THE REALITY OF CLIMATE CHANGE VIS-À-VIS FOOD SECURITY IN
Table of Content
Table of Content———————————————————————–2
1.1 Definition and Concept of Climate Change———————————3
1.2 Causes of Climate Change ——————————————————3-4
2.0 Consequences of Climate Change ——————————————–4-5
2.1 Evidences of Climate Change in Nigeria————————————-5-6
3.0 Food Security ———————————————————————-6-7
4.0 Climate Change and Food Security in Nigeria——————————7-8
5.0 Averting the Challenge ———————————————————-8-9
1.1 Definition and Concepts of Climate Change
Warming of the climate system is unequivocal as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising average sea level. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change defines climate change as a change of climate, which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activities, that alters the composition of the global atmosphere, and in addition to natural climate variability, observed over comparable period of time. While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, defined it as any change in climate over time whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity.
The most general concept of climate change therefore, is a change in the statistical properties of the climate system when considered over a long period of time, regardless of the cause. Accordingly, fluctuations over periods shorter than a few decades do not represent climate change. The term is, sometimes, used to refer specifically to climate change caused by human activities, as opposed to changes in climate that may have resulted as part of the earth’s natural processes. In this respect, especially in the context of environmental policy, the term climate change has become synonymous with anthropogenic global warming. However, scientifically, global warming refers to surface temperature increases while climate change includes global warming and everything else that increasing greenhouse gas levels will affect.
Thus, simply put, Climate change is a long-term change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods of time that range from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in the average weather conditions or a change in the distribution of weather events with respect to an average, for example, greater or fewer extreme weather events. Climate change may be limited to a specific region, or may occur across the globe. In recent usage, climate change usually refers to changes in modern climate.
1.2 Causes of Climate Change
The “Industrial revolution”, which led to the invention of machines that simplified the many activities of man, including agriculture, transportation, warfare etc., has no doubt greatly damaged the very conditions that make life possible on this planet. Generally, climate scientists agree that the main cause of the current global warming trend is human expansion of the “greenhouse effect” warming that results when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth into space. In practical terms, the rate at which energy is received from the sun and the rate at which it is lost to space determine the equilibrium temperature and climate of the Earth. This energy is distributed around the globe by winds, ocean currents, and other mechanisms to affect the climates of different regions. These include processes such as variations in solar radiation, variations in the Earth’s orbit, changes in greenhouse gas concentrations etc. Forcing mechanisms can either be internal or external. Internal forcing mechanisms are natural processes within the climate system itself. External forcing mechanisms can be either natural (e.g., changes in solar output) or anthropogenic (e.g., increased emissions of greenhouse gases). Whether the initial forcing mechanism is internal or external, the response of the climate system might be fast (e.g., a sudden cooling due to airborne volcanic ash reflecting sunlight), slow (e.g. thermal expansion of warming ocean water), or a combination of both (e.g., sudden loss of albedo in the arctic ocean as sea ice melts, followed by more gradual thermal expansion of the water). Therefore, the climate system can respond abruptly, but the full response to forcing mechanisms might not be fully developed for centuries or even longer.
Again, certain gases in the atmosphere prevent heat from leaving the earth. Long-lived gases, remaining semi-permanently in the atmosphere, which do not respond physically or chemically to changes in temperature, are described as “forcing” climate change whereas gases, such as water, which respond physically or chemically to changes in temperature are seen as “feedbacks”. Greenhouse gases, or gases that contribute to the greenhouse effects,
include: Carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous oxide (N2O) and
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and water vapour.
2.0 CONSEQUENCES OF CLIMATE CHANGE
Over the last two decades, 76% of all disaster events were hydrological, meteorological or climatological in nature. These accounted for 45% of the death and 79% of the economic losses caused by natural hazards. The consequences of Climate Change are frightening and life threatening. All countries are affected in varying degrees. The African continent is particularly more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, a vulnerability that is compounded by the continent’s massive infrastructure deficit, endemic poverty, and disease burden. Current computer models predict a doubling atmospheric carbon dioxide, CO2 by the middle of this century. This will result in an increase in the earth’s average surface temperature by 1.5°C – 4°C. This rate of warming is unprecedented, being much faster than rates experienced after the last ice age. In northern temperate zones, 1°C rise in temperature could push species’ southern range limit about 120km northwards, or 150m vertically up a mountain. The ability of species to migrate both far enough and fast enough to keep pace with this predicted warming will be critical for its survival.
