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10.09.2021 investigations Food Scarcity Looms as Climate Change Deals with Nigerian Farmers

Published 10th Sep, 2021

By Damilola Adeyera

Climate change is real. In New York, death toll rises in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. The central province of Henan, China, still battles with the cataclysmic effect of the heavy rain which fell across the country between August 21 and 22. About 40,000 Kenyans were displaced by recent floods which took over the country, a report by the Red Cross revealed. Nigeria is not missing in this conversation as the country is faced with an array of problems ranging from the shrinkage of Lake Chad to the overflow of River Niger and Land degradation. The effect of climate change is felt by all and sundry. 

Like every problem humans have been faced with, a huge amount of money and resources have been invested in tackling the causes and effects of climate change. In Nigeria, the National Fadama Development Program II (NFDP II) was a follow up on the achievements of the first project between 1993 and 1999. Unlike the FADAMA development project (NFDP I) which was restricted to only six states in Nigeria – Borno, Jigawa, Katsina, Kogi, Kwara and Plateau – FADAMA II was extended to 12 states. 

Project Timeline for FADAMA II GEF. Source: thegef.org

The blueprint for FADAMA II was built on the need to reduce poverty in the non-oil sector. Under the programme, there was the necessity to provide support for the identification, protection and sustainable conservation and utilisation of fragile ecosystems within the NFDP II target areas. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the World Bank formed a partnership with the goal of assisting “the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) in undertaking a more ambitious program that would generate both national and global benefits”.

While the World Bank served as an implementing agency, Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with agriculture, rural development, and water resources ministries, served as executing agencies. Land degradation was the focal area of the project and the total cost was $63,510,000. Work began on October 23, 2001, and the project got to an end on 20 January 2012. 

Cost Analysis of FADAMA II. Source: thegef.org

Like every newborn child, the arrival of NFDP II held great promise. However, nine years after this programme got to an end, farmers in Nigeria are still faced with land degradation. Investigations further revealed that the reason for this is the lack of monitoring and evaluation of projects, which has, in turn, led to a decline in projects. FADAMA community members (FCA) who are saddled with the responsibility of sustaining and maintaining projects have not been up and doing.

In a research project on FADAMA II GEF, Dr. Idris Badiru, senior lecturer at the Department of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development, University of Ibadan, and former community facilitator at Eriti Watershed, Obafemi Owode LGA, Ogun State, revealed that for the “sustainability of the benefits derived from Fadama II Critical Ecosystem Management Project in Eriti Watershed of Ogun State, there must be capacity building and asset maintenance should also be mainstreamed into such projects to enhance the sustainability of benefits derived from them”.

A visit to NFDP II project sites in Ogun and Kogi State revealed that the work of rehabilitating, conserving and sustaining development program, explicitly designed to address integrated ecosystem management in priority fragile areas, both within and outside protected areas, is far from over. 

REIGN OF CURSED BLESSING 

Each time the sky becomes cloudy, it spells doom for farmers in Nigeria, especially those close to riverine areas like Kogi and Ogun State.

This reporter first visited Eriti, a community in Ogun State, in June, for a story centered on the impact assessment of FADAMA II on income and household lifestyle of farmers. It was during a discussion with Olushola Olutunde, Chairman, FADAMA Community Association (FCA), that how inhabitable the community gets during the rainy season was revealed. In order to verify Olushola’s claim, this reporter returned to Eriti in September. 

Houses in Eriti are built with mud. Photos: Damilola Adeyera/FIJ.

Looking through the window of his room, the weather seemed to signal Olushola that the Almighty was about to send down the rain. At last, his dying crops would get the highly required nutrient to grow. They had been very thirsty. But Olushola sighed heavily, knowing the rain would cause flood and erosion that would wash away his efforts. 

Farming in the wetlands of Eriti, Ogun State, requires timing and understanding of the seasons. Even with this, there’s no guarantee each farming season would be smooth as forces beyond farmer’s control are at play. One of such forces is climate change. Olushola told FIJ that global warming had not been favourable to farmers in Nigeria. 

“You can see my clothes,” he said. True to his words, Olushola’s trousers were drenched from the sole of his feet to his knees. “The water is still coming. Some areas are already feeling its effects,” he added.

Olushola believed there was nothing that could be done on the part of FADAMA to tackle the loss farmers were experiencing. “FADAMA can’t stop the rain from falling. This place is a tropical rain forest, but global warming has changed things. Now, it takes a long while before it rains. Rain that was supposed to have started falling in March did not arrive until June. Whereas the rain is falling in areas in the north, places where rain rarely fall in the past. Climate change is what is affecting us.” 

While Olushola wallows in the effect of climate change, members of his community continue to engage in illegal tree felling. Three trailers loaded with logs were sighted by this reporter. Deforestation is one of the root causesof climate change. In a recent investigation conducted by FIJ, the activities of Illegal loggers were said to be a threat to timber traders in Ekiti. Illegal logging is not alien to Eriti community. Aside from seeing trucks loaded with trunks of trees, one could hear the chainsaw.

