Usually, wheat requires heat to grow well, but Nigerian farmers in the far North who are into large production of homegrown food in the country have complained of an alarming increase in heat, beyond requirement to get results, since the past three years, coupled with irregular rain. The increasing heat and irregular rain cycle, exacerbated by climate change has led to the reduction of wheat yield in half. Food security crisis in the country is further driven by conflict, violence and supply disruptions related to the Russia-Ukraine war.
Resultantly, Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, spends more resources on food for its reliance on imported grain. However, the country is trying its best possible to become self-reliant and has initiated programmes to aid provision of loans to farmers to enhance local grain production. But these plans have been hampered by extreme weather and violence. According to a senior Africa program fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Idayat Hassan, corruption and refusal of farmers to repay the loans due to the impediment caused by climate change and insecurity to production destabilised the government’s plan.
Loan program designed to foster increase in yields of local wheat failed.
In Nigeria, wheat is one of the most consumed grains and is largely imported from South America, the U.S, and Europe. Russia used to be a major exporter of affordable wheat, but during the war, its shipments reduced to the lowest level. The loan program for growers designed to facilitate an increase in the yields of local wheat failed. As a result, the government implemented new initiatives for improvement of how much land is harvested and distribution of equipment, pesticides, and high-yielding seeds to wheat farmers.
Also, the flour milling industry, which is struggling amid inflated costs of diesel and fuel, and the weakening currency of the country, has struck a deal with farmers to produce more wheat domestically at competitive prices. By doing so, the industry encourages them to boost production. Considering these new initiatives, the USDA predicts that wheat production in Nigeria will increase to 42 percent in the 2023-2024 trading year, compared to last year. However, the agency cautioned that the challenges are more than the opportunities present in it.
Farmers & cattle herders have perennial clashes as they compete for land.
Besides the fact that climate change causes irregular rainfall, dry land and extreme heat, USDA stated in Nigeria grain report 2023 that security challenges affecting the wheat-producing region limits the access of farmers to fields. It further stated that the same challenge is very likely to cause a decrement in production of rice and corn. A wheat farmer in Faskari, Katsina State, Sama’ila Zubairu, revealed that his area suffers constant violence and some of his colleagues have had to give up farming completely. He added that those of them who still farm have had the number of their farmlands reduced.
A vast portion of the rural areas in the North are controlled by gangs who kill and abduct human beings for ransom. Farmers and cattle herders also have perennial clashes as they compete for land and water. Although Zubairu’s farmland has not suffered severe degradation, he asserted that his farm production is affected by climate change in two major ways — rain cycles and vicious temperatures. Consumers are also challenged by food inflation of 24 percent as wheat-produced staples like pasta and bread have almost doubled in price.
President acknowledges rising food costs & declares a state of emergency.
As a means of ameliorating the situation, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the Federal Republic of Nigeria made a policy statement in food and agriculture. In his statement, he acknowledged skyrocketing food costs and declared a state of emergency, committing to see to the inclusion of food and water availability in the national security system of the government. It is necessary for the government to be in the know of how much climate change causes insecurity and food crisis, and should, therefore, implement plans that protect farmers who are responsible for producing food for the country.