While it may be reasonably easy to consider the direct effects of temperature change or a rise in sea-level, the response of natural ecosystems and human communities is inevitably more complex. Besides, their ability to adapt, and, for managed ecosystems, the cost of adaptation, needs to be considered. A rise in sea level will, of course, not be the only, or the most potentially damaging consequence of climate change. Changes in temperature and
rainfall are likely to result in spatial shifts in patterns of agriculture, and in crop yields, which may have considerable socio-economic impacts. Supply of, and demand for fresh water may also be significantly affected. Small Islands will disappear and salt water intrusion will also result from the sea level rising and coming in. Rivers and coastal aquifers will become salty, threatening drinking water supply to many coastal towns and cities. Warmer climates and wetter conditions predicted by global warming will help malaria-carrying mosquitoes to breed with vigour and may result in their spread into temperate regions and higher altitudes, which will no longer be the refuge from the disease that they once were. Besides, rainfall, temperature and humidity have a major influence on the distribution of pests, parasites and pathogens as well.
Water borne diseases such as typhoid, cholera and dysentery thrive during floods; and droughts bring diseases associated with poor water quality and inadequate sanitation. Flooding will exacerbate these problems because it becomes much more difficult for people to get to clinics, or for health workers to get to distant villages. Immunization campaigns and other public health measures will also be disrupted. Biodiversity loss through habitat loss, consequence of climate change, will certainly be catastrophic to humanity. Imagine, with only 8 crops supplying 85% of the world’s food, wildlife taken from the forest providing bulk of the animal protein that is consumed in many countries, about 2 billion people cooking with fuel wood, and developing countries (in 1983 alone) importing some US$10 billion worth of forest products. The ultimate negative impacts of climate change on World food supply and economy are, therefore, best imagined.
2.1 Evidences of Climate Change in Nigeria
With a vast land space of 923,768 km2, spanning across different climatic regions is understood to be highly vulnerable to climate change. There is no gain saying the fact that the country is threatened with extinction by a myriad of environmental problems, especially those triggered by climate change. Indeed, each of the 36 States and the Federal Capital is beset by one climate change problem or the other. There is desert encroachment and extreme droughts in the northern states as well as serious problems of flooding and erosion in the littoral southern states which are mingling to threaten Nigeria with shrinkage and collapse. Increasing climate uncertainties, sheet erosion, gully erosion, periodic flooding, biodiversity depletion, agricultural land degradation and general decline in yields of agricultural produce are now common norms in the country. All of these are both direct and indirect consequences of climate change and affects the over 180 million people whose major occupation is agriculture, which, before the discovery of oil, accounts for about 80% of the country’s GDP and currently accounts for 90% of the non-oil export earnings. Agriculture is essentially a man-made adjunct to natural ecosystems and is weather and climate dependant.
In northern Nigeria today, drought in April and May, which is accepted as normal, prevents timely land preparation and tillage. It further delays sowing and broadcasting of seeds as well as affects the transplanting of other crops. As drought extends into early June, it destroys all crops and harvests become very poor. Inadequate rains through July to October cause severe hardship to the entire country. This trend is further compounded by the fact that most of the large-scale irrigation projects are ineffective. Increasing climatic uncertainties are additional threats in these drought-prone areas and also some of the major factors in risk averseness. It forces farmers to depend on low-input and low-risk technologies. Shunning new technologies to derive maximum gains during favourable seasons delays recovery after disasters. Even government investments made for poverty reduction are often lost within these high risk areas of northern Nigeria due to the persisting impacts of climate change, thus, further undermining development efforts and aggravating poverty.
