Climate change puts rice production at risk in Nigeria
By Daniel Adaji
In September 2020, a devastating flood that swept through Kebbi State, renowned for rice production, left hundreds of farmers in tears. The flood washed away rice farms in 11 local government areas of Argungu, Birnin Kebbi, Bunza, Suru, Koko-Besse, Yauri, Shanga, Bagudo, Maiyama, Jega, and Dandi.
In a special report on the devastation, Punch newspaper quoted an elderly farmer, Alhaji Aliyu Soda, as lamenting thus: “The massive rice production in the state has been instrumental to the rice revolution in Nigeria. Sadly, however, the massive rice production in the state is under threat as a result of the recent devastating flood recorded in the state.”
The 2020 flood cost Kebbi State an estimated N5 billion loss, according to Kebbi State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), as reported by Premium Times. The Chairman of Kebbi SEMA, Sani Dododo, acknowledged that the weather forecast organization, Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) warned that 102 local governments across Nigeria would be affected by the flood. Kebbi did not anticipate the level of devastation. Dododo said “the flood submerged more than 450,000 hectares of rice plantation in the lowland…[and] over 50,000 hectares of millet, sorghum, maize, and sugarcane were also destroyed on the highlands. When you combine the two areas, you will arrive at about 500,000 hectares destroyed by flood this year and rice farmers are the worse hit. This is because rice constitutes about 90 percent of the total plantation, the remaining crops stood at only 10 percent.”
The main step that must be taken to address this situation is for Nigerians to vigorously pursue afforestation
Climate change, through extreme, frequent flooding and increased salt level in the water supply used for irrigation, has become a common subject of global debate. The impact of climate change and global warming is considerable in Nigeria and agricultural production activities are generally more threatened than other sectors. In recent years, especially in 2020, many farms especially rice farms were destroyed in Nigeria due to flooding and drought both become which are elements of climate change.
A farmer, Flight Sergeant Odunsi Rotimi (Rtd), and president of a rice union, which is composed of two farmer cooperatives (Good Success and Farm Mate Multipurpose Agricultural Cooperative), with membership in Ogun and Lagos states respectively, spoke to The Insight about their predicaments.
“The losses recorded in the last two years were enormous,” Rotimi said. We lost our entire investment (100%) to both flood and drought, and the majority of our farmers are discouraged and are not willing to go back and re-invest in the subsequent seasons.”
Rotimi further stated that since they were beneficiaries of the Federal Government’s Rice Anchor Borrowers’ Scheme, their farm activities were strictly monitored by the Ministry of Agriculture, which directed them to plant at a specified planting date. That was in May, unlike their counterparts in the Republic of Benin who started land preparation at the first rain and planted at the second rain. The wrong planting period, coupled with the failed rainfall forecast was costly to members of the agricultural cooperative body.
We must deliberately embrace tree planting to address the menace of climate change.
He explained thus: “Because of the fluctuation in the rainfall pattern, the specified farming date did not work for us. The rainfall pattern was not regular and when we planted it got to a time when rainfall ceased. We lost a part of the farm to drought and when the rain started again, it was so heavy within the season that our entire farm became flooded. We lost the entire rice on the field of about 10 hectares.”
Rotimi solicited the government and relevant agencies to help with accurate weather forecasts to help them carry out their farm activities with minimal risks.
Another farmer, Akolo Emmanuel, in Lafia, Nasarawa State, who spoke to The Insight lamented how he lost two hectares of his rice farm to flooding and one hectare to drought. Floods and drought are climate change effects.
He said, “All the rice I planted on the field last year was supposed to germinate, but the partial drought set in and I lost a part of the farm to drought the another part of the farm, which survived the drought was lost to flood last year.”
An expert in Geology and climate change, Mr. Obasanju Daniel of the Department of Earth Science, Kogi State University, Anyigba, Kogi State, told The Insight that deforestation drives climate change when forests, which are supposed to serve as a carbon sink, are depleted. Consequently, greenhouse gases cause the trapping of heat that should have escaped to outer space, thereby causing the warming of the earth.
Linking the warming to flooding, he said, ”Glacial melt during the heating process turning into liquid water and find their path into the oceans and seas leading to increase in water and sea levels, causing flooding when it rains. Human activities deforestation and release of gases by industries are a major cause of climate change.”
The use of clean energy, not depending on fossil fuels, could help to control climate change and mitigate the losses rice farmers experience due to climate change.
This condition affects Nigeria and its agricultural production, as it affects several tropical countries. In Nigeria, the mean average temperature of Nigeria has been increasing since the year 2000 and peaked in 2010 (27.81 oC). A 17 hours continuous and heavy downpour of rain was also experienced in Lagos South West Nigeria in the same year (2010) causing severe flooding in Lagos State, according to the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC). The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) reported that as many as 50,000 Nigerians were also displaced by flood in 2010.
Although the temperature dropped in the subsequent years, a significant increase was observed in 2016 (27.73 oC), making it the second-highest year within the ten years considered. The charts below explain the fluctuation in the temperature rate, evidence of its unpredictability.
Rainfall was low in the year 2000 (1125.89mm) but the country witnessed a sudden increase in 2003, and it has been fluctuating between the years until 2011 (1027.37mm). There was a higher rate in 2019 and a drop in the following year. These irregularities, especially the highs and the lows, could have resulted in the plight of rice farmers in the country.
It was not only Lagos and Nasarawa States farmers that experienced the negative consequences of climate change. Bauchi, Kogi, Edo, and Kwara States suffered the devastating effects of drought and flood, which wiped out their investments in rice farming last year.
The Guardian newspaper reported how farmers in the Bogoro Local Government Area of Bauchi State counted their losses as a result of the flood that destroyed some bridges and about 150 hectares of rice farmlands in villages. Several newspaper reports between 2019 and 2021 showed how, for instance, in Kogi State, Ibaji, believed to be the most productive council in terms of rice production was affected by flood; in Edo state, hectares of farmlands were destroyed in Udaba, Ufukpo, Agbaburu, Ukpeko, Ugochi; in Kwara state, several farms were also destroyed in Shonga, Edu and Patigi local government areas; in Adamawa, over 5,000 farms were affected.
The devastation is causing anxiety among farmers and stakeholders in the rice value chain, leading to the fear of food scarcity or food insecurity in Nigeria. Food prices have continued to increase. In the case of rice, despite the intervention by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through its Anchor Borrowers’ Scheme (ABS), rice production has not brought down the price of this staple food, no thanks to flood.
In 2016 when the ABS was introduced, a 50kg bag of rice cost N13,000, but as of April 2022, it had jumped to N26,000. This is partially due to relative scarcity, caused by the destruction of rice farms in 2021, and of course the insecurity in the country’s rice production belt. It is feared that if this situation is not promptly addressed, there could be food scarcity in Nigeria in the next few years.
According to the scholar at KSU, Anyigba, Mr. Daniel, the main step that must be taken to address this situation is for Nigerians to vigorously pursue afforestation. “We must deliberately embrace tree planting to address the menace of climate change. Let Nigeria take a clue from Dubai, a coastal region that has been able to curb the problem of flooding through intensive tree planting.” Daniel said further that the use of clean energy, not depending on fossil fuels, could help to control climate change and mitigate the losses rice farmers experience due to climate change.