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May 29, 2024

Delayed Rain: Expert Calls for Farmers’ Training on Climate Change,  Best Agronomic Practices 

Considering the current fluctuating weather events being experienced in Nigeria, the founder of Community Action for Food Security (CAFS), Azeez Salawu, has said it is imperative to train farmers, starting with the FCT, on awareness about climate information services and best agronomic practices to keep crop production afloat.

Salawu made this known recently, during a workshop championed by the Community Action for Food Security (CAFS) in partnership with the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), Golan Helps Abuja Foodbank Initiative (GHAFBI) and other relevant agriculture/environmental organisations.

The expert said the training is aimed at building the capacity of smallholder farmers especially around getting them aware of different climate information services that help them to do well in this 2024 raining season.

As farmers continue to grapple with the negative impact of delayed rainfall across farming communities in Nigeria, agriculture experts, on Saturday, took to the streets of Abuja to train small scale farmers on climate information services and best agronomic methods to promote sustainable food production this season.

According to the organisers, the primary objective of the pre-season training workshop is to empower small-scale farmers and youths in Wumi and Tondo farming communities of Kuje Area Council, to adapt to climate change through increased awareness of climate and weather information services and community-based actions.

In February, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) predicted that temperatures would hit 41°C in the North and 39°C in the South on some days between March and May.

This, according to the agency, will result in dehydration, which could cause fainting, chickenpox, measles and heat rashes. People could also experience heat-related illnesses such as respiratory issues and increased vulnerability to chronic conditions.

Speaking at the forefront of the training, some farmers expressed concern over some of the challenges bedevilling their farming operations and why the training is necessary.

Specifically speaking, Tayo Amadu-Bulus, who farms maize, melon and rice among other crops, said aside from the changing weather conditions, insecurity and invasion of their farmlands by Fulani herders are having a huge toll on her farming operations.

Mrs Amadu-Bulus lamented that the high cost of inputs such as fertiliser and pesticides are also affecting their operations as peasant farmers in Abuja.

“If we can also get fertiliser supports, and chemicals because they are very expensive , it will be very helpful,” she said.

On her part, Deborah Iliya, a groundnut farmer, said her major concern is that most of their farmlands are losing nutrients and that their farms are often invaded by herders.

“If we can get security and organic fertiliser support from the government, it will help us a lot,” she said.

Similarly, Akoshi Daniel, who farms grains and tuber crops suCassavcassava, said the increased insecurity across communities has made it impossible for many farmers to access their farms as they used to in the past.

“We don’t get rainfall as we used to in the past. Also, whenever we plant our maize now, there are some insects that eat the maize stems and sometimes cut them off. The soils are weak and cassava doprn’t produce well. Likewise, our groundnuts are affected by disease and they don’t produce the way we want,” Mr Daniel said.

Speaking on the possible causes of the rainfall delays across parts of the country in Nigeria, Aliyu Sadiq, a Principal Meteorologist at NiMet’s Climate Service Unit, who facilitated a part of the training, said the rainfall delays were already predicted by NiMet in its 2024 climate prediction reports published early this year.

While attributing some of this unusual phenomenon to the effects of El-Nino, Mr Sadiq explained that NiMet had predicted that there would be a delay in rainfall in the country and early cessation this year.

“The six area councils in Abuja have not yet attained their onset of rainfall. Their onset should be between 12-17 May,” the NiMet official said.

He described some of the initial rainfall experienced in the FCT as “pre-onset” activities.

Mr Sadiq said pre-onset activities are the rainfall that farmers think marks the commencement of the rainy season, but in the real sense is not.

“Onset is defined when a region or locality has 20 millimetres of rainfall for at least one to three days and there won’t be a dry spell of ten days within one month,” he said.

He said the farmers were trained to let them know that they were approaching their onset of rainfall, and that with that there would be enough moisture in the ground to support the sprouting of their seeds.

 Mr Sadiq therefore urged farmers to seek more weekly climate advisory from NiMet in order to guide their farming schedules appropriately.

“Our predictions are science based and have been proven. Once the farmers stick to our predictions, I believe they won’t incur losses on crops or seeds,” he said.

On his part, another facilitator of the training, Chukwudi Ubazi, a Plant pathologist from the Department of Crop protection at the University of Abuja, said farmers should take into consideration the timing for their planting of seeds, mulching and plant spacing.

Mr Ubazi explained that farmers should prioritise mulching practices saying that, “mulching is the use of organic or inorganic materials to provide shade for plants or seedlings at a very tender age when they are in the field.

“It is going to help protect the seeds in the soil from excessive loss of moisture and also help prevent the plants from weathering,” he said.

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