People wade through a flood with their belongings after their houses were submerged in the Amassoma community in Bayelsa state October 6, 2012. REUTERS/Tife Owolabi

People wade through a flood with their belongings after their houses were submerged in the Amassoma community in Bayelsa state October 6, 2012. REUTERS/Tife Owolabi

The nature of agriculture is changing. Water and soil are finite and vulnerable resources. Agriculture utilizes significant proportions of this finite land and water resources. Farmers in Nigeria and across the world tussle are battling nature to produce more food while facing a changing climate (demonstrated through increased flooding, drought, unpredictable rainfall distributions, increased desertification etc) and increased competition over land and water. Ecosystem degradation, declining soil fertility, and water stress add to these land use pressures.

dry-land-540x275Climate change: Refers to a statistically significant variation in either the mean state of the climate or in its variability, persisting for an extended period, typically for several decades or longer. This challenge is becoming more severe in Nigeria where rain fed agriculture accounts for most of the nation’s food and feed production. Farmers in Nigeria therefore encounters a combination of several factors of changing climate, environmental degradation and poor resource availability militating against his crop and animal yields which are currently much below optimum levels.

Nigerian farmers have been combating against drought and land degradation over the years through “coping strategies”. The key to agricultural resilience will however be to strengthen knowledge and information dissemination options in the research and extension system on climate change issues as well as develop capacity of same system to adapt to the climate change impacts. Adaptation is more pro-active and includes technological efforts, adoption of new practices, and development of new management skills. This requires improved understanding of the fundamental processes that govern the climate system and how it changes by the farmers and other stakeholders especially the agricultural extension sector. The Nigerian agricultural research and extension system will need to develop an understanding of potential in space and time of those varying climatic conditions to which farmers and other stakeholders will need to adapt as well as the consequent implications. For example, climate change is not manifested in major disasters of droughts and floods but in the fears and uncertainties. Rainfall variability, both within and between seasons, creates an underlying climate-induced risk and uncertainty for current farm-level production as well as for the potential impact of innovations designed to improve crop, soil and livestock management practices. This uncertainty discourages the adoption of improved farming practices and the beneficial ‘investment’ decisions required, not only from farming communities, but also from a wide range of additional agricultural stakeholders. They show an understandable reluctance to invest in potentially more sustainable, productive and economically rewarding practices when the returns to investment appear so unpredictable from season to season (Cooper et al. 2008).

The Nigerian research and extension system, with farmers playing leading roles will therefore need to develop and disseminate “adaptation strategies” that are needed by farmers and other stakeholders to mitigate the challenges of changing climatic conditions. This will include improved and sustainable land management practices, fossil utilization fossil fuels, development of systems with increased biodiversity. improved land and water management practices to reduce erosion, capture more rainfall, increase soil organic matter, and replenish nutrients. Some improved land and water management practices include agroforestry, conservation agriculture, rainwater harvesting, and integrated soil fertility management that sustainably increase crop yields while also reducing agriculture’s impact on the environment.

Strategies will need to be designed to encourage other stakeholders especially consumers to change behavioral attitudes. Some of these strategies will probably best be developed and disseminated through learning centers/ farmer field schools. This is particularly important for strengthening of farmer innovation systems

Efficient linking of knowledge and information dissemination is therefore crucial to develop and strengthen agricultural resilience within the Nigerian agricultural research and extension system.