Behind the faint smile of the latest Nigerian farmer is a deep needle pinch. Growers, in this part of the world, are going through a difficult moment as I speak. Some are really so frustrated now, others, confused, and a number, depressed; the future is so bleak in Nigeria today as rainfall becomes so erratic and unpredictable. I am also a victim. At the back of my father’s house is a small farm of about two hundred heaps in which grains of maize and slices of cocoyam were politely buried earlier this year, but just days ago, most of the hardly standing maize stands had to be uprooted as they were not any promising, even a good number of the planted taro slices didn’t sprout. This is really not a time to laugh out loud in the farms, not a time to sing along with birds; it’s one such time that the farm seems a funeral as big-cutlass farmers count their sure losses every blessed day.
Not just the farmer worries these days; the teacher and the average man on the street can smell food scarcity threaten. Famine is just a little distance away, but not just hunger scares a deep thinker like its many implications. Food shortage could mean malnutrition and mortality for little ones. It could mean desperation and more crimes. It could mean frustration, depression and/or suicide for fathers on whose shoulders lie more of the family burdens. It could mean anger and much more conflicts than we already have. Agriculture accounts for about 29% of the nation’s annual GDP and a shortfall in this could mean a whole lot, even loss of jobs for some of the very few employed Nigerians. This does not call for celebration, if you don’t mind.
What really is happening to the nation’s rainfall? I seem to have an idea. From late September to early February, each year, the prevailing wind comes from the northwest. It is a dry, cool, pathogens-harbouring arctic (sounds a bit academic?) wind that contains some fine, fertile dust particles. It is the wind responsible for the dry season and all of it’s cruelty. Nigh the close of every February, the dominant wind blows in from the southwest. It is a moist, cool wind that brings rain. The system is simple, but a little rise in earth’s temperature could make a huge difference. Whenever the southwest wind finds the land hotter than required on leaving the Atlantic Ocean, it is forced to condense farther inland, and so deprive the immediate coastal region rain. If your part of the world is in the atlas, then you must have heard one or two things about the consistent permanent rise in earth’s temperature (global warming) and its overwhelming result (climate change).
Climate change is truly a broad-brush thing, but the global vulnerability index shows that West African countries have an extreme risk score; our part of the world is more vulnerable to these changes in climatic patterns than anywhere else. China, the United States, and the UK emit more carbons (sole driver of climate change), but Nigeria and other developing West African countries suffer the effects more. Flood is becoming more rampant here. An epic lake from which millions earned a living has dried up. Windstorms and ocean surges destroy properties and send people to the grave.
Hundreds of people in southeastern Nigeria needs be relocated every year due to erosion, just like the case is in Nanka Valley, Anambra. The North is becoming a desert, not really alive to agricultural activities anymore. In fact, Nigeria loses about 351,000 hectares of its land to advancing desert every year. Even Lagos is going under water, and now, unpredictable rainfall makes farmers weep. “Climate change is about Nigeria,” I recently told an American colleague, and it really is. Yet, while Extinction Rebellion takes over the streets of London, with hundreds of protesters pressurizing the UK government on climate action; School Strike for climate in Brazil, Sweden, etc.; and a handful of other movements across the world; Nigerians are not crying.
This is a country that, other than being the unrivalled target of climate change, has all kinds of in-house environmental issues to deal with. United Nations assessment of Ogoni land reveals that it will require 25 years for the clean up to be done, but till now, almost nothing has been done. Mangroves which should be the natural barriers to the inward movement of the sea into the Niger Delta have been lost to oil spills and indiscriminate elimination by locals.The same Niger Delta is home to several flairing units from which noxious hydrocarbons are released into the surrounding air for dwellers to enjoy health issues like skin lessions, lungs challenge, eye problems, skin cancer, and many more. This is a country where the cutdown of trees go on unchecked, and so loses about 4% of its rainforest every single year. Forest reserves are regarded as wastes and a governor can easily order the felling of preserved trees, all in a month, to boost the IGR of his state. This is a country where open defecation trends and the only fashionable way of disposing wastes is dumping them into drainages, and waiting for them to be washed away when the next rain falls. A huge construction project can easily take off here with no one giving a damn about the environmental impacts.
We are so comfortable with a government that looks away from native environmental challenges; we are also not making China, America, the UK, and other countries that emit large quantities of carbons feel any guilty or sorry for the disasters their actions have brought upon us in this part of the world. Only Nigerians are not crying! It’s incredible. We are laughing. We are dancing. Nigerians are making merry, just a step away from a gaping abyss of death. Well, another world environment day is around the corner. The 5th day of June, every year, has been set aside by the United Nations for the environment. It is a day the informed across the world troop out en masse to engage their governments by way of protests and/or demonstrations. It is a day to put the leaders under pressure to act. Nigerians wouldn’t have cried still, but the Green Global Environmental Network has put plans in place for a non-violent mass protest.
“I [actually] don’t want you to hope. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel everyday. Then, I want you to act.”_ Greta Thunberg.
Ayeni Faith Damilola, project manager at Green Global Environmental Network.