Farmers at Baragoni community in Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) the Nigerian capital, are recounting how climate change is adversely affecting them, pushing them into poverty and hunger.
Driving into the Baragoni community, 15 kilometres away from Bwari main town, on your right where the Caritas University is located is a clear view of dry land with desert resemblance which ushers a visitor into the community with a greeting of harsh weather.
At the entrance into the community are small shops on your left where cement is sold. About 100 metres away are village houses built with mud, although there are modern houses in their midst showing a novel development in the community.
On the right turn at the end of the community, one sees a desert land emitting harsh weather, with farmers on some portion working on the land.
Narrating how climate change is affecting the community, Inuwa gave accounts of how they are recording huge losses in a harvest that is pushing farmers into poverty and hunger.
Speaking to MAWA officials inside his farm, Mr. Timothy Inuwa, a farmer in the Baragoni community narrated how climate change is affecting them and how they are adopting local initiatives for adaptation and mitigation.
Pointing out how climate change has since become a big challenge to the farmers, Inuwa said the majority of crops they grow such as melon, maize, guinea corn, soya beans, rice, and yam have since stopped yielding in a good manner as they previously did. A situation he said was caused by climate change.
“Before now, farmers were rich and do not go hungry, but in the last four years, we have witnessed a drastic change in weather that is resulting in poor harvest and pushing farmers into poverty and hunger,” Inuwa said.
Speaking in a worried tone, Inuwa said yam farmers are the worse hit by climate change. Narrative their ordeal, he said they are witnessing hot weather in a manner they have never seen before, and because of that, yams are getting spoilt in the storage facilities. According to him, the heat from the sun is too much, making the roof and the wall too hot, resulting in the decay of yams kept in storage facilities, usually, designated rooms in their houses.
Inuwa, pointed out that he lost over 300 tubers of yam (65%) of his harvest to hot weather (climate change) this year. This is even as he said that there are many farmers who suffered the same thing as himself.
“I lost over 300 tubers of my yam (65%) of my harvest to hot weather (climate change) this year. Excess heat spoils them inside the storage facility. I am not the only one, many farmers suffered the same thing as I did” Inuwa said.
Inuwa who is worried about the development, said farmers are going to face more hunger and poverty in the future as a result of climate change. According to him, they rely on the grass to store their yam. They go into the bush, cut the grass, and place them on the yams to save them from excess heat and that has been their traditional method of storing yams.
He, however, pointed out that is no more possible because there are no more grasses as a result of weather changes caused by climate change, a situation he said has forced the farmers to store their yams inside rooms in their houses which is not good practice.
Although Inuwa painted a disturbing picture of how climate change is having adverse effects on the farmers, he, however, shared information on how the farmers are adopting local knowledge using shifting cultivation (crop rotation) and the use of animal manure as a means of climate change adaptation.
For instance, farmers plant melon and use animal manure as the best alternative ways for climate change mitigation and adaptation that will allow for a better harvest.
Speaking on the farmers’ knowledge of climate change, Inuwa said a good number of them in the community are aware of it, but pointed out that there is also a huge number of illiterate farmers who must be educated to have a better understanding of climate change.
“Many of us farmers here are aware of climate change, but, there are a huge number of illiterate farmers among us that must be educated to have a better understanding of it,” Inuwa stated.
Mr. Adamu and Kabiru both of them Fulani herdsmen who spoke to MAWA at their settlement said climate change is affecting their cows making them lose income. According to them, because of the harsh weather condition, they are forced to move their cow from one location to another in search of green grass and water for grazing.
They pointed out that the movement of cows from one location to another makes them malnourished, forcing them to lose their market value and making the herders to be at loss.
Giving a different perspective on how climate change is affecting the herders, Kabiru narrated how difficult it has become for them to build settlements.
According to Kabiru, there are no more grasses available because of the hotness of the weather which has made it impossible for grasses to grow. And, because they rely on grasses to construct their thatch houses, they cannot do that anymore making building nomadic settlements very difficult.
“Climate change has made owning shelter difficult for us, we rely on the grasses to construct a thatched house we live in, and because of harshness in weather conditions, there are no more grasses anywhere,” Kabiru said.
This is even as they faulted the government’s open grazing approach for the herders. According to them, herders do not like open grazing because cows do not look healthy grazing in the open. They, however, pointed out that some grazing routes designated by the government are not used by the herders because the current hot weather condition does not make it conducive for their cows.
“Because of the way harshness of weather is affecting our cows, open grazing policy by the government is not good for us, what we need is ranching,” Adamu said.
Speaking on the awareness of climate change among herders, Kabiru said that some of them are aware of it, but need sensitization from the government to understand it better.
“Some of us know that the weather has changed significantly, and it is affecting our cows and livelihood, but there is the need for government to educate our people about it,” Kabiru stated.
When MAWA sought an explanation from the Bwari Area Council on what they are doing about climate change, an official from the environmental department who wants his identity concealed, said there was no concrete step by the local authority targeted at addressing climate change.
“We are aware of the climate change and its adverse effect on the communities, especially farmers, but unfortunately there are no concrete steps by the government to address it,” the official said.
Mr. Johnson Chike, an environmentalist and a climate change advocate who spoke on the issue in his Wuse 2 Abuja office, said the Nigerian state appears not to take climate change seriously. He pointed out that many farmers in FCT are hugely impacted by it. He, however, said there was a need to commission a report that would show in clear terms how climate change was impacting agriculture, farmers, and its threat to food security.
“We are not doing enough, little knowledge is known by the government and many individuals about how climate change is impacting farmers in FCT and across Nigeria. We need a study on that if we are serious about addressing it” Chike said.
The Nigerian State has made commitments to addressing climate change, including the establishment of the Climate Change Council, the climate change department under the Ministry of Environment, and the Climate Change Act, legislation targeted at addressing climate change.
Good as the state ambition seems climate change continues to impact communities across Nigeria with the rural farmers being the most hit. Meanwhile, the state interventions appear not to go beyond paperwork and office meetings with the rural farmers completely excluded from any discussion and policy design.
Many of the farmers spoken to say they are seeking desperate knowledge and support on how to address climate change to save them from poverty and hunger which they say is a result of weather change that is caused by climate change.
This report was produced by MAWA Foundation.