Adesuwa Ifedi

By Jimoh Babatunde

NIGERIA’S Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Saddiya Umar Farouq recently said the scale of devastation of the present flood situation in the country can only be compared to the 2012 floods as 34 of the country’s 36 states have experienced flooding and heavier than expected rainfall in recent weeks.

While many parts of Nigeria are prone to annual floods, the extent of flood damage has become more severe in recent years. 

Read also: Funding key for strengthening sustainable agriculture, food industry in Nigeria – Adefaye

In some areas, homes and neighbourhoods have been completely submerged by floodwaters.  Nigeria’s meteorological agency has warned that the flooding could continue until the end of November in some states in the south of the country. The agency has urged local governments to “prepare accordingly.”

This year, thousands of hectares of rice farms in Taraba, Jigawa, Kano, Benue, Niger, Kogi, Kebbi, among other producing states up North, have been reportedly washed away.

In the affected states, some of the farms were either at maturing stage or nearing the stage when the waters washed them away.

The extent of the damage to farmland and crops may reduce access to food and diminish the quality of food across the nation, intensifying food insecurity, hunger and entrenched poverty.

All this is bringing the effect of climate change closer to Nigerians as the induced shocks are crippling farming businesses and discouraging agribusiness financiers and investors from investing in smallholder farms.

Uninsured and underinsured smallholders make up most – about 90 per cent – of the farmers in Nigeria and account for the majority of local agricultural production. 

De-risking farming for farmers could support them to scale up production and increase their resilience to ever-increasing climate shocks. 

Adesuwa Ifedi, Senior Vice President of Africa Programs for Heifer International, said “Building resilience will require a combination of interventions and more partnerships at all levels with governments, the private sector, and major international foundations as well as development institutions to de-risk farming in Nigeria.

“We need to promote climate-smart innovations in agriculture, by working with farmers, their communities and market system actors to prepare for climate shocks and identify and invest in opportunities that deliver positive outcomes for farmers.”

Ifedi added, “Smallholder farmers will be better supported if emerging technologies are leveraged to protect agricultural investments across Africa.”

However, this kind of program is uncommon in Africa and the adoption of crop insurance programs has been weak because farmers have not been able to afford insurance premiums. 

In comparison, the United States crop insurance programme covers more than 80 per cent of American cropland and costs the government an average of nearly $9 billion per year.

Heifer International Country Director for Nigeria, Rufus Idris, acknowledges the challenges and notes that rural communities lack the financial resources as well as the access to innovation and technology that could build resilience and better prepare them for shocks. 

In 2021, Heifer International, in a collaboration with Pula Advisors, Olam Agri, Thrive Agric, and Leadway Assurance Limited, introduced the Pay-at-Harvest (PAH) Area Yield Index Insurance (AYII) to rice farmers as a means of reducing their risk of crop loss from climate-related events while also restoring investors’ confidence in rice farming. 

The PAH model of insurance specifically addresses farmers’ inability to pay premiums early in the season. 

Farmers have insurance coverage at the start of a season but pay the premium after they have harvested and sold their produce. Farmers that experience covered crop losses through flood, drought, new pests and diseases can recover their investment.

Rufus Idris said “With farming in Nigeria considered high risk and liable to losses, Heifer International is collaborating with its partners to help smallholder farmers in Nigeria adapt to climate change and maximize their outputs.

“This programme provides rice farmers in Nigeria with an affordable way to continue farming. Farmers get a full return if their insured farmland does not produce the projected quantity of crops due to a climate event.”

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