The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) has at the beginning of 2019 predicted a late onset of rainfall and early cessation of rainfall in most parts of the country and has warned that the extreme parts of the north would be the worst hit. The agency had predicted that the 2019 onset of the growing season is likely to be delayed in most parts of the country with the earliest onset date predicted to be from March 7th around the coastal region of the south-south while the season in the region is expected to end by late December.
The earliest onset date predicted to be from June 16th around Maiduguri, Sokoto, Katsina, Dutse, Potiskum, Kano and Nguru while the earliest cessation dates are expected to be from 29th September around the north-western parts of the country. Also according to the prediction, most of the north is expected to witness cessation dates within October.
This means while the coastal parts of the country will get about ten months of rainfall, the northern parts where most of the population depends on farming as a means of livelihood will get about five months of rainfall. While the agency warned that except farmers plant smart, food yields would be adversely affected in 2019.
For more than five years, Nigeria has been experiencing an increasing delay of rainfall and a shorter length of raining season. However, there are no significant initiatives or policies by the Nigerian government to help farmers adapt to the increasing problem of climate change. Nigerian farmers are some of the most affected by climate change. This is because Agricultural production in Nigeria is predominantly rainfed and the majority of Nigerian farmers are smallholder farmers who depend on rainfall and the weather conditions that come with the raining season.
It is important that the Nigerian government make policies and initiate programs that will help farmers adapt to the new reality of climate change. Climate-smart agriculture which is an approach for transforming and reorienting agricultural development under the new realities of climate change should be encouraged by the government techniques through education, facilitation and financial support. To survive climate change, farmers are required to be Climate-smart. This means they must be at least Water-smart, Weather-smart, and Knowledge-smart.
Nigerian farmers must learn to be Water-smart to be able to deal with climate change. They must learn how to efficiently and economically use water resources using techniques such as Water Harvesting, Intelligent Irrigation, Land levelling, planting across slopes, Alternate Wetting, Planting cover crops, mulching etc.
The farmers must learn to be Weather-smart. This requires them to requires to take advantage of Weather agro advisory services and Crop/livestock insurance. It requires the use of Weather smart livestock housing and hydroponics. Weather smart technique also includes Timely/Delayed planting and harvesting and Crop diversification.
Knowledge-smart techniques include Contingency crop planning, Indigenous knowledge systems, Improved crop varieties, Crop rotation/ Improved fallow, seed bank etc.
To tackle the challenges climate, change the Nigerian government must invest in agricultural research focused toward issues on climate-smart agriculture, improve rural advisory services which are central to realising a climate-smart smallholder system. The government must educate farmers about climate change and create platforms to communicate advances in climate-smart agriculture techniques to them. Grants and loans dedicated to climate-smart farming must be also be made available and accessible to smallholder farmers. A policy in response to the effects of climate change in Nigeria is long overdue and the government needs to take urgent action to make sure food security in Nigeria.