Challenges Mount for Farmers in Nigeria’s “Food Basket” Amid Climate Change

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By Milcah Tanimu

Dry season farming in Benue State, often considered Nigeria’s “food basket,” is facing mounting challenges due to climate change. Aondongu Saaku, a farmer in Gwer East Local Government Area, lamented the poor yield of yams despite applying fertilizers and diligent farming practices. This struggle is shared by many farmers in the region, where extreme weather conditions have become increasingly common.

Climate Change Impact: Desertification and extreme weather events, exacerbated by factors like deforestation and extensive cultivation, have made farming more difficult. Gwer East has seen a surge in forest fires, leading to significant tree cover loss and emissions. The UNDP-backed initiative is advocating for community action to combat deforestation and land degradation.

Dry Season Farming Struggles: Dry season farming, crucial for sustaining agricultural production, is facing challenges due to declining soil moisture and increased droughts. Benue State’s reputation as a major agricultural producer is at risk, particularly for crops like yams, mangoes, and rice.

Water Scarcity and Irrigation: Water scarcity, compounded by dwindling river levels, has made irrigation farming increasingly difficult. Farmers like Japheth Ishenge from Ukum Local Government Area have resorted to cultivating in swamps due to the lack of irrigation equipment and support from the government.

Financial Hurdles: High input costs, including the price of pumping machines and fertilizers, pose a significant barrier to farmers. Limited access to credit and loans from commercial banks further exacerbates financial challenges, forcing farmers to rely on middlemen for support.

Innovative Solutions: Some farmers are turning to organic fertilizers like ash to mitigate the impact of high fertilizer costs. Others are exploring alternative methods of obtaining credit and adapting their farming practices to cope with climate change.

Government Intervention: Farmers are calling for government support in addressing water scarcity, providing irrigation equipment, and implementing climate adaptation strategies. Dredging of major rivers like the Benue and Katsina-Ala is seen as essential to securing water access for agricultural purposes.

Conclusion: Benue State’s farmers are facing unprecedented challenges due to climate change, threatening the region’s status as Nigeria’s “food basket.” Urgent action is needed to support farmers, enhance irrigation infrastructure, and implement climate adaptation measures to safeguard food security in the state and beyond.


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