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FG urges farmers to curb farmland burning

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By Abiodun Okunloye

Seven million people died globally from air pollution-related diseases.

The Federal Government and development partners are urging farmers, including Nigerians, to cease the practice of burning farmland in preparation for crops to reduce the impact of air pollution-related diseases that kill over 7 million people worldwide. During the Inception Workshop in Abuja for the Nigeria Abatement of Short-lived Climate Pollutants project focusing on reducing open field burning in the agricultural sector, Temitope Fashedemi highlighted the goal of decreasing short-lived carbon emissions from agricultural waste to enhance farmers’ ability to adapt.

Represented by Oshadiya Olanipekun, the Director of Agricultural Lands and Climate Change Management Services, Fashedemi believes that openly burning farm waste on the fields is a damaging practice that contributes to air pollution, soil erosion, and climate change. In the next 18 months, starting from February 2024 to July 2025, the Climate Clean Air Coalition will support a project involving 500 farmers in the Gboko Local Government Area of Benue State. These farmers will be organised into 20 groups, each comprising 25 farmers. Additionally, 45 agricultural extension officers from different parts of the country’s six geopolitical zones will be involved in this initiative. There are notable changes in the industry to shift towards climate-resilient systems that tackle food security and climate change.

Conservation farming briquette production will boost farmer adaptability.

Climate resilience is essential for the Nigerian agricultural sector, where smallholder farmers comprise over 70 percent of the workforce and contribute 24 percent to the country’s GDP. This underscores the importance of prioritising climate adaptation in agriculture. Nigeria is prioritising the reduction of short-lived climate pollutants to combat the impacts of Climate Change. The national action plan to reduce black carbon, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) has been officially included in the updated NDC. Following the submission of an application by the ministry, CACC approved the project aimed at lessening SLCP emissions in Nigeria’s agricultural sector by implementing alternatives to open-field burning.

By introducing alternative methods, such as conservation agriculture and briquette production, farmers will be better equipped to adapt to changing conditions. Burning agricultural materials is a common practice in farming. It involves purposely igniting fields or residues to achieve different objectives, like clearing land, handling crop leftovers, managing pests, or getting fields ready for planting. Although it has been a low-cost technique for farming management, this harmful practice can result in pollution, land erosion, and changes in the climate. He also committed that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security would fully support the project to minimise open burning in prevalent areas.

500 farmers and 35 extension officers will be trained.

He mentioned plans to focus on 500 farmers and 35 extension officers in the project, with training demonstrations and capacity-building activities planned for Gboko, Benue state. The outcomes will be documented and disseminated to extension officers and influential figures in different local government areas and states to aid in the nationwide reduction of SLCP. Joy Aderele, the Country Director of Self Help Africa in Nigeria, expressed her concerns about the harmful effects of farmers burning farm residues on the environment and the health of the Nigerian people.

Aderele stated that the negative consequences of climate pollutants on human health, agriculture, and ecosystems have led to the deaths of millions of people worldwide each year, particularly affecting the well-being of Nigerians. According to the World Health Organization, more than half of pneumonia-related deaths in 17 African countries are caused by air pollution. The Federal Ministry of Agriculture created this programme, as the government is responsible for promoting climate change adaptation and food security in Nigeria. They are the driving force behind this initiative, leading the way in addressing these crucial issues.

Related article: FG and FAO partner to boost agriculture

A national climate change action plan is in place, with the Ministry of Agriculture actively working to eliminate short-lived climate pollutants as part of this initiative. Their contribution to the plan is just a fraction of their overall strategy, as their ultimate goal is to improve conditions in Nigeria. The sustainability plan involves collaborating with various partners as an International Non-Government Organization (INGO) to enhance current structures, such as government agencies and extension workers. Rather than introducing new initiatives, the focus is building upon existing relationships with those who typically assist farmers. This approach raises awareness among farmers and guides them to ensure they make informed decisions.

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