The beginning of the 21st century heralded a positive shift in global attention to the negative effects of climate change on social, economic and environmental survival of the world. As developed countries are experiencing recurrent hurricanes, sandy storms, earthquakes and other destructive occurrences, flood, drought, diseases, loss of farmlands and produce increased poverty, hunger and starvation keep increasing in the developing economies. Nigeria as a developing economy is vulnerable to climate change because key sectors driving her economic performance and human survival such as agriculture, coastal and water resources, energy and tourism are highly susceptible to climate change effects.
The country thrives on two major sectors of the economy: petroleum and agriculture, making it highly vulnerable to effects of climate change. Nigeria has a thriving market for importing fairly used or old vehicles from other countries. These vehicles emit huge volumes of carbons into the atmosphere, making automobiles the major source of air pollution in the urban areas. Furthermore, commercial motorcycle riders in Nigeria add engine oil to their petrol, and this turns the petrol into gasoline which emits more carbons. Added to these is the problem of gas flaring. It is on record that Nigeria is the largest gas flaring nation in the world since she flares more than 70% of her natural gas. Worse still, inadequate and epileptic supply of electricity by the electricity distribution companies forces most Nigerians to buy generators to provide thermal electricity which emits carbons in large quantity into the atmosphere. Major activities that contribute to climate change in rural areas, where the bulk of food people consume are produced include bush burning, illegal felling of trees to produce charcoal, uncoordinated disposal of refuse and other activities that expose farmlands to degradation.
This effect and others have made public and private sectors in developed countries augmented their spending on strategies and techniques of reducing the impacts on critical sectors such as environment, health, agriculture, and transport infrastructure among others while developing ones are allocating insignificant fund. Recent studies found Lagos spending £52 million representing 0.15% of her Gross Domestic Product on climate change adaptation and resilience between 2014 and 2015, which is less to what other megacities in the world expended on the same course. Over £2 million of the amount were spent on agriculture and forestry sector of the state’s economy. The meagre spending needs holistic views from the concerned stakeholders with the strategic intent of creating a framework that would increase the fund allocated in shortest possible time. In its recent studies, the Department for International Development, DFID, projected that Nigeria would spend between 6% and 30% of its GDP by 2050 worth between $100billion and $460 billion.
No doubt, achieving food security for the rapidly growing population requires collective efforts of government at all levels and professional extension workers. This becomes imperative because professionals with significant years of experience have the potential capable of supporting government’s efforts. Having worked with many industries and managed numerous projects, extension workers in private sector are better positioned in terms of critical thinking and problem-solving skills commensurate with varied impacts of climate change. Besides the insignificant numbers of extension workers in the public sector, which is about 3,000 farmers to one extension agent, current challenges are also beyond their capabilities. For instance, a recent study found that most extension workers did not know appropriate words or phrases for communicating climate change impacts while engaging farmers, especially those in rural communities. Another study indicates that logistics, job design and administration are organisational factors affecting performance of public extension workers.
Evidently, farmers in western part of the country derived significant benefits from private extension services than the public organisation. Therefore, private extension workers could take the leap and establish climate change focused small scale advisory extension service using both demand-led and market-driven models. This is needful because today’s agricultural cultivation business atmosphere requires the provision of timely advice for specific farmers in specific situations.
What exists is just a one-way information dissemination model, whereby radio and agricultural extension officers give climate change information to farmers, with no meaningful exchange of ideas, experiences, and challenges between extension officers and farmers. In most cases, climate change information are not timely, they are complex for farmers to understand and source credibility also influence farmers’ adoption of such messages.
Again, right to own land, religion, cultural beliefs and traditions and access to agricultural extension information determine farmers’ readiness and capacity to practice recommended strategies for managing climate change.
Obasanjo Joseph Oyedele writes in from Ibadan