Rainfed agriculture is farming practices that rely on rainfall for water. This is practised in Nigeria, particularly in northern states, making the country vulnerable to the adverse effects of extreme climate. Extreme climate, which includes drought, flooding, and severe heat has led to degradation, erosion and fertility loss of soil, resulting in low crop yields.
In 2018, over 1 million people were affected by floods across 12 states in Nigeria. Flash flooding reoccurred in August 2019, affecting Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe. The flash flood displaced over 600 Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, host communities, farmlands and farm produce.
Several adaptation strategies have been designed to enable farmers to minimize the impact of extreme climates when planting and harvesting crops.
Drought occurs frequently and ruthlessly in Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Yobe, Gombe, and Borno. Yobe was affected by moderate droughts in 2009, 2011, 2015, and 2017. This resulted in heavy losses in crops, livestock, and fodder for livestock. Planting more drought-resistant crops in these areas reduces the vulnerability to extreme climate. Drought tolerance in plants helps them maintain their biomass production during extreme climate conditions through genetic modification. Wheat, corn, and rice are genetically modified to increase tolerance to drought, which enhances healthy crop harvest. In Nigeria, the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) is leading the breeding and release of drought-tolerance maize.
Contour Stone Bunds for Soil Erosion
Soil erosion is an extensive and severe degradation process. Intense rain can cause soil erosion on cultivated lands where runoff rates are high and the ground has an insufficient vegetative cover. Degraded soils are at greater risk from the damaging impacts of extreme climate because they are exposed to serious losses of organic matter and biodiversity. An adaptation strategy is the use of contour bunds, made of either stones or soil. Bunds are constructed along contour lines to slow down the flow of water into the slope, preventing soil erosion. The best results are often achieved when contour stone bunds are done in conjunction with the planting of grass and trees on contour lines. Also, where soils are particularly vulnerable to surface crusting and runoff, farmers can combine contour stone bunds with planting pits which are 10-20cm deep, which act as micro-catchments where crops are planted. Contour stone bunds are beneficial in extreme wet and dry climate. In extreme wet years, they help to reduce the risk of runoff and erosion, while in extreme dry years, they contribute to effective rainwater harvesting. Contour bunds have been encouraged by governments, NGOs, extension agents, and farmers for years and are now widely used in Africa. Research in Mali shows that contour bunds preserved soil and boosted farmers’ net income by 20%.
Smart farming is a farming management concept that uses technology to increase the quantity and quality of farm products. Examples are soil scanning, light, water, temperature management, humidity, and data analytics. This helps decision making and enables farmers to stay at the forefront of extreme climate to implement measures that prevent loss of farmland. The use of smart farming techniques helps farmers monitor the needs of each produce to adjust their nutrient consistency, thereby preventing poor growth and enhancing healthy crop harvest.
One innovation is the production of top-class liquid organic fertilizer through rabbit farming. Rabbit farmers in Kenya claimed to have found a ‘minefield’ in rabbit urine. The average urine production per rabbit is 2.5 milliliters per day and each milliliter is stored until it ferments and is mixed with ten litres of water to make liquid organic fertilizer. Rabbit urine, an extra organic liquid, improves the fertility of the soil by repairing its structure, texture, water-holding capacity and humus content. Farmers in Uganda use it as pesticide and fertilizers and it has proven to produce healthier crop harvests of cassava, passion fruit, beans, millet, and tomatoes, amongst others.
It is imperative for all agricultural innovative programs to focus on intended outcomes and partner with relevant stakeholders in repositioning agriculture and making it the cornerstone of Nigeria’s economy by ensuring adaptative strategies to extreme climate are explored, with training and awareness created for farmers on smart techniques, such as the use of rabbit urine which is not currently practised in Nigeria. Implementing agricultural adaptation strategies to extreme climate would increase healthy crop harvest and boost crop produce to benefit the Nigerian economy.