By Afolabi Aribigbola
One of the greatest challenges facing the global community in recent times is the issue of climate change and its disastrous consequences threatening the availability of food supply. Available Scientific evidence has well established that the climate is indeed changing and it is human caused, despite any claims to the contrary. It is now an acceptable fact that the earth is warming and climates are changing with serious and potentially damaging consequences on people and the human environment.
Climate change is aggravating the environmental issues such as deforestation and land degradation, freshwater shortage, food security and air and water pollution. The impacts of weather and climate are most clearly felt during extreme events such as heavy rain and snow, droughts, heat waves, cold spells, and storms, including tropical storms and cyclones.
Climate change causes rising temperatures, heavy rainfall, severe storms, and extended periods of drought. Many crops fail due to these extreme conditions as we are currently experiencing in Nigeria because many farmers went planting at the approach of rain that started too early this year only to stop mid-way. These meteorological and climatological extremes, individually, in combination and in conjunction with other factors, can lead to other events such as food crisis that is imminent in several parts of the world including Nigeria. Together, these have a wide range of impacts on human and natural systems,” warned the State of the Global Climate 2022 which was published in April 2023 by the World Meteorological Organization.
Consequently, there has been serious concern and warning about the effects of climate vagaries on food security in Nigeria. At the moment in the country, the rain that started earlier in the year stopped midway thereby affecting food crops that have been planted and if care is not taken will result in monumental losses by the farming population and food shortages. The climate change challenge was exacerbated by the destructive activities of killer herders and bandits that have driven farmers away from the farms. The cumulative effects of all this is the fear of imminent food crisis in the country.
The climate change vagaries and its effects on food insecurity has a lot of consequences. One of the most serious problems is that it will result in chronic food insecurity especially hunger by the populace. According to the World Bank, the number of people suffering acute food insecurity increased from 135 million in 53 countries in 2019 to 345 million in 82 countries by June 2022.
It will drastically reduce food crop production thereby having significant financial impacts on small farmers as they will not be able to generate enough income to meet their basic needs and pay for food-related inputs such as fertilizer. It will ultimately affect the health of the populace because of risk of malnutrition among vulnerable populations such as farmers, low income earners, women and children that struggle to access nutritious foods as well as their livelihoods. The income accruing to the government and foreign exchange earnings will be seriously impacted on because it will reduce food crop export while increasing food imports thereby depleting the foreign resources of the country. It is capable of increasing unemployment because many farmers and others that depend of agricultural based activities will be out of jobs.
Since extreme weather is a driver of hunger and now that it is clear that food crisis is imminent, it is essential that the people especially the farmers, governments and organisations should take proactive steps to develop strategies for food production and access that can better withstand and cope with extreme events and climate variability as we are experiencing currently in the country. The first practical step is to increase public awareness about the phenomenon of climate change that has been confirmed to be real and to sensitise the people about the imminent food crisis so as to be able to prepare to cope with the vagaries of climate change in their farming endeavours.
There is the need to invest in food storage systems that can withstand extreme weather conditions, diversify food sources and adopt water management strategies that can reduce crop damage from floods or droughts. This will also imply encouraging and support irrigation agriculture that seems not to be popular in southern part of Nigeria. The need to invest in research and development for climate –resilient food crops becomes indispensable and must be vigorously pursued by the government. In addition, there is the need to strengthen and promote methods on reaching the farming community on when to plant and not to plant so that the consequences of climate change will not continue to affect dramatically