Climate Change Affecting Farming Activities in Nasarawa State

A farmer in Nasarawa

Rabiu Abdul, Director of Extension Services in the Nasarawa State Agricultural Development Project, NADP, tells NKRUMAH BANKONG-OBI about the disruptive impact of climate change and government’s effort to mitigate the challenges that farmers in the State encounter

What feelers do you get from your staff who work with the farmers across the State?

You know I told you, most of them have this problem of the shortfall in the rainfall. Due to shortage of rainfall, the transfer of nursery is slow and they will think about to get their nursery. And because it is past the past transplanting period, it will affect the yield performance

Farmers usually will rely on the government for support. What do you say to that?

This is what is killing our farmers because as a good farmer, at the peak after harvest, you should try to buy the inputs. We observe that most of the farmers spend their money on business and other things. And then close to the next cropping season, they will start thinking of how to source for money to put back in the farm. That is why the training on good agricultural practice has to come in as a business. If you want to take it as a business, you have to plan how to save your money, how to get your input at the right time. In this situation, the input is supposed to come before the rainfall because you have to know the size of your land, the amount of input required for that land. You must avoid over-spending, misusing your money so that you can cover labour cost and other things.

How widespread is your extension services in the thirteen local government areas of Nasarawa State?

The ideal is one extension officer to 1000 farmers. Due to retirement, deaths and other factors, including the embargo that was placed on employment, we are not up to 600. We observe that this government has started making efforts. All the casual workers that are here are being absorbed into the service. Interviews have already been conducted for about 200 workers. This will also help in reducing the deficiency gap more. So, we are hoping that government will give the approval so that we give appointment to those that have already passed the exams.

I spoke to your colleague in the Ministry of Environment on the impact of climate change. How do these government agencies collaborate to work with the farmers to tackle this common challenge?

In terms of working together, if there is any programme that is coming in relation to climate change, we all sit together. We have done things with the NEEM Foundation, the IITA in relation to climate change. They are trying some crops like agro-forestry and vegetable, so that we see the yield. So, during that time, representatives from the agricultural sector are there, environment will be there to brainstorm to see how to bring out something useful to our people.

Recently, I saw where aid was given to victims of flood, among them were farmers whose crops were washed away by flood…?

Rainfall has already started destroying farms. One of my staff in a village sent me photographs and when I looked at them, the images are scary. If you look at august/September when it rains, even passing is a problem. The only problem that I have is the method that National Emergency Management Authority, NEMA and others are using because if the farmers are being affected by the rain, and you are already going there to assess the havoc, the best thing to do is to go to the community and register them and see what they have or lost. But here we are talking about the vulnerable people, people who can hardly feed, you ask them to come down to Lafia from the villages. If we want to help the farmers, let’s go to their communities, let’s go to their locations. If we register them in their communities, when intervention comes, you go their that community and give them instead of giving them things in the town where unscrupulous people hijack them. I know of two local government areas where people who came from there didn’t get anything and their names are on the lists, they have documents to show but they went back home without anything

Do you have any improved varieties and crops that are resilient to the effects of climate change?

We advise our farmers to use short-duration crops

What examples of crops are these?

Maize, we have rice, we also have cowpea. If you plant before duration, it will not get to when the flood starts before you harvest.

But those who were affected last year were predominantly rice farmers

You know the intervention comes two varieties. We have the crops that are tolerant to drought and the ones that are tolerant to flood

**This interview was conducted as part of the story, “Deadly Ports? How Airports Fuel Climate Change In Nigeria”accomplished with support from the Rainforest Journalism Fund, RJF, in partnership with the Pulitzer Center.