Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture Dr. Akinwumi Adesina speaking as a panelist on Promoting African Agriculture: New Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security Agriculture.
Climate change in Nigeria is rapidly creeping in to becoming a major crisis in Nigeria, with effects spiralling across the social, cultural, economy and political sectors in Nigeria. In my view, the Boko Haram crisis, undoubtedly, stems partly from the environmental crisis that Nigeria is facing, particularly in Northern Nigeria, although the federal government is not yet drawing the link. Nigeria’s socio political and religions crisis, compounded by Climate Change, is economically based. On one hand, the combination of the of these crisis renders the young people, who are bursting with youthful energy, disillusioned and reeled with hopelessness in looking up to the Nigerian government for a fair social justice. According to a UNFPA report, by 2030 Nigeria is estimated to be one of the few countries in the world that will likely have a bountiful supply of young workers. Out of a current projected population of 169 million Nigerians, young people account for over 43 percent of the population. What this means is that there are currently over 72 million young people in the country. Thus, youth, more than oil, could be Nigeria’s asset in the following decades, depending on how this demographic reality is managed as human resources match alongside the natural resources available in Nigeria. [The period of Adolescence is between the ages of 10-19 years; Youth: 15-24 years; Young people: 10-24 years and Children: 0-18 years (UNFPA 2003:4). The Nigerian National Youth policy (2001:2), defines youth as comprising all young persons between the ages 18 and 35 years who are citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria].
On the other hand, the effect of Climate Change such as desert encroachment and deforestation are not making the plights of young Nigerians any better. Nigeria has the world’s highest deforestation rate of primary forests according to a 2005 UN Food and Agriculture Organisation report. The increasing need for wood fuel for domestic use has caused the rapid depleting of trees and the burning of over 40.5 million tonnes of firewood each year, leading to the vanishing of over 400,000 hectares of forest: this has caused a growing havoc within the environment and put farming activities at great risk of decline, and forced the nomadic Fulanis, with their need for greener pastures to graze their cattle, to migrate steadily southwards.
Nigeria has a variety of ecosystems, from mangroves and rain forests on the Atlantic coast in the south to the savannah in the north bordering the Sahara. Whether dry or wet, those ecosystems are being battered by global warming. While excessive flooding during the past decade has hurt farming in coastal communities, desertification is ravaging the Sahel. Traditionally, desertification in the Sahel has been blamed on the overgrazing practices of the local population. But it has been discovered that the real problem is climate change.
The forest zone (where there is significant tree cover) can be found in the Western and Eastern Nigeria: the savannahs (insignificant tree cover, with grasses and flowers located between trees) cover the areas between South Western to North Eastern Nigeria, and montane land. The latter is the least common, and is mainly found in the mountains near the Cameroon border. Some of the forest zone’s most southerly portion, especially around the Niger River and Cross River deltas, is mangrove swamp. North of this is fresh water swamp, containing different vegetation from the salt water mangrove swamps, and north of that is rain forest. The savannah zone has three categories: Guinean Forest Savana, which is made up of plains of tall grass which are interrupted by trees, is the most common across the country; Sudan savannah, similar but with shorter grasses and shorter trees; and Sahel savannah patches of grass and sand, found in the northeast.
The impact of climate change is vast in Nigeria. This means that some stable ecosystems such as the Sahel Savanna may become vulnerable because warming will reinforce existing patterns of water scarcity, increasing the risk of drought in Nigeria and indeed within most countries in West Africa. In addition, the country’s aquatic ecosystems, wetlands and other habitats will create overwhelming problems for an already impoverished populace.
Rainfall in the Sahel has been declining steadily since the 1960s. The result has been the loss of farmlands and conflicts between farmers and herdsmen over ever-decreasing land. Many different communities, including fishermen, farmers and herdsmen, are now confronted with difficulties arising from climatic changes. Peoples’ livelihoods are being harmed, and people who are already poor are becoming even more impoverished. Climate refugees or migrants are being created, as the changes make some land unliveable and affect water supplies.
The flares associated with gas flaring give rise to atmospheric contaminants. These include oxides of Nitrogen, Carbon and Sulphur particulate matter, hydrocarbons and ash, photochemical oxidants, and hydrogen sulphide. These contaminants acidify the soil, hence depleting soil nutrient. Previous studies have shown that the nutritional value of crops within such vicinity are reduced. In some cases, there is no vegetation in the areas surrounding the flare due partly to the tremendous heat that is produced and the acid nature of soil pH.
The effects of the changes in temperature on crops included stunted growth, scotched plants and such other effects as withered young crops. The studies show that soils of the Niger Delta area are fast losing their fertility and capacity for sustainable agriculture, due to the acidification of the soils by the various pollutants associated with gas flaring in the area.
Food Security and Climate Change in Nigeria.
A variety of foods crops are produced in Nigeria, all dependent on rainfall, so that where rain is abundant (from the coast up to the Middle Belt, for example) crops dependent on rain are planted, and in drier parts of the country, crops that do not require much rain are cultivated. Food production on the whole has not kept pace with Nigeria’s production increase.
