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Agricultural policies and climate change

By Martins Eke

Climate change has emerged as one of the most challenging environmental issues of the 21st century. As a driver of many kinds of environmental changes, climate change poses risk to fresh water supply, food production and economic development. The massive shrinking the Lake Chad in the North-East geopolitical zone of Nigeria which played a key role in predisposing the people of the zone to enlistment into Boko Haram is a clear example of how far reaching the consequences  of climate change can be. Agriculture has been identified as having huge potential in the adaptation and mitigation of climate change. However, the ability of the government to formulate good climate change policies and effectively implement the agricultural sector strategies of the policies is key to the fight against climate change.                                                                                                                                                 One major policy of the Nigerian government in the fight against climate change is the National Adaptation Strategy and Plan of Action on Climate Change for Nigeria (NASPA-CCN). This Strategy envisions a Nigeria in which climate change adaptation is an integrated component of sustainable development, reducing the vulnerability and enhancing the resilience and adaptive capacity of all economic sectors and of all people  particularly women and children to the adverse impacts of climate change, while also capturing the opportunities that arise as a result of climate change.

Some of NASPA-CCN strategies for the agricultural sector include: Increase access to drought resistant crops and livestock feeds; adopt better soil management practices; provide early warning/meteorological forecasts and related information; increase planting of native vegetation cover and promotion of re-greening efforts. Considering the huge adverse effects of climate change, Nigeria has no other option than to move from business-as-usual model of agriculture to climate smart agriculture. Capturing the opportunities arising from climate change entails taking full advantage of the employment opportunities arising from climate change in terms of the new and sustainable jobs it will create through use of new and improved ways of doing things. Planting of native vegetation cover and promotion of re-greening efforts will provide employment for those producing nursery bags as well as those on the field who plant and nurture the trees.

Another major government policy with direct bearing on climate change is the National Policy on Environment. The goal of the National Policy on  Environment is to ensure environmental protection and the conservation of natural resources for sustainable development. The strategies for the agricultural sector includes: Ensure that mandatory Environmental Impact Assessments is carried out for all major agricultural development projects; encourage and support ecologically appropriate livestock and poultry production; encourage conservation of grazing reserves and enforce strict range resource management programmes; regulate the production, use, storage, transportation, sale and disposal of agricultural chemicals;  monitor pesticide and agro chemical residue levels in air, soil, water and document the environmental fate of such chemicals;  promote farming, using manures and other soil nutrients.

Agro-chemicals, pesticides, inorganic fertilisers are all major contributors to the production of green house gases, hence regulation of their production and usage will go a long way in climate change mitigation. If the government can effectively implement these agricultural sector strategies of the National Policy on Environment that have direct bearing on climate change, it would have already done a lot with respect to meeting some of its nationally determined contribution (NDC) to the fight against climate change

The  National Agricultural Resilience Framework (NARF) was mentioned in Nigeria’s  Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) document as a policy which is very important in the fight against climate change. Some of the objectives of NARF include: strengthening the overall policy/institutional framework for improved resilience and adaptation to climate variability and change in the agricultural sector; evaluation and introduction into the agricultural sector of risk transfer and risk management strategies like improved seasonal and real time weather forecast; improving productivity through training community and grassroot farmers on land and water management strategies like irrigation farming, water harvesting, erosion control; reinforcing existing social safety nets through support systems that reduce vulnerability and improve livelihood conditions for the vulnerable especially women and children. Efficient implementation of this agricultural resilience framework will give Nigeria the capacity to bear shocks like the 2012 flood disaster that cost Nigeria losses to the tune of  billions of Naira.

The Muhammadu Buhari administration has launched the Agricultural Promotion Policy (APP). The policy thrust of the APP relevant to climate change includes: boosting public awareness through advertising of importance of climate smart agriculture; institutional linkages and partnerships will be strengthened for ensuring climate smart agricultural governance, legislations and financial mechanisms; environmental impact assessment will be carried out on major agricultural projects; the use of renewable energy will be promoted with the involvement of private sector; broad public and stakeholder awareness on climate smart agriculture will be created; government will facilitate soil map to improve land use and management practices; government will increase the adoption of global best practices on climate change, including the aspects of adaptation, mitigation and carbon credit. Just  like all other government policies, the key challenge is not in the drafting of the policy but in the implementation.

Eke is Programme Officer, Environment at Centre for Social Justice, Abuja

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