Lagos farmers lament climate change-induced drought

Worried by what seems to be climate change-induced drought, Lagos farmers are agitated followimg delay in rainfalls this year. Dayo Ayeyemi reports.

The annual rains mean different things to different people in Lagos State. To the farmers, rains mark the beginning of the planting season in expectation of a bountiful harvest later in the year.

But to people or residents living in the low-lying locations along coastal and river channel areas, the arrival of rains signifies the beginning of their fears, thanks to the associated flooding of homes, roads  and farmlands.

However,  it is no longer news that the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), in early February, predicted normal to above normal rainfall season in 2021 across the country.

It, however, further predicted below-normal rainfall totals over a few places in the north western parts of the country to include Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara and Kano states.

“The 2021 onset of the growing season is predicted to be normal to earlier than normal in most parts of the country.

“The earliest onset date is likely to occur on March 1, 2021, along the coaster line of the country while the latest date is anticipated to be around June 29, 2021, in the northern most parts of the country.

“However, later-than-normal onset dates are expected over a few places such as parts of Lagos, Ogun, Kebbi and Niger states,” it said.

It further forecast a few places such as Lagos and the FCT likely to have a shorter length of season differing by a few days (about 5 to 14 days).

With 2021 rainfall predictions of below normal and a shorter length of season, Lagosians do not need any soothsayer to tell them that climate change is here.

The implications of climate change however have resulted in the rains going into recess, since September last year, at a time it should come most regularly.

The break in rains since September last year till now-March 2021, is biting  Lagos farmers hard.

This is coming at a time the Lagos State government is preparing to roll out a lot of initiatives in the agriculture sector: The Imota Rice Mill,  a 32- metric ton per hour milling capacity  and  aqua culture project in Epe.

Already, Lagos farmers have become  agitated following their inability to provide irrigation as alternative to rain water.

For Mrs Comfort Okeke,  one of the vegetable farmers along the LASU-Iba road in Lagos, inadequate rains mean she and her colleagues have to depend on man-made well to water their vegetables as the usual practice during the dry season.

She decried the practice, saying they have to dissipate so much energy at fetching water from the man-made well for three times in a day to wet their plants.

“Shortage of rains to us means low harvest, low export  and more work,” she said.

Another farmer, Mrs Ude, expressed mixed feelings, saying that last year rains flooded their farmlands and washed away their vegetables.

With low rains this year, she said she preferred to water her plants artificially to prevent flooding.

She explained that low rains are associated with poor harvest and low profits.

For maize and cassava farmers, Mr. Sunday Adebisi and Cecelia Odey,  said they could not invest so much this year due to lack of rains, recalling  their losses  in 2020 when they invested a fortune, but  turned out very little yield

On fish farming,  a farmer, Adefowoju Rasheed,   said that water is needed for farming.

He said: “We need water to work.  In the absence of rains there is nothing farmers can do.

“We need regular rains for fish farming.  There is no irrigation. Without water, it becomes difficult to rear fish.”

In the absence of rains, he stated that fish farmers would need deep well or   boreholes, adding that  to  culture 1000 pieces of fish,  a farmer would need N500,000 to get one ton.

A farmer and president, A -Z Export Forum,  John Bede Anthonio,  said that with the current trend of global warming and inadequate  rains, agricultural produce and harvest would be   greatly challenged.

Besides, he stated that poultry and fishing industries have been affected negatively by inadequate rains induced by climate change.

Already,  he pointed out that poultry industry and many  others are already closing down due to shortage of maize and soyabeans for animal feeds.

This, he said, stemmed from poor harvest.

Anthonio said: “We read that only 30 per cent  of these farmers get good seeds for planting. The seed you plant will determine the yields you get, so this also affects the harvest.”

The fishing Industry, according to Anthonio,  would also be affected because of the feeds which he said  the prices went up. He added that  “there’s a limit to the price some consumers can afford to pay.”

According to him, though farm produce was affected by inadequate rains, alternatives to feedstock for the poultry and fishing Industry are being exploited

He said: “However, there are alternatives to  feedstock for the poultry and fishing Industries. This is the ‘Black Soldier Fly’ which we are exploring currently.”

On  implications on inadequate rains on Nigerians, he said the economy was already in trouble because of several factors and that  rain’s shortage for agriculture  only worsened the situation.

“The people cannot depend on government because the authority has shown beyond reasonable doubt that it has no solution,” he said.

According to him, Nigerians must come together to proffer solutions to the Nigerian economy.

He bemoaned current agricultural  practice in Nigeria, describing it as “still primitive and rained agriculture.”

“This is because 80 per cent of farmers are small holders and don’t have the necessary information and tools for farming. Because of this, they can only have one planting and harvest season,” Anthonio said.

Anthonio said that shortage of rains in 2021 would affect agric produce in Lagos State.

He, however, noted that Lagos State is not  doing much in agriculture but in vegetable and fishing.

For farmers growing rice and vegetables, he urged that time has come for them to move to irrigation system

He said: “Also, individual farmers need to form cooperative

“With cooperative. they can do bigger sizes and mechanize, so better production and scale up.”

He added not much flooding will be expected this year going by NIMET’s predictions.

