Nigerian Yam Farmers Adaptation to Climate Change

by Alex Nuffer

Many farmers in the Ekiti State of Nigeria rely on the production of yams for their livelihood and food security. With the increasing rate of extreme weather events, such as flooding and drought, the productivity of the yams are unstable, which leads to crop failure. The yam farmers’ adaptation to climate change is essential in order to maintain their own and Ekiti’s well being. Strategies have been formulated to cope with changing climatic conditions, but are inhibited by lack of wealth, technology, education, infrastructure, resource availability, and sound management practices. There needs to be an effort on the national scale to make the farmers’ adaptation to climate change a top priority. Oluwasusi (2013) investigated the Ekiti State yam farmers’ ability to adapt to variations in the climate by assessing the socio-economic characteristics of the farmers, farmers’ constraints, farmers’ strategies to adaption, and the yam yield in the years 2008–2010.

An interview schedule was developed based on the objectives of the investigation, and included 151 yam farmers from the Ekiti State. From the interviews and data analysis, the author concluded that there was a significant relationship between age, farm size, secondary occupation, and adaptation strategies, in the level of production of yams. In addition, there was a significant difference in the production of yams in the years 2008–2010. In order to mitigate the effects of climate change on yam production; education about climate change, seeds tolerant to variations in climate conditions, weather forecasting, and sustainable yam cropping all must be implemented into the yam farmers’ adaptation strategies.

Oluwasusi conducted the study in Ekiti State because of its well-known yam production in South Western Nigeria. A multi-stage sampling technique was used to select the population that was involved in this study to ensure variability. One hundred and fifty-one yam farmers were interviewed for the study.

The socio-economic characteristics of the farmers, which were relevant to the farmers’ perception on the variations to climate elements, included age, sex, marital status, education attainment, farm size, farming experience, and secondary occupation. The majority of yam farmers in Ekiti are middle-aged married men with a formal education and 20 years of experience in cultivating yams on small-scale farms. In addition, most of the farmers practiced mixed cropping and belonged to a cooperative society. Data analysis was conducted to show the relationship between the socio-economic characteristics and the level of yam production. Farm size was statistically significant implying that the farmers with a greater amount of land are more efficient and innovative at producing yams than small-scale farmers. Farmers with a second occupation other than farming have greater yields of yams, which could be attributed to their awareness of farming as a business rather than a livelihood and means of survival. The age of the farmers showed a significant relationship with level of production indicating that the farmers become more aware of climate change and climate constraints as they get older.

Reduction of soil fertility, instability of the planting calendar, shortage of water, low yield, lack of timely information on weather, erosion, and wind storms were climate related constraints that the farmers experienced in yam production in Ekiti. To mitigate the impacts of climate change, all farmers adopted strategies that included the planting of cover crops, mulching, planting of early maturing yam seeds, and the movement to different sites. Fertilizer and pesticides were not used as much due to its expense and lack of availability. Although there have been efforts to adopt new strategies, more than half of the farmers had low-level yam production in the years 2008-2010. Data analysis showed that there was a significant relationship between these constraints, as well as adaptation strategies in the production of yams.

If future climate conditions change at a rate that outpaces the yams farmers’ ability to adapt, it could lead to unsustainable levels of yam production or crop failure. Adapting practices to overcome the climate constraints is important to the level of production of the yams. The author gives recommendations that could potentially help yam farmers in Ekiti avoid low production including education about non-traditional soil techniques, afforestation and re-forestation, weather forecasting, and drought tolerant seeds. The author believes that these recommendations will increase yield and stability in yam production.

Oluwasusi, J.O., 2013. Farmers’ adaptation strategies to the effect of climate variation on yam production in Ekiti State, Nigeria. Journal of Food, Agriculture & Environment 11, 724–728. Full paper at: http://bit.ly/1rfW9P9

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