Climate change is causing serious problems across the world, from wildfires to freak storms. A topic that is often neglected is the current and future effect of the changing climate on the supply of food.
Developing countries will be affected disproportionality more then developed countries by the effects of climate change. In terms of food security, food loss is the largest food issue affecting developing countries.
In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) rural smallholders routinely function as both producers and consumers (Morris, 2018, p.10). For this reason, both food loss (losses which occur at production level) and food waste (losses at point of retail/consumption) affect the approximately 80% of smallholder farmers in Nigeria. In comparison, although around 70% of UK farms are owner occupied, however, no smallholder farmers rely primarily on their own farms to feed (DEFRA, 2009, p.99).
This makes the article titled How to roast a chicken: Climate change and farming in Nigeria by Aljazeera concerning. The subtitle sets out the real issue that African farmers will have to grapple with for the future; Extreme heat is worsening economic inequality among African farmers – and raising the spectre of future food shortages.
The article points out the losses Nigerian farmers are making on smallholder farms particularly in northern Nigeria, where most recent temperatures have spiked to 36c with farmer Olusola John who states that the severe heat has been affecting his 600 chickens (Mbamalu, 2019).
Farmer Olusola dreams of building a modern-style chicken house that could minimise his heat-related losses (Mbamalu, 2019). However, such a structure could cost as much as 19 million naira ($55,000) – more than the profits that he could recoup by selling his chickens (Mbamalu, 2019). Not only do farmers on the continent face difficulties with agricultural knowledge-transfer (which has always existed in some form and that I have reported at length), but they face the threat of climate change reducing production and deepening inequality.
Adedoyin Idowu, a senior lecturer at the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta states that in Nigeria, mortality rates for poultry are increasing “to the level of at least 15 percent per annum” (Mbamalu, 2019). Naturally, this loss is not as severe on farms with modern technology, where yields and profits are higher (Mbamalu, 2019). With high economic growth rates in Nigeria the gap between those who can afford modern technology and those who cannot will surely increase.
This means agricultural producers who are wealthy enough to mitigate the effects of global warming can plant more productive crops and raise more poultry and livestock (Mbamalu, 2019). This is why it is the more affluent Nigerian farmers who are now controlling the market, says Merlin Uwalaka, an environmental economist at the University of Alberta (Mbamalu, 2019). For Uwalaka, even a slight change in the balance of the ecosystem can be enough to plummet low-income Nigerians into dire poverty. This is particularly and issue when roughly 47 percent of the population is living in poverty, according to the World Data Lab (Mbamalu, 2019).
More government intervention and points to note
How can Nigeria address its agricultural needs? The article finds:
“The government must intensify its efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change on farmers,” says Adenike Adediran, a project manager for the International Climate Change Development Initiative. “Research producing relevant data should be carried out. This would bring to the forefront the impact of climate change, and [would] create awareness amongst all stakeholders” (Mbamalu, 2019).
Nigerian farmers say that unless the government provides that basic support, the only way they can afford to take measures to address extreme heat is to take out loans from banks that can charge interest rates as high as 28 percent (Mbamalu, 2019).
The article does not include any suggestions on how to improve agricultural knowledge-transfer (the circulation of agricultural knowledge) or pool resources in local communities which can be a cost effective means of reducing losses. Whilst it is true national governments can, and should do much more to reduce the impacts of climate change on farmers.
Bottom-up interventions such as pooling of money or materials through NGOs and local communities can go a long way to solving this crisis. Behavioural instruments could also be trialled to get those farmers that are more economically better off, to share their resources and knowledge with the benefit of decreased losses and increased production for both parties.
This demonstrates the complexities and wide issues facing smallholders not only in Nigeria but across the African continent. Only through joined up policymaking, increased resource pooling, and sharing can such pressing food security issues related to climate change be mitigated. States should work harder to make sure circulation of knowledge is efficient, loans more readily available with terms that are reasonable, and they should be more willing to work at a wider level through the African Union and other international organisations.
Mbamalu, S. (2019) How to roast a chicken: Climate change and farming in Nigeria [Online]. Available at https://www.aljazeera.com/ajimpact/roast-chicken-climate-change-farming-nigeria-190712154410790.html (Accessed 21 July 2019)
Morris, M. (2018) South-South Cooperation: An analysis of agricultural knowledge-transfer implementation influencing smallholder food losses – An analysis utilising the case of Kenya and Ghana (August 2018)
Phillips, C. (2019) Climate change is creating catastrophic wildfires | World Economic Forum [Online]. Available at https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/05/the-vicious-climate-wildfire-cycle/ (Accessed 21 July 2019)