State of Emergency: Nigeria's Unfolding Food Crisis

Nigeria, an economic powerhouse in Africa, is facing an escalating food security crisis, particularly in its northern regions, as it grapples with the profound impacts of climate change on its agricultural sector. Among the myriad agricultural challenges, wheat farming has been severely affected, leading to decreased yields, rising food insecurity, and an increasing dependency on imported grains. The relentless escalation of extreme heat, irregular rainfall patterns, and widespread violence has created a perfect storm, endangering the livelihoods of farmers and posing a grave threat to the nation's food security.
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The last decade has witnessed Nigerian farmers in the far north facing a relentless onslaught of environmental shifts, with temperatures soaring beyond the optimal range for wheat cultivation. Abubakar Salisu, a seasoned wheat farmer and local leader in Kaita, Katsina State, bears witness to the transformation of his once-productive farmland into an arid wasteland, rendering a substantial portion unsuitable for cultivation. This extreme heat, far exceeding wheat's heat requirements, has become a formidable adversary, stunting crop growth and survival.
Furthermore, erratic and unpredictable rainfall patterns exacerbate the challenges. The absence of timely and sufficient rains disrupts wheat planting schedules, often resulting in the misfortune of farmers sowing their seeds only to have the rain return unexpectedly, spoiling their efforts. This vicious cycle of extreme heat and irregular rainfall has resulted in a staggering 50% drop in wheat yield for farmers like Salisu, exacerbating the already critical food insecurity situation in the region.
“The unpredictable rain pattern is affecting us because wheat is planted immediately after the rainy season, but sometimes we will plant it thinking the rain has stopped, only to have it start again, thereby spoiling the seeds,” said Salisu, 48 to the Associated Press

As if the climate-induced challenges were not daunting enough, Nigeria's northern regions grapple with insecurity caused by conflicts between diverse groups, including gangs, farmers, and cattle herders, competing for scarce resources. The violence and disruptions caused by these conflicts prevent farmers from accessing their fields, leading to significant losses in crop production and exacerbating both the human and food security crises.
The implications of this crisis extend far beyond Nigeria's borders. With climate change and violence impacting agricultural productivity, the country faces a widening food deficit, forcing it to rely more heavily on imported grains. This dependence on imports strains the nation's economy, especially as it must purchase these grains in foreign currencies, leaving it vulnerable to market fluctuations and currency devaluation.
“climate change affects me in two ways: excessive heat and rain patterns, which affect my turnout.”

“Of course, insecurity is affecting our activities because sometimes we can’t go to our farms even if we plant, and some of our colleagues have completely stopped farming, while some of us have reduced the number of our farmlands,” said Sama’ila Zubairu to the Associated Press, a wheat farmer in Katsina’s Faskari area ravaged by violence.
On the global stage, the crisis has been further complicated by Russia's decision to withdraw from an accord that previously allowed Ukraine to export grain from the Black Sea. Ukraine's planned supply of wheat to Nigeria at lower prices offered a potential solution to the country's food crisis. However, with Russia's withdrawal, this initiative is now uncertain, creating additional challenges for Nigeria's wheat procurement.
In response to the wheat crisis and the need to bolster domestic grain production, the Nigerian government has launched various programs, including providing loans to farmers and distributing high-yielding seeds, pesticides, and equipment. Collaborative efforts between the flour milling industry and farmers aim to source wheat locally at competitive prices, supporting increased production. Last week, President Bola Tinubu released a policy statement on food and agriculture acknowledging rising food costs and declaring “a state of emergency,” with a commitment to include food and water availability in the government’s national security system.
“The price surge has affected me because I have to double the costs of what I normally buy, and I would still not be able to buy enough,” said Chinedu Edeh to the Associated Press, cooking gas retailer and installation technician in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. “Pasta has gone from 370 (naira) to 550 per unit.”

Nigeria's annual inflation rate rose to 22.79 per cent in June from 22.41 per cent in the previous month.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) projects a 42% increase in Nigeria's wheat production for the 2023-2024 trading year due to these initiatives. However, the USDA cautions that the challenges far outweigh the opportunities. Climate change-induced irregular rainfall, extreme heat, and the scarcity of fertile land will not only impact wheat production but will also decrease the output of other vital crops such as rice and corn.
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The evident link between Nigeria's wheat crisis and climate change necessitates immediate and comprehensive action from the Nigerian government, international partners, and stakeholders to develop climate adaptation and mitigation strategies for the agriculture sector. These strategies must encompass a wide range of approaches, from localized climate plans that support farmers to sustainable farming practices that conserve soil moisture, reduce water wastage, and enhance soil health.
Investments in research and development are crucial for the development of climate-resilient wheat varieties tailored to Nigeria's changing environmental conditions. International collaboration with research institutions can expedite the development of such varieties, fortifying the nation's wheat production against the adverse effects of climate change.
Beyond this, promoting agroforestry practices and sustainable land management techniques can restore degraded lands, enhance soil fertility, and contribute to climate change mitigation efforts. Encouraging the adoption of crop rotation and intercropping practices can also reduce the vulnerability of agricultural systems to climate variability.
Nigeria's wheat crisis serves as an unequivocal call to address the devastating impacts of climate change on agriculture. Extreme heat, irregular rainfall, and violence have converged to plunge farmers into a dire cycle of food insecurity. Urgent, collective, and innovative efforts are vital from the Nigerian government, global partners, and the international community to tackle climate change's far-reaching implications for agriculture and secure a resilient and sustainable future for Nigeria's food security. By implementing comprehensive climate adaptation and mitigation measures, alongside promoting sustainable farming practices and investing in climate-resilient crop varieties, Nigeria can navigate the challenges posed by climate change and build a robust agricultural sector capable of feeding its growing population. Only through concerted action can Nigeria stand strong against climate change and ensure a prosperous and food-secure future for its people.
  • Princess

    46 w

    Weather information needs to be collected and disseminated regularly.,They should promote the use of technology in food production, processing and storage and reintroduced agriculture extension workers in communities to support the rural workers with mechanised systems and facilitating access to local and international markets for the exchange of the food products.

    • Patrick Kiash

      46 w

      Thank you for painting the picture in Nigeria about climate change, and food insecurity that's affecting many, Let's remain hopeful that the Nigerian government will address the matter and come up with impactful solutions.

      Welcome, let's solve the climate crisis together
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