Farmers in Northern Nigeria are said to be adopting spiritual means to tackling environmental issues facing the world.
The Deputy Country Director of Oxfam in Nigeria, Constant Tchona, has revealed that many farmers especially in the northern part still rely on prayers and local rituals against climate change, flooding and other factors adversely affecting agriculture in the country.
He was speaking Wednesday in Abuja at the formal launch of the Policy Brief on “Impact of Investments in Agriculture and Climate Change Adaptation on Small Scale Farmers in Nigeria” and the presentation of the a research findings: “Fine Words Do Not Produce Food”.
He said that despite the availability of many governmental policies Nigerian famers still ranked among the world’s worst due to the implementation failures of the policies, and which among others missed the small scale farmers mostly in rural settings and grassroots.
“There is hunger in Nigeria which you agree with me is the land of plenty and this should not be the case. There is the volatility of prices, weather/climate change, conflicts have made access to food particularly harmful for vulnerable people and this has led to hunger and malnutrition. You know Nigeria accounts for 15 percent of under-five child mortality worldwide, and in the Northern part of the country starvation has wiped out this age group entirely.
“The vast majority of the Nigeria vulnerable people are farmers and the vast majority of Nigeria farmers, over 80 percent, are smallholders and they generally lack the social safety nets, such as insurance, that protect them in crises such as desert encroachment and flooding and conflicts,” Tchona said.
According to him Nigeria has no shortage of policies that could theoretically support small scale farmers, including the Vision 20:20 which concern the economic diversification away from the oil sector, the Anchor Borrowers program with great linkage to market, and the National Agricultural Resilience Framework (NARF) with services for risk management in agriculture among others.
“However, the implementation of those policies is not reaching the small scale farmers. The research “Fine Words Do Not Produce Food” found out that “there is a clear disconnect between policy intention and the services that farmers are actually receiving. About 69 percent of farmers surveyed in Adamawa and Kebbi had not received support to adapt to desertification, flooding, changing rainfall patterns and many of them were relying on prayers and rituals as one of their solutions to climate change,” he added.
Presenting the research report the Head, Influencing and Public Engagement Oxfam in Nigeria, Abdulazeez Musa said that climate change has brought additional uncertainty and risk to Nigeria’s largely small-scale food system with the country ranked as the world’s fourth most vulnerable country to climate change.
He wonder why Nigeria still choose to be reactive when the it should have been proactive after the 2012 severe flooding disaster which displaced 2.3m people, over 360 killed, and hundreds of thousands of houses destroyed or damaged.
“The total damage caused by the disaster amounted to $16.9 billion.1The country’s food supply is highly vulnerable to such extremes in precipitation as the population depends heavily on rain-fed agriculture. The expanding desert belt along with deforestation have reduced the amount of land available for farming and decline in rainfall at a rate of 3 to 4 percent per decade has negatively impacted crop yields,” Musa said.
He therefore urged increase funding for agriculture and climate change adaptation to at least 10 percent of the national budget in line with its commitment to the Maputo Declaration.
While calling for more government direct action including redirect funding to smallholder farmers, he said the government should redirect investments to align with the needs of smallholder farmers, especially women farmers who face additional constraints in accessing agricultural inputs and extension services.
“The government should enact policies to scale up private sector involvement. Public-private programs that have demonstrated success in enhancing food production and providing a ready market for products should be sustained and improved to support smallholder farmers,” he said.
One of the Oxfam Food Ambassadors and ‘Ogbonge Farmer,’ Chijioke Ihuoma Peace, urged the government and Nigerians to come to the aid of small scale farmers in the interest of food security and national development.
“Imagine you as a farmer planting your crops and after two or three weeks seeing them grow only to see them drying up in another week due to drought, flood climate change poor seedling and other avoidable factors. To even harvest and transport the farm products is additional burden to us as small scale farmers. It seems Nigerians are unconscious of the implication of food shortages,” she said.