Crop and livestock production is a major source of income for many people in Nigeria. But excessive rains or prolonged dry seasons have become much more common in recent years, leading to crop and livestock losses in many parts of the country. MAKINDE OLUWAROTIMI in this piece, examines the implications of the NAERLS' survey data.
Due to the realities of global warming, the world's climate is changing and its effect is being felt the world over. One of the most crucial elements of climate is rainfall. So when rainfall patterns are altered, its effect is directly felt on cropping patterns globally.
The good news is that the increased rains witnessed across Nigeria in 2018 are actually good to the farms. In fact, Nigeria recorded an increase in crop and animal production more than it did in 2017.
The study was done by the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services in collaboration with the Federal and States Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The director of NAERLS, Prof Mohammed Othman disclosed these at NAERLS 2018 Agricultural Performance Survey (APS) public presentation at the National Agricultural Show Complex, Abuja-Keffi expressway, saying rainfall in 2018 were generally higher than those of 2017.
He added that there was more even distribution of rain across the zones and less dry spells and this accounted for the greater harvest forecasts for the year.
According to the report, maize, rice, yam, cassava and cowpea increased in yield much more than they did the previous year.
The report adds that the estimated cattle population in the country also increased with Zamfara = 3.4 million, Sokoto = 600,000, Ebonyi = 100,000.
Also, the population of goats across Nigeria increased in 2018 with Katsina = 6.5 million, Nasarawa = 2.2 million, and Cross River = 250,000.
NAERLS is one of the 18 National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs) under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The Institute is responsible for development, collation, evaluation and dissemination of proven agricultural innovations and to research on extension methodologies and policy. The extension and research activities of the Institute take into account the long-term ecological, economic and social consequences of changes in rural life and linkages. These activities are conducted in partnership with NARIs and other national and international collaborators.
The director of NAERLS, Professor Mohammed K Othman, called for more assistance from various stakeholders to assist the organisation to have access to data for the subsequent survey.
Othman said, "the 2018 Wet Season APS presents a holistic picture of agricultural activities and development in the country within the reporting period."
"The results show general increase in economic activities in the agricultural sector (especially cultivation areas and production estimates)."
He however noted that there would be bountiful harvest for most crops in 2018 with exception of rice, sorghum and cassava.
Again, "as a result of heavy downpours and high frequency, there were nationwide floods and thus led to the destruction of farmlands in especially about 15 states."
The National Emergency Management Agency had declared a national emergency in 12 states as a result of heavy rains that caused the Rivers Niger and Benue to overflow. The worst affected states are Benue, Kogi, Niger, Kwara, Anambra, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Adamawa, Kwara, Kebbi and Taraba.
Experts are of the view that the continual depletion of the ozone layer, would lead to more heat trapping gases in the atmosphere, which, according to climate models, will shift rainfall and precipitation patterns in two major ways.
The first shift is in strengthening the current patterns, which means the wet regions would get more wet and dry regions would get drier. This is because warmer air, as a result of global warming, traps more water vapour, and scientists forecast that this additional water would fall in the already wet parts of the earth.
The second shift is as a result of changes in atmospheric circulation, because of which storm tracks (the narrow zones in seas and oceans along which storms travel, driven by prevailing winds) would move away from the equator and towards the poles.
Undoubtedly, rain has a powerful effect on agriculture. All plants need at least some water to thrive; therefore, rain (which remains the most viable means of watering) is paramount to agriculture. While a regular rain pattern is usually germane to healthy plants, too much or too little rainfall can be harmful, even destructive to crops.
Just as drought has the potential to terminate crops and increase erosion, extremely wet weather can also cause harmful fungus growth while plants need differing amounts of rainfall to survive. For example, certain cacti require small amounts of water, while tropical plants may require hundreds of inches of rain per year to survive.
According to Sourcetrace.com, currently, about 60 per cent of the world and 90 per cent Sub-Saharan African staple food production are under direct rainfall agriculture. In areas with wet and dry seasons, soil nutrients decline and erosion surges during the wet season. Animals have adaptation and survival strategies for the more wet regime. The previous dry season leads to food shortages into the wet season, as the crops have yet to mature.
The populations of most developing countries show seasonal weight fluctuations due to food shortages seen before the first harvest, which occurs late in the wet season. Rain may be harvested through the use of rainwater tanks; treated to potable use or for non-potable use indoors or for irrigation.
Excessive rain during short periods of time can results in flash floods. Sadly, most of this excess rainfall comes with floods, doing more damage than good.
Extreme cases of flooding can cause crops to become submerged in water resulting in potentially devastating losses. The foliage of submerged plants will quickly begin to die because submerged leaves are not able to exchange atmospheric gases (mainly carbon dioxide and oxygen).
More commonly, producers will be faced with flooded or persistently saturated soil, which has a negative impact on root ability to absorb nutrients. If the soil stays completely saturated for extended periods, root loss can occur.
Root cells in saturated soils are unable to exchange gases, which can cause them to die. Root loss amounts can vary depending on the length of time the soil is completely saturated.
Total root loss would result in plant death and total crop failure. Partial root loss would result in lower plant performance and lower crop yields.
For Professor Othman, addressing these challenges would mean the revamping of extension and advisory activities across the states through involvement of all tiers of government.
He said that efforts should be geared towards mitigating the challenges of climate change. Climate change mitigation aims to limit the magnitude and/or rate of long-term climate change.
It generally involves reductions in human (anthropogenic) emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Mitigation may also be achieved by increasing the capacity of carbon sinks, e.g, through reforestation.
By contrast, adaptation to global warming refers to actions taken to manage the eventual (or unavoidable) impacts of global warming, e.g, by building dikes in response to sea level rise.
Examples of mitigation include switching to low-carbon energy sources, such as renewable and nuclear energy, and expanding forests and other "sinks" to remove greater amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Energy efficiency can also play a major role, for example, through improving the insulation of buildings. Another approach to climate change mitigation is geoengineering.
The main international treaty on climate change is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
In 2010, Parties to the UNFCCC agreed that future global warming should be limited to below 2.0 °C (3.6 °F) relative to the pre-industrial level.
Analysis suggests that meeting the 2 °C target would require annual global emissions of greenhouse gases to peak before the year 2020, and decline significantly thereafter, with emissions in 2050 reduced by 30-50% compared to 1990 levels.
Analyses by the United Nations Environment Programme and International Energy Agency suggest that current policies (as of 2012) are too weak to achieve the 2 °C target.
In addition, there is strong need to increase investment in agricultural mechanisation to reduce drudgery and cost of labour through involvement of private sector. There is also need to strengthen the e-Extension centres to boost agricultural advisory delivery.
As a result of heavy downpours and high frequency, there were nationwide floods and thus led to the destruction of farmlands in especially about 15 states