Eriti community members continue to make use of firewoods in carrying out their cooking activities as cooking gas remains a luxury for them. Not only that, men who don’t take pride in farming make ends meet by hunting endangered species like Pagolin, among other animals.

Trucks loaded with fallen trees leaving Eriti. Photo: Damilola Adeyera/FIJ.

While my fixer and I were returning from Eriti, we eavesdropped on conversations of passersby who were narrating how flood had taken over farmlands in Ajade-Ogundipe, a community close to Eriti. Like the stubborn mule, we decided to see for ourselves. 

On arrival at Ajade-Ogundipe, an old woman who was processing cassava tubers explained that the community had been divided into two as a result of flood which had taken over the lowland section of the farms.

“There’s water on the road; you’ll need to walk down to the place,” the old woman, who refused to give her name, told this reporter. “All these places you’re seeing have been taken over by water. From down here to the other side, flood got there,” she continued.

A bridge built to connect the communities had been taken over by flood. In order to get close to the water, this reporter walked a few metres into it before eventually turning back.

The neglect of FADAMA II projects in Ogun State goes against the aim of the initiative, which is continuous monitoring and evaluation. Findings revealed that since the project ended in 2012, monitoring and evaluation officers hardly went back to the communities.

“After you visited in June and contacted FADAMA at Abeokuta, they came about two times, after which we’ve not seen them,” Olushola said.

Considering the fact that projects are located in rural areas often times, project officers hardly visit project sites. When they do, it is usually after a very long period of time.

“I’ve not been there. I don’t know where this FADAMA project is,” Abiodun Awunu, team lead, FADAMA II, Ifo Local Government, said, when asked about some projects in the area.

Solape Awe, the Ogun State co-ordinator for FADAMA II blames farmers for failing to give timely feedback about activities and projects in their communities. Commenting on the flood ravaging Eriti community, she said, “The farmers there did not inform anybody about it. I’m just hearing for the first time. FADAMA is a project which has a timeframe, and it has ended. Those in the community have been empowered. I will expect that, if they have such problems, they write a report to us,” she said on the phone.

Like Ogun State, lack of effective monitoring and evaluation has led to negative impacts of climate change on crops of farmers in Kogi State. The gains made in effectively managing the ecosystem in the state have been eroded as monitoring and evaluation in the state is poor. In Koton Kaffe, Kogi State, the rain which fell few days before this reporter visited did not only destroy business for farmers but also left them hungry.  

In the policy document of FADAMA II GEF, the objective of the Erosion and Watershed Management Project for Nigeria was to reduce vulnerability to soil erosion in targeted sub-watersheds via erosion and watershed management and infrastructure investments component which support on-the-ground interventions to help reduce vulnerability to land degradation. The management of erosion, an objective of FADAMA II GEF, failed in Kogi State. The overflow of River Niger into communities like Koton Kaffe has led to erosion in farmlands in the community. 

At the farms visited by FIJ in Koton Kaffe, farmers were fighting a war with time, erosion and flood to salvage their rice.

“We will still filter the rice after harvesting. These ones that are on the upland are usually very green, but the ones that are on the lowland are usually brown as a result of the erosion. The dirt is caused by erosion. I’ve lost close to N150,000 as a result of this,” a farmer Chuka (not real name) told FIJ. 

According to Zafaru, a young farmer, this year’s rain has been overwhelming. “In the past, there used to be flood. If we didn’t harvest our rice on time, it would wash it away. But the rains of the past few days were just too much. This is the first time. I can’t lie to you, FADAMA has not done anything,” he said.  

“The owner of this farm used to harvest about 50 bags of rice, but it’s very hard for the owner to bring out 3 bags now. The rain is the cause of the erosion. The work we’re doing on the farm right now is not for business, but for the food we can eat at home.

“If we sit and watch everything go down the drain, we’ll die of hunger. The rice is spoilt. There’s nothing we can do about it”.

He explained further that there was a place at the other end of the farm where FADAMA’s signboards used to be positioned, but today, as a result of floods and erosion, that place could not be accessed.

“The erosion caused this. We had to harvest prematurely because of flood and erosion. The overflow of River Niger and Benue spills into our village. We call on the federal government to come to our aid. What we’re facing here is beyond our capacity,” another farmer, who is popularly referred to as ‘professor’, said. 

Speaking with FIJ, Dr. Adetunji Oredipe, the National Co-ordinator of FADAMA II GEF, said the project was successful but, like everything in life, important lessons were learnt.

“The monitoring and evaluation system was right. The uptake was good, but we cannot continue to have projects. The projects were supposed to preach principle and that principle should be mainstreamed into the system such that well after the project we can feel the impact of that intervention,” he said.

On land degradation by community members, Oredipe said the issue was that people in these communities were not or did not have enough capacity to maintain the progress recorded.

When contacted, Comla Awougnon, Council Member of GEF, West Africa Constituency, asked this reporter to speak with the ministry responsible in Nigeria.

However, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Environment have not replied to FIJ’s email for comment.

The story was produced with support from Tracka, a community of active citizens tracking the implementation of government projects in their community to ensure service delivery.

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Published 10th Sep, 2021

By Damilola Adeyera

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