Climate Change phenomenon has affected agriculture Nigeria in a number of ways. For example, uncertainties in the onset of the farming season, due to changes in rainfall characteristics (early rains may not be sustained, and crops planted at their instance may become smothered by heat waves) can lead to an unusual sequence of crop planting and replanting which may result in food shortages due to harvest failure. Extreme weather events such as thunderstorms, heavy winds and floods, devastate farmlands and can lead to crop failure. Pests and crop diseases migrate in response to Climate Changes and variations (e.g. the tsetse fly has extended its range northward) and potentially pose a threat to livestock in the drier northern areas. It is estimated that by 2100, Nigeria and other West African countries are likely to have agricultural losses of up to 4 % of GDP due to climate change. Parts of the country that have experienced soil erosion and operate rain-fed agriculture could face a decline in agricultural yield of up to 50 % between 2000-2020 due to increasing impact of climate change.
In 2014, Nigeria became a member of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition Initiative, an organisation created by the US and the G8. As usual, it promises to create jobs, reduce poverty and increase food productions. However, what this alliance is doing is manipulating and coercing African countries to change policies that will promote the operation of companies like Monsanto.
What Monsanto is doing in Nigeria is that, it beguiled government to change land and seed laws to favour the corporation, which is already in progress. This gives Monsanto control over Nigerian lands and what it chooses for the farmers to plant. If this process is completed, farmers will be forced to buy Monsanto seeds instead of being allowed to use the natural seeds. The troubling reality about the Monsanto seeds is that it has been genetically altered and therefore, sterile, that is they can’t be replanted after harvest.
Since the beginning of May 2014, the Nigerian Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, has used different titles and labels to describe what he is trying to introduce into the country. According to the Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour article in the Nigerian Guardian new papers, titled, ‘GMO/hybrid seeds: Inviting cancer to our land, passing a death sentence on Nigerians’, the Minister of Agriculture denying GMO in Nigeria, saying “Nigeria has biotechnologically improved crops and not genetically modified crops. There should not be fear about GMOs or Biotech crops at all because technology is technology, how you manage that technology to lower the risk to the consumer is important.”
To understand the gravity of this issue, I would explain the different methods by which bio-technology improves food so we would not be confused by the different labels the minister decides to use. There are two methods used by scientists to modify genes. One is marker-assisted: A specific gene is spliced and bred with the same organism such as a tomato. The other method is trans-genesis, during which genes from another organism such as bacteria are mixed with the genes of corn.
The minister confirmed that “The National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike, Abia State, conducts research into genetic improvement of economically important root and tuber crops.” Nigeria institutions, through intercropping over several years, produce a variety of seeds that can regenerate themselves but not the GMO crops.
The true answers of the multinational corporations providing Nigeria with these seeds lies in the articles titled: “Government okays introduction of 40 hybrid seeds in Nigeria” in the Nigeria Guardian, as well as another article in the This Day newspapers titled: “Monsanto to introduce 40 new seed varieties.” In the articles, Monsanto’s vice president, Micheal Frank was quoted saying; “The company’s focus was to develop the right seeds and biotechnology that would enhance the productive capacities of local, small holder farmers, thereby improving their profitability and socio economic wellbeing on a sustainable basis.” Then the minister went on to say: “Appropriate regulatory agencies would be put in place to check the benefits and risks associated with such foods.”
For instance, bio-tech-improved tomatoes are engineered so they do not rot quickly. Advantages include a higher income for the farmer. What is not considered is that the perishability of that tomato is linked to the human body’s ability to digest it. When the human body cannot get rid of it, it becomes toxic to the body and this is how cancers and other diseases come about.
People use this word ‘sustainable’ very sparingly. In ecology, sustainability is how biological systems endure and remain diverse and productive. Sustainability in relation to governance and decision-making involves leadership making decisions that encourage the betterment and independence of a people’s present situation with consideration to ensure the security and sovereignty of the people’s future’ wrote Gbadebo. Monsanto and other foreign bio-tech firms are simply antithetical to this. ‘Are the 250,000 bio-tech cotton farmer suicides in India sustainable?’ Gbadebo questioned.
No matter how you slice it, the future of Nigeria lies with the critical thinking of young people (as human resources) and the vernacular or indigenous abilities to fuse the surplus availabilities of iron ore extraction and refining with the abundant energy resources (natural resources) in the regions of Nigeria for the betterment of life for Nigeria people.
The environmental crisis and climatic disaster had created a vacuum, as well as paving the way for new agricultural critical scientific innovative thinking, which the Nigerian government had failed to take the initiative to fund or invest in domestic agricultural research that would not only enhance and modify seeds to resist the climate change and the harsh weather condition but also will forestall food shortage and bring down the price of food from ever sky-rocketing. Rather, the Nigeria government relies on agro-multinational companies like Monsanto to charitably offer the country farmers with genetically-modified seeds and patented with intellectual property laws, which have been programmed to only grow once in the seeds’ life span. In other words, a means of conditioning farmers to became dependent and enslaved to the cunning ‘lord’ Monsanto seeds. This is a crude form of neocolonialism and imperialism because the farmers are encourage to get rid of their natural and organic seeds that have multi-dimensional life span (as long as it has not been damaged by weevils or insects or disease) for seeds that have singular dimensional life span. That in itself makes this GM unsustainable. Genetic variety is important, which is why nature frowns on inbreeding. Our health suffers when our only consideration is profit. Illnesses, such as organ failure, sterility and cancer have all been linked to GMs.