Thursday, February 22, 2024

Irregular rainfall: Food crisis looms in Nigeria, farmers warn

BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO

Some farmers have expressed deep concerns over this year’s changing rainfall pattern, saying there may be food crisis in Nigeria if the irregular rainfall persists.

They said the development had been having adverse effects on the farming season as their crops now experience stunted growth.

The farmers, who spoke separately with The Point, were worried that there had been irregular rainfall since the beginning of the wet season in 2023. They lamented that cash crops were not growing properly as a result of dearth of water.

While noting that the shortage of rainfall brought about harsh weather, which resulted in the stunted growth in plants, the farmers noted that if the prevailing situation of shortage of rainfall cuts across Nigeria, it would exacerbate food crisis in the country, particularly in Osun and Oyo states.

A farmer in Oko community, Surulere Local Government Area of Oyo State, Pa Ajetomobi Akingbade, complained bitterly about the drought, saying it had made his plants grow abnormally.

“I am afraid we farmers may not have bounty harvest after this farming season because of drought. The rain has not been falling as we expected and it is not making us happy. I planted maize and yam but I have discovered that the plants have been affected by diseases and this is because rainfall has not been regular. If there is any shortage during harvest, which we don’t pray for, it will make the little harvest to be sold at expensive prices so that we can cover up for the loss. We will continue to pray God for constant rainfall,” he told The Point.

Similarly, farmers in Ola-Olaluwa, Osogbo, Olorunda, Ayedire, Ayedaada and Egbedore Local GovernmentAreas of Osun have begun to count their losses as their crops such as maize, tomatoes, pepper, jute leaves (Ewedu) and okra were hit with stunted growth as a result of shortage of rainfall.

According to some farmers in Olaoluwa Local Government, the area was badly hit by the harsh weather and may experience low harvest. They noted that the irregular rainfall affected the growth of the crops and caused reduction in their yields since the inception of this year’s farming season.

The farmers in the council area, including Chief Wale Mayegun and Mr Akeem Olubori, said they had cultivated acres of land with the expectation of having bountiful harvests three times in the year.

However, they said their expectation was dashed as a result of the irregular rainfall, which resulted in stunted growth for the planted crops.

Narrating his ordeal, Olubori said he had planted maize and okra on about 20 acres of land at Idi-Oro and Olupo at the beginning of the farming season.

The father of three added that the maize crops he planted in late February had a lifespan of three months but an unexpected dry weather set in and stunted the growth of the plants.

He said, “My entire farmland for maize and okra is about 20 acres. I planted maize largely in February. I had an expectation of a great harvest in three months. Unfortunately, the weather has been dry. Rain has not fallen more than three times since I planted this. The temperature has been very high.

“I have spent more than N500,000 on the farm. I have steady contract farm workers who I must pay at the end of the year. I should have been preparing to harvest at least 10 pickup loads of maize now. With this now, I am considering clearing these maize plants and planting another in the June/July growing season.”

Echoing a similar view, Mayegun lamented the shortage of rainfall leading to huge economic losses for the farmers, saying, “Rainfall has been inconsistent in the state since the beginning of the year.”

Mayegun, who farms at Iwara community, explained that he had cultivated 45 acres of maize farm with the hope of reaping 40 pickup loads of harvests in May. But, he decried the unexpected shortage of rainfall, notingthat it had drastically reduced the realisation of his hope.

The farmer said the prevailing situation would exacerbate food crisis, particularly in Nigeria, adding that thereduction in crop outputs meant that the basic food would be scarce.

He said, “Without being a doomsayer, food crisis is not ending soon. The size of my maize farm is 45 acres. Normally, I should harvest nothing less than 40 pickup loads. But look at what dry weather has done to my farm.

“The direct consequence of this is that the farm produce will not be enough to go round, and the population will struggle to get what is available in the market. Prices will go up and the poor who cannot afford them will go hungry.”

The Nigerian Meteorological Agency had reportedly predicted that a dry spell would occur in some parts of the South, including Osun, in April 2023.

Already, the masses are bearing the brunt of inflated prices of food items. Checks by The Point revealed that a small basket of okra is being sold for N5,000, against N1,500 in 2022 at Odo-Ori market in Iwo. Also, a price of a pickup load of maize is now between N150,000 and N180,000.

Reacting to the insufficient rainfall, the Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria in the state, Kayode Afolabi, said the situation would invariably trigger high cost of food items in the market.

Afolabi explained that the shortage of rainfall had discouraged many farmers in the state from going to farm.

On the way forward, the AFAN chairman said, “The solution to this is for government to involve more in irrigation. We are talking about irrigation to all our agricultural endeavours. By the time we apply irrigation to them, we will not rely on rain again. It will enable us to carry out farming activities with ease.”

He stressed that the quantity of maize planted in the state this year had not been encouraging as a result of the current weather condition. Afolabi, however, appealed to the state government to invest more in putting in place storage facilities for future purpose.

“The quantity of maize planted so far in the state is not enough for now, considering the weather. We all know the government in the state is still new but we are trying to appeal to them in all corners to do their best in putting more storage facilities in place to increase food production in the state,” he added.

However, an aged farmer, Pa Kazeem Adewole, opined that the climate variability was God’s punishment against man because of sins.

“Too much of sins is the cause of this. When I visited my okra farm, the leaves had turned yellow from green. When I saw it, I was sad. This is God’s punishment,” Adewole said.

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