facilities for farmers and provide extension services and aids to improve productivity.

“Peasant farmers or small scale farmers are responsible for the bulk of agricultural production in Nigeria; this is necessary to ensure sustainable agricultural production in the face of changing rainfall pattern and thereby enhancing the attainment of food security,” he told Sunday Tribune.

Another commercial farmer, Temitope Omoloye, tells Sunday Tribune that ignorance about the right time to plant some crops coupled with climatic conditions have contributed to low yield and likely food crisis in the next few months.

According to him, “All types of crops have their planting seasons during the year, most especially in subsistence farming. For this reason, all farmers are all aware of the issue of timing. They do their planting as it is scheduled without the knowledge of the (likely period of) drought that happened at crucial times of the year that matter most to farming.

“For that reason all crops that fall into this rainy season are practically destroyed and this has posed a threat to the availability of those crops which will equally lead to scarcity; aside this, the situation might also lead some farmers into debt and cause some to relent and reduce the production of crops.”

While also contributing to the issue of inadequate rain, Abiodun Falomo, who is into integrated farming, tells Sunday Tribune that the expectations of farmers this year had been cut short as the change in climate has affected the growth of plants.

“As it is known that there is always August break but it took a longer time than expected (for the rain to return); it really affected lots of crops as some crops that were meant to grow during this period died as a result of lack of water. Also, it affected me personally because the investment that went into sowing of the crop is a waste, purchasing the farm land, clearing it, spraying it with herbicide, weeding…

“All these became a waste as it is; I would have to repeat the same process all over again, and this goes for other farmers as well,” he lamented.

If big-time farmers are complaining, small scale farmers like Olapade Dayo, are definitely not smiling. The drop in rainfall has practically ruined the farming season for him.

“I had to opt into other things to occupy myself because nothing was yielding on the farm land. And obviously the absence of the rain had caused an outrageous increase in the price of farm produce. Vegetables are now being sold at higher prices in small quantities, ewedu is scare and the basic farm produce that people consume is hard to come by. So the change in the climate system will take a long toll on the farming system in Nigeria,” he stated.

Sunday Tribune also spoke with some university lecturers on the problem of poor rain which has affected farm yields. They concluded that it was a situation attributable to climatic conditions.

Patrick .C. Uke, a lecturer in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension, Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), Enugu, told Sunday Tribune that “climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods (that may range from decades to millions of years).”

According to him, “It is usually caused by factors such as biotic processes (such as humans and animals), variations in solar radiations received by earth and volcanic eruptions, among others. Climate change has repercussions such as upsetting seasonal cycles, harming ecosystems and water supply affecting agricultural farming systems and food production, causing sea-levels to rise, among others.”

He explained further that in the case of Nigeria, a variety of food crops are produced and all are dependent on rainfall, adding that where rainfall is abundant, rain-fed crops are planted while in drier parts of the country, crops that do not require much rainfall are planted. Problems, he said, sometimes occur where much rain is expected and it does not come or it is inadequate.

Uke also noted that the survival of agriculture therefore is dependent on climate as the two are inter-related. Therefore changes in climate will definitely affect food productivity.

While the farming season is yet to come to an end, it is not yet determined how long the rains may still be here. While it is expected to cease by this month end in the North, the South may still continue to experience rainfall till the end of next month or even a little beyond which may turn around a seemingly bad situation.

 

Additional report by Jude Ossai

 

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