Dr Manzo Maigari is the Director General (DG) of the Nigerian Agribusiness Group (NABG). In this interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, the former Kaduna State Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development shares his recent losses and what farmers should do to cushion the effects of climate change.
Many farmers in Nigeria experienced losses during the last rainy season due to flooding. In the light of this, how has climate change affected agriculture in the country?
I lost 500 hectares of rice to the flooding in Benue State. When you want to quantify that in money it is over N2bn. Olam lost 4,000 hectares of rice and there are states that are still under water.
What are you putting in place to forestall recurrence?
We are sensitising the people. They must see agriculture as business. So, people must naturally engage and involve insurance companies in their businesses as the starting point. We need to look at alternatives to rainy season farming. If you know that there is going to be flooding which you do not have control over, why do you plant around that time? It is better if you wait until the flood is over then you can engage in irrigation farming.
Are you suggesting that farmers should not plant during the rainy season?
If a farmer does not have insurance to cover the possibility of flooding, then it’s better you wait till the rains are over then engage in irrigation farming because there is no point farming and incurring losses. There is also a need to focus on research and development to see if there are crop varieties that can survive flooding; can stay under water for maybe one to two months. So, all these things are what we should be contemplating and farmers need to understand this.
What is the cause of the recurring flooding in the country?
Our own practices as human beings are exacerbating the issue of climate change. Example, unsustainable farming practices like bush burning that generate a lot of carbon dioxide which affects the atmosphere, allowing a lot of our farm produce to rot. You find out that some of us, instead of leaving one to two metres of the forest around river banks, we will refuse, saying it will harbour rodents and the rest that will destroy our crops. Then you farm close to the river and create problems.
These practices lead to contamination and in no time erosion takes place and you begin to lose your farm and the river will continue expanding, gets filled up with sand and soil and the water is displaced thereby causing flooding.
NABG recently organised a workshop for farmers; was it informed by the issue of climate change?
Yes. Avenues like those serve to provide farmers with information and understanding of what they need to be doing because the path on which we are is a path to self-destruction. We need to retrace our steps and begin to change the way we do things; things like agro forestry on the boundaries of our farms. You can just plant trees which will in turn stop wind erosion that will wash your top soil away. They will stop water erosion and they will retain moisture because the water cycle around your farm will be better maintained because water through transpiration goes through the tree into the atmosphere and then it is absorbed back into the tree. All these are things we have done over time without knowing the negative impact as we now know. We should be able to begin retracing our steps.
I was just talking with the chairman of the Climate Action Trust and they are looking at how they can support small holder farmers to plant 10 million trees across all the states in Northern Nigeria. These are practices that will help us restore our environment and even our livelihoods because the very moment we lose everything, then there is no more life.