Mitigating the effects of climate change to achieve food security in Nigeria

Global food security is continuing to deteriorate across the world due to a combination of factors, one of which is climate change. Changes in rainfall patterns, increasing temperatures and droughts are affecting food security which, according to expert projections, will be further affected by projected future changes in the climate.

Fluctuating weather patterns are affecting the quality and quantity of food we produce and our ability to distribute it equitably. The significant impact of climate change is evident in almost all parts of Nigeria: excess flooding in the south-east and north-central region, a decline in rainfall in the North-eastern and southern region, and temperature increase in all regions of the country. These changes are contributing to food insecurity in Nigeria as they directly affect the conditions under which food is produced. If left unchecked, these could, however, pose a risk to the nation’s public health, economy, livelihood, etc.

The United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security defines food security as when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life.

According to the 2021 global hunger index, Nigeria ranks 103rd out of the 116 countries rated, placing the nation at a “serious” level of hunger. This means that food supply is generally unable to meet the needs of the entire population. This points to defects in country’s ability to process and preserve the food produced. Agricultural yields in Nigeria are some of the lowest in the world e.g., in 2017, vegetable yields in Nigeria were 3.8 tons per hectare, compared to 5.7 and 19 tons per hectare in West Africa and globally, respectively.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13 aims to combat climate change and its impacts by taking urgent action. In addition, goal 2 which aims to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” recognises the linkages with tackling climate change. This, therefore, means that taking deliberate steps to address the impact of climate change on food security will in turn have a positive impact on other related SDGs.

Its worthy of note that climate change and food security are not gender-neutral as women and girls experience the greatest impacts of climate change, which amplifies existing gender inequalities and poses unique threats to their livelihoods, health, and safety.

What then can be done to effectively address climate change with relation to food security? The following is a summary of policy recommendations from the 2021 global hunger index:

1. Governments and donors must promote interventions that enhance the resilience of food systems to concurrently address the impacts of conflict and climate change and to ensure food and nutrition security.

2. Humanitarian and development actors must base programmes and interventions on a thorough understanding of the context, and strengthen inclusive, locally led initiatives.

3. Donors, UN agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and local actors must commit to flexible, need-based, cross-sectoral, and multiyear planning and financing.

4. Governments must address conflict on a political level and live up to their responsibility to end protracted crises, but donor countries, key UN agencies, and regional bodies must also address conflict and its consequences, including through a food and nutrition security lens.

5. Governments must actively follow up on the UN Food Systems Summit by addressing the structural challenges—including inequities, market failures, health risks, and environmental and climate threats—in food systems.

Actions must put vulnerable people, especially women and children, at the centre of food policies and build on existing responsibilities such as the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on climate change, and human rights treaties.

Read also: Climate change: Seplat Energy to plant five million trees

During the 2021 One Planet Summit, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, made a notable statement “We have been abusing our planet as if we had a spare one. 2021 must be the year to reconcile humanity with nature. With smart policies and investments, we can chart a path that brings health to all, revives economies and builds resilience.”

Nigeria’s Climate Change Act was passed in 2021. It provides a legal framework targeted towards achieving the nations climate goals including the net-zero carbon emission target, climate resilience, adequate financing and channeling climate change actions in national development priorities.

It also identifies major risks and vulnerabilities and how to build capacity towards adaption to climate change. The implementation of this law signifies that Nigeria is committed to the net-zero carbon pledge made by President Buhari at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow.

Mohammed (programme assistant) and Badi’a Hassan (programme assistant – intern) at Nigeria Health Watch

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