Recent flooding incidence across Nigeria, especially in the Northern states of Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi and Sokoto, has left at least a 100 dead, according to media estimates. A perennial climatic problem for the Nigerian agricultural sector, heavy flooding and drought continues to be a dreaded reality for millions of Nigerian farmers. AGRONIGERIA in this EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with the Vice-Chancellor of the Kano University of Science and Technology, Wudil (KUST) and Professor of Agricultural Economics, Shehu Musa, seeks a way out for Nigeria.
1. What are the short and long terms economic implications of the recent incidence of floods that destroyed many rice farms in the Northwestern region of Nigeria?
Let me start by appreciating the efforts of the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in the area of Agriculture and for the support he is rendering to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Muhammad Sabo Nanono, and for discouraging the flow of foreign rice into this country. This, I am sure, has a lot of economic implications for the nation. You can imagine what would have happened to Nigeria during the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic if we had to rely heavily on foreign countries for the supply of food, especially rice and other commodities. This could have put Nigeria in a kind of double tragedy because, one: even if you had the money to buy food items, the outbreak of COVID-19 has completely put a stop to importations; and secondly, the pandemic would have had greater implications on the development of Nigeria’s agriculture. We can see that in the last couple of years. Nigeria, however, has managed to feed citizens with its own rice, thanks to the excellent undertaking by President Muhammadu Buhari and FMARD and all other actors.
Going by these, we can see that policy pronouncement and implementation have led to subnational integration, culminating in the ongoing beautiful relationship between the Kebbi and Lagos State Governments on rice production.
Having laid this foundation, one can see that the level of devastation these floods have wrecked on Nigeria. A lot of farmlands have been washed away by floods. Certainly, this has a lot of economic implications for Nigeria in terms of food security and supply, both in the short and long terms, considering the level of the flood menace. You can imagine the billions of naira that have been lost in Kebbi, Kano and Bauchi States as well as many others where the flooding was colossal. The government needs to come out with strategies to address these issues. Farmers need to be supported to prevent these food security threats from becoming a very high-level risk. We need to emphasise on irrigation agriculture, particularly at this season, so that we will be able to bridge the gaps created by the menace.
2. In your opinion, how would you assess Nigeria’s level of preparedness toward mitigating climate variability?
We need to commend the work of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET). They have been up and doing in providing reasonable data to support farmers’ preparedness at different levels. However, for us to really get this correctly, we must revamp our agricultural extension system. It is one thing to predict, it is another to ensure that the predictions are put to use by the end-users — the farmers. So while NiMET is doing very well, I urge FMARD to work more closely in synergy with NiMET and other institutional agencies, particularly universities and other tertiary institutions that are central to tackling our climate variability issues. Also, we need to adopt advance levels of production that employ computational studies and other models that have been applied in developed countries. To achieve this, the use of supercomputing systems adopted in China, India, Malaysia and some other European countries will do good magic in addressing these issues by aiding the provision of timely information, weather (predictions) and other variables employed for climate change mitigation. Like I have said earlier, the extension arm really needs to be on board so that we will be able to address these issues squarely.
On the first question, let me add that due to the financial implication of flooding, support needs to be provided to farmers through provision for interim resettlement packages. All these need to be encapsulated if we are to effectively tackle our climate variability problems.
3. How well can the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development tackle the issues of flooding and other climate problems bedevilling the Nigerian agricultural sector?
First and foremost, FMARD must ensure synergy of actions between it and other relevant organizations such as NiMET. Secondly, there has to be provisions of timely information that needs to be at the disposal of farmers, policymakers and other actors responsible for implementing flood-related issues and activities. We are in an information age where information is key and its use critical. In addition, we need to do further sensitisation on farming in flood-prone areas.
We must also emphasise on the construction of critical infrastructure. For example, in urban areas, we really need to ensure that drainages are well done with consideration for water drainages in farmlands. There is also an urgent need to monitor floodways. We need to construct floodways and some might need to be reconstructed. Again, extension service delivery is important here and all hands must be on deck to offer support to FMARD. Also, state ministries and local departments of agriculture must be active in contributing their part towards ensuring that we are moving towards a common destination which is to avoid or reduce the flooding menace that Nigeria faces from time to time.
“To be honest, there is an almost complete dearth of extension services in Nigeria. There are states that are doing relatively better. For example, Kano State has a relatively higher number of extension agents employed so far in the last three years or so. This needs to be replicated across the nation. However, it is not only about employing them but also providing them with the facilities to operate in addition to constant training on the latest innovations.”
4. What short, long and medium-term approach should the Federal Government embrace in trying to reduce the devastation of floods, especially on farming?
In terms of short-term measures, education through extension service delivery is very important to educate people on how to avoid this menace. Also, there should be collaborative efforts between all levels of government. Federal, states and local governments need to come together to fashion out mitigation measures that will be effective and efficient in addressing these problems.
We also need to provide timely information to all actors. Everybody within the food value chain system needs to be abreast with the latest information central to their decision-making process on flood prevention and other agricultural practices.
In the medium term, education is also key. In other words, extension services need to be considered. To be honest, there is an almost complete dearth of extension services in Nigeria. There are states that are doing relatively better. For example, Kano State has a relatively higher number of extension agents employed so far in the last three years or so. This needs to be replicated across the nation. However, it is not only about employing them but also providing them with the facilities to operate in addition to constant training on the latest innovations. Engagement of corporate and community actors or groups is also a medium-term measure to take.
If we must make progress, we need to involve cooperative societies and community groups because it is easier to pass information through them than at the individual level.
In the long-term, education, again, and strong stakeholder engagements are very important. So also is the need to provide timely reliable, accurate and dependable information. We also need to utilise the opportunities of collaboration with international agencies and organisations while adopting some of the strategies already implemented by them in other countries.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Kindly note that this is the first part of this exclusive interview. The second and final part will be published tomorrow. Watch out for it!
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