For subsistent farmers, who constitute more than 75% of the farming population and who find adjustments to climate change as a costly option due to the required investments, they resort to disposing or mortgaging their assets and eventually emigrating. High intense rainfall as forecasted in the southern part of the country has resulted in increased flooding and sedimentation of floodplains, making them less productive. The encroaching salinity due to sea level rise has further degraded the meagre agricultural areas. Other arrays of threats by the adverse impacts of climate change in Nigeria include those evident in water resource and supply (dwindling), health (unpredictable), energy (erratic), transportation (unreliable), education (in distress), recreation and tourism (in shambles), geographical boundaries of agro-ecosystems as well as species composition and performance (changing). Other noneconomic resources such as biodiversity, air and water quality are also affected by adverse impacts of climate change. For example, many of the country’s plant resources are diminishing as traditional herbalists now have to do with inferior alternatives. Migratory pattern of fish stocks have changed markedly, just as the catch has declined. Prominent animal species such as rodents, reptiles, birds and fishes and other marine organisms that were a primary source of protein for millions of citizens especially in the south are being endangered.
3.0 FOOD SECURITY
The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as existing “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”. Commonly, the concept of food security is defined as including both physical and economic access to food that meets people’s dietary needs as well as their food preferences. The USDA opined that “food security for a household means access by all members at all times to enough food for active, healthy life.
Food security includes at a minimum:
- The ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and ii. An assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (i.e.
without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or coping strategies).
Food security is built on three pillars:
- Food availability: sufficient quantities of food available on a consistent basis.
- Food access: having sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a
- Food use: appropriate use based on knowledge of basic nutrition and care, as well as adequate water and sanitation.
Food security is a complex sustainable development issue, linked to health through malnutrition, but also to sustainable economic, environment, and trade development. There is a great deal of debate around food security with some arguing that:
- There is enough food in the world to feed everyone adequately; the problem is
- Future food needs can – or cannot – be met by current levels of production.
- National food security is paramount but no longer necessary because of global
- Globalization may – or may not – lead to the persistence of food insecurity and poverty in rural communities.
Notwithstanding the above, the number of people without enough food to eat on a regular basis remains stubbornly high throughout the world. The figure is put around higher than 800 million people and is not falling. More than 60% of the world’s undernourished people live in Asia, while 25% live in Africa. The population of those who are hungry, however, is higher in Africa (35%).
In Nigeria, the Ministry of Agriculture has estimated that 65% population is food insecure despite the fact that more than half of all employments depend on agriculture, reason being that, 90% of the produce comes from small rain-fed farms of few hectares, constrained by poor infrastructure, drought/flooding, pests and little access to credit. Many of the farmers are unable to meet their subsistence requirements, thus, exposing them and their families to volatile prices in the markets, poverty and hunger.
4.0 CLIMATE CHANGE AND FOOD SECURITY IN NIGERIA
Agriculture, being the most important economic enterprise in Nigeria has been receiving government attention aimed at fostering its development. Among them, Fadama Projects, Agricultural Development Projects, River Basin Development Authorities, Livestock Development Project, Aquaculture Development Project in addition to technical and resource support of UN agencies. However, farmers in the country depend on minimal capital resources which make them heavily dependent on natural systems that are highly sensitive to climatic changes. The smallholder farming techniques themselves negatively impact these natural systems, thereby compounding the problem. The consequence of this is shrinkage of productive lands, general fall in productivity, unaffordable prices and food insecurity.
The country covers an area of 923,768 km2, and is physically and climatically diverse, and endowed with substantial natural resources. It has about nine distinct ecological zones of Sahel, Sudan Guinea and Derived Savannah; Lowland, Montane, Freshwater swamp and Mangrove forest as well as Coastal vegetation. The population growth of the country is impacting negatively on these ecological systems. Some of the pressing environmental challenges facing the country include deforestation, desertification, soil degradation, erosion, flooding, general habitat loss and depletion of natural resources. In the northern region of the country, sandy desert is extending southward at the rate of 0.6km per year, while in the south, the rainforest ecosystem which occupies nearly 10% of the country’s land mass in 1934 has been shrunk to barely 5% today. All of these are serious, but more serious as they affect the food security situation of the country. Precisely, it has been observed that the general agricultural potentials of the nation is in jeopardy because, the ‘increasing heat’ and water stress due to heat has resulted to a decline in vegetation and general agricultural production. The significance of this is in the fact that the impact has the potential to gravely undermine the food security of the country as well as household food security.
