18 March 2019

Nigeria: How PPP in Weather Information Boosts Food Production

Sharp decline in global oil prices in recent years, depletion of the nation's foreign exchange earnings and consequent economic hardship in the country have compelled the Federal Government to make a move for diversification of the economy with a focus on agriculture and solid minerals development.

The move was targeted at achieving a sustainable economy, job creation, stimulation of economic growth and foreign direct investment in the Nigeria.

Agriculture, in particular, is critical to the nation's economic resuscitation. Not only is development of the sector crucial to achieving food security but also to boosting the export market.

Sadly, a major challenge to the actualisation of this long-term objective and agriculture development is climate change, especially in a developing economy like Nigeria. Mostly, smallholder farmers who still largely practise rain-fed agriculture feel the impact of climate change.

The smallholder farmers, mostly residing in rural communities, account for more than 70 per cent of the total farming population that cultivate less than four hectares per farmer, but produce up to 90 per cent of the total national crop output.

Therefore, as signs of climate change become more evident, there is an imperative to increase the sensitization of farmers to adopt climate smart agricultural practices. This hinges upon the fact that the impact of climate change on government's economic/agriculture policies, particularly the rice revolution, may be fully understood in rice farming, which requires high volume of water.

Considering the high demand for rice consumption in Nigeria, it has become imperative for rice farmers to adopt climate smart practices to withstand the effect of drought which diminishes productivity. More importantly, this will aid the Federal Government's bid to attain the self-sufficiency objective in local rice production.

Other ways of tackling the challenge of climate change are through the development of a drought-resistant crop varieties and promotion of agricultural irrigation systems.

Aware of the importance of timely weather and climate information in planning in key sectors of the economy that are sensitive to weather, namely agriculture, aviation, infrastructure construction and telecommunication, the Federal Government, through the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET), has deemed it fit to forge partnerships with some states of the federation and well-meaning private organisations to provide weather information for socio-economic development.

The agency notes on its website that "in recognition of the need to significantly reduce the negative impacts of extreme and unusual weather on the environment and living things, climate scientists are producing science-based climate information and products that are vital for informed decision-making, policy formulation and planning both in private and public sectors, especially for operations that are rainfall and temperature dependent."

The Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP) produced by NiMET is one of its science-based forecasting of annual weather patterns, in fulfilment of its mandate of advising government and the public on all aspects of the weather and climate.

In what has become an established annual practice of the agency, it recently unveiled its 2019 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction.

At the unveiling, which held in Abuja, the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Abubakar Hadi Sirika, said the SRP was designed to provide relevant information for planning and execution of projects and programmes in various sectors of the economy, including agriculture, air transportation, infrastructure construction, telecommunication and water resources that are sensitive to weather.

The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello, enjoined farmers in the FCT and other parts of the country to leverage the 2019 rainfall prediction made available by NiMET in planning their farming activities for the year. He noted that it had become "necessary to ensure that climate smart agricultural practices are promoted."

Speaking further, Bello also urged other institutions and communities to use the available professional data and information to improve their activities.

Earlier in his welcome address, the Director General, NiMET, Prof. Sani Abubakar Mashi, said the agency has been delivering on its mandate since it was established in 2003, adding that its predictions have been consistently and accurately delivered over the period.

Citing the unfortunate 2012 flood incident that ravaged several states of the federation, Prof. Mashi said that the agency had been spurred to do more to improve on the accuracy of the predictions, adding that the predictions by the agency were being taken more seriously.

There were testimonies from stakeholders such as the Katsina and Kebbi state governments who explained how the agency information has helped to improve agricultural and other economic activities in their regions.

The British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) Foundation, an independent charitable organisation incorporated and a key private sector partner of NiMET had in 2017, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the agency to provide weather information, including the likely dry spell periods and locations of probable flash flood occurrences to farmers who are mainly dependent on rain-fed agriculture. The partnership also entails that BATNF will collect information at the grassroots for the agency.

Expressing gratitude to NiMET for its services, General Manager, BATN Foundation, Lolade Johnson-Agiri, described the agency as a very important stakeholder in the realization of the Foundation's objectives.

There has been an increased partnership between weather management agency and its public and private sector stakeholders in agriculture, considering the critical role that climate change plays in agriculture and economic fortunes.

With global warming on the rise, conscious efforts must be made to enable ecosystems to adapt naturally through advanced scientific knowledge.

Nigeria

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