When contacted, Director, Public Affairs, Lagos State Ministry of the Environment, Mr Adekunle Adesina, told Nigerian Tribune that the ministry is yet to receive the report of NIMET’s Rainfall Predictions for 2021.

He stated that the Commissioner for the Environment, Mr Tunji Bello, would definitely study and comment on the report anytime he receives it.

The spokesperson for the ministry has already  embarked on clearance of drainage and construction of water channels to avert or reduce the effects of flooding  on citizens.

Talking, Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms.  Abisola Olusanya, said that  government is set  to harness the possibilities around fish farming this year, rain or no rain, since the state is surrounded  by water,  in order to get Federal Government licences for trawling in Lagos waters.

This, she said, would encourage farmers  to produce or to catch more fishes and be able to feed more Lagosians.

She noted that the state has been able  to supply 174,000 tons of fish on an annual basis despite the fact  that “demand is well over 400,000 metric tons.”

“So we are talking of a deficit of 226,00 metric tons, if we are able to bring more trawling, then we should be able to meet up or close the gap. These are some of the things that we are doing and we have set the ball rolling and we are ready,” she said.

She also spoke on progress of work on the Imota Rice Mill, the largest in the country, and projected to generate about 250,000 jobs across value chain when fully operational.

On how to  source supply of paddy rice for the Mill in the absence of rains, she said that apart from  supplies from other states,  government has been looking internally by training  for rice farmers, numbering 800 in Lagos.

“We may not have many rice farmers in the Badagry-Itokin area, but we are still doing what we can with them,” she said.

In addition,  she said the state government is also working on aqua culture, fishery.

Olusanya said:  “We are surrounded by water, it is around us. What value chain should we focus on more, if not on fishery value chain?  What we are doing right now is to say, okay, we have for the fishery, we have the artisanal fisher men and then we have the aqua culture farmers.

“Artisanal fishermen will be the ones who fish in the waters, who take out their boats and then aqua culture farmers will be those who have ponds in their farms or in their backyards, or what have you. So what we have seen is that artisanal fishermen actually contribute more to fish production in Lagos. What are we doing around that? We are trying to gather them around cluster groups such that they can also begin to enjoy some of CBN intervention funds, or Federal Government intervention funds such that they are able to get into waters, buy better boats, encourage the youth to also come, by then using technically enabled equipment to produce more, to be able to catch more, to be able to make more money. “

Other   experts have argued that negative impacts of reduced rains  on agric produce would further   lead to  increase  in the retail prices of agric products such as  rice,  corns, beans, tomatoes and onions, among others.

Vice President, Agricbusiness Forum Group, Dr. Emmanuel Ijewere, said it was not just inadequate  rains that  would affect agric produce.

He pointed out  that  the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic do more damage.

Besides,  he stated that flooding incident in Kebbi and Nasarawa states, in which more than 200 kilometres of agricultural land was under water last year, wreaked a lot of havoc on farmers.

According to him, the damage done to agric produce was very bad,  pointing  that the current fear was the issue of Boko Haram.

He explained that the current attack of rice farmers had scared others  away from their farms. This major incident, he said, would  create shortage of food in the country  this year.

He also mentioned that the volatile forex market has also created havoc that people have not known now.

“We must prepare to do the right thing.  We need  to organise ourselves to grow more,” he said.

Ijewere stated  that out of the 320 irrigation systems in the country,  less than 70 per cent are  being used, alleging that government sat on others.

Founder, Women in Agricultural Advancement & Sustainable, Ms. Chioma Roberts, said  that inadequate rains in 2020 and now in 2021 would  definitely have negative impacts on agric produce and economy.

According to her,  a lot of people that went into farming last year were disappointed by the way rains stopped unexpectedly contrary to NIMET’s prediction.

Already,  she said foodstuffs have become expensive, adding that the inflation in the prices of foodstuffs would continue except rains come earlier now.

Right now,   she said  that prices of livestock feeds have gone beyond rooftop due to scarcity of corns.

“Many people that went into farming last year got their fingers burnt. There is hunger in the land.  There is no increase in wages and during this time a bucketpaint of rice is selling for N2,600,” she said.

She pointed out that the most affected by these issues  are women, adding that most of them on Central Bank of Nigeria   (CBN)’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme  are finding it difficult to pay back.

According to her, activities of 500 women under her association on Anchor Borrowers’  scheme were disrupted by shortage of rains last year,  wondering how they would pay back the loan.

According to experts at scholars research library, on “Influence of Rainfall and Water Level on Inland Fisheries Production,” weather condition, seasonal fluctuation and climate change were external environmental factors driving the  dynamics of inland water bodies globally.

They said  there was a strong relationship between the hydro-climatic factors and inland fisheries production worldwide.

Seasonal pattern of the hydro-climatic factors are changing annually and inter-annually, due to the direct and indirect effect of climate change.

“Direct effects are reduced rainfall and greater evaporation act on physiology and behavior and alter growth, development, reproductive capacity, mortality, and distribution of fish community.

Indirect effects, when more water is used for irrigation to balance reduced rainfall which in turn draws down in water level, they said would alter the productivity, structure, and composition of the ecosystems on which fish depend for food and shelter.


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