Farmers in Nigeria are not unaware of the climate change scenarios in their routine activities. In the north, where bulk of the food crops and livestock are produced, the farmers describe it as conditions of drought and desiccation which has led to shortened lengths of rainy season. They have noted that it could not be possible to cultivate same crop types as in the last 30 – 50 years. For instance, while 30 – 50 years ago, they knew only of millet, sorghum, white yam, cotton and groundnuts, new varieties of both food and cash crops including tomato, rice, pepper, sweet potato and cassava have now been introduced. Often these “hybridized” seeds are alien and several indigenous seeds that are resistant to local pests, diseases and vagaries of the weather are threatened. This is further to increased costs of production due to the need for additional agrochemicals and other pesticides.
The government on its part, as counter measures, through policy formulations have been responding to the challenges via mobilization and sensitization campaigns, enhancing small irrigation schemes, subsidies in inputs etc. The Academics have also been contributing to these counter measures through relevant research efforts and innovations in the fields of aquaculture, apiculture, livestock management/breeding/nutrition, crop improvement, water resources conservation, soil conservation, etc.
5.0 AVERTING THE CHALLENGES
Nigeria as a nation, like other global communities, must keep focus on the goal of assuring food security for all. This can be achieved through measures aimed at mitigating the consequential impacts of climate change, thus, ‘killing two birds with one stone’. As a guide, the following are some recommendations that would go a long way in improving the food security situation in the country while at the same time safeguarding the environment in order to avoid the worsening food insecurity situation, rising poverty, increased loss of livelihoods and increased political tensions:
- Remediation, protective and management measures of affected and vulnerable regions must commence without further delay. This will enhance food security, guarantee livelihoods and contribute to poverty eradication.
- Aggressive attitudinal reorientation campaigns for the public to accept the realities of climate change and its implication on food security, biodiversity, the natural resources and survival of the human race generally. This need goal setting, commitment, and unrelenting hard-work by all.
- Effective economic empowerment of the public, particularly the downtrodden, to enhance their ability to cope with the impacts of climate change. In this respect, budgetary allocation to climate change activities should be improved.
- There are more than 67 plant species that are currently used for food and agriculture in Nigeria. Wild relatives of these common crops contain essential disease-resistant materials and provide the nation a means to develop new crops that can grow in derelict lands or drought-stricken areas to help solve the dual problems of climate change and food insecurity. Plant breeders must exploit these options.
- Converting climate change consequences to the advantage of the country through multidisciplinary approaches to research, encouraging cooperation between social and natural sciences, and drawing lessons from indigenous technology knowledge systems and aboriginal wisdom.
- Reflections on food security do not often appropriately consider the ongoing livestock revolution. Policy and research must emphasize on the role of range and grassland systems in soil conservation, resulting in creation of habitat for livestock and wildlife, and as refuge for biodiversity. With good husbandry, low-input grassland systems can meet the multipurpose goal of natural resource conservation, preservation of wildlife and plant biodiversity, and livestock production at low, but sustainable levels of productivity.
- Nigeria has the potential to generate about 50% of Africa’s annual Certified Emission Reduction, CER and could implement GHG reduction projects that could generate CER credits of about 50 – 150 million tonnes of CO2
At $10.00 per tonne of CO2, this will translate to $500 million to U$D1.5 billion equivalent. Policy makers must utilize this advantage.
- Review of existing unrealistic environmental laws/policies by the
legislators/policy makers to make them (laws/policies) in tune with the realities of time. Furthermore, the will power to implement the provisions of the laws must be
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