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Climate change in NigeriaAlthough most greenhouse gas emissions come from the global north, Africa will soon face some of the most severe impacts of the climate crisis. The country of Nigeria is in a uniquely vulnerable position. Home to around 200 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, and 40% of Nigerians live below the national poverty line. Climate change and poverty can act in a vicious cycle. Impoverished people are often unable to adapt to increased temperatures or rising sea levels due to a lack of resources and mobility. When people lose their homes and livelihoods to climate change, they can face even greater poverty, especially when children lose access to education. This is also true for poverty and climate change in Nigeria.

Nigeria is located on the Gulf of Guinea, just north of the equator. Due to its size and geographical location, Nigeria is at risk for a great variety of climate-related challenges. Its northern regions, which border the Sahara, are experiencing increasing rates of desertification. Its low-lying coastal areas, meanwhile, are facing rising sea levels and flooding. Despite these challenges, the Nigerian government has set admirable sustainability goals. Furthermore, local farmers are using innovative techniques to adapt to climate change.

Urban Areas

Nigeria’s capital city, Lagos, is a rapidly growing economic center. It is home to between 15 and 26 million people and one-third of Nigeria’s GDP. Lagos is surrounded by massive slums which house half of the urban population. These slums, some of which are entirely composed of floating shacks and canoes, are at high risk of flooding as sea levels rise. Rising sea levels, another result of climate change in Nigeria, can cause erosion and contaminate freshwater. This damages Nigeria’s fishing industry, which feeds and employs many impoverished people. Inland areas of Lagos are also being inundated with refugees from coastal areas which have already been destroyed by flooding. As slum populations increase, living conditions become even more unhealthy and dangerous.

Agriculture

Many climate refugees in urban Nigeria come from inland, where conditions have made farming impossible for many poor families. Approximately 70% of Nigerians, many of whom live below the poverty line, rely on agriculture as their primary source of income. In 2018, thousands of people left the agricultural regions of northern Nigeria. They were displaced by droughts, food insecurity and “climate-related conflict.” According to a report from World Bank, the results of climate change in Nigeria such as rising temperatures and “erratic rainfall” could lead to a “20 to 30% reduction in crop yields.” Dust storms are also becoming more common and can significantly deplete topsoil layers. This can be crushing as these topsoil layers are crucial for successful farming. In addition to direct loss of income, poor agricultural yields will lead to food shortages. This harms Nigeria’s most vulnerable populations in both urban and rural areas.

What People Can Do

Although the climate crisis is already significantly impacting impoverished Nigerians, there are still possibilities for climate change mitigation and adaptation. A World Bank report called “Toward Climate-Resilient Development in Nigeria” outlines cost-effective strategies focused on increasing renewable energy generation and reducing agricultural and industrial pollution. One possible adaptation to climate change in Nigeria is a practice called “agroforestry.” This is where farmers plant trees around their crops and animal pastures, protecting them from increased temperatures and reducing topsoil depletion. This farm layout mimics a more natural landscape and can provide farmers with additional resources such as firewood. Additionally, it helps sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Agroforestry is gaining traction as an adaptation to climate change in Nigeria, and it could prove very useful in the future.

– Anneke Taylor
Photo: Wikimedia

Agroforestry Can Reduce Global PovertyForests provide food, medicine, fodder and energy for 250 million of the world’s extreme poor. If utilized properly, the method of agroforestry can reduce global poverty. The resources and benefits that forests can provide are often inaccessible to those in poverty due to the private ownership of forests.

Ownership of Forests

Approximately 77% of the world’s forests are owned and administered by governments that do not recognize the claims of indigenous peoples and local communities to the land. Since government priorities do not always align with community needs, the locals who need the forests to survive do not receive the benefits that they should. For example, the timber and ecotourism industries in Africa are skyrocketing but the locals do not share in the profits.

Agroforestry

Agroforestry, the agricultural practice of growing trees and shrubs around crops or pastureland, can ameliorate this problem. Agroforestry builds on existing agricultural land already owned by communities to create new forests not owned by the government, thereby circumventing the ownership problem and guaranteeing that profits remain in the community. Agroforestry systems are smaller in scale than typical forests but they still deliver many of the same positive results: they diversify production, restore soil fertility and increase biodiversity.

The benefits of agroforestry extend beyond environmental issues. Agroforestry can reduce global poverty by increasing food resources and security, improving nutrition and increasing profits for farmers.

3 Countries Using Agroforestry

  1. Bolivia uses agroforestry to reduce food insecurity. Bolivia is one of the biggest producers of organic cacao, which despite being edible, is not a major food crop. Cacao is grown mostly wild or in monocultures, though there is a growing shift to agroforestry systems where cacao trees are intercropped with shade trees and other by-crops like bananas and avocados. Over 75% of Bolivian households lack regular access to basic foods. Thanks to agroforestry, 40% of the population who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods can both produce more food and earn more money to buy what they do not grow. The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) found that the return on labor was double for agroforestry systems compared to monocultures even though the cacao yields were 40% higher in the monocultures. The revenue difference came from the sale of the by-crops, which offset the lower cacao yield. The by-crops helped farmers earn a profit but also represented a food source for the communities.

  2. Burkina Faso uses agroforestry as a means of women’s empowerment. The U.N. Development Program estimates that an average of three million African women work directly or indirectly with shea butter. Women have historically played an important role in the extraction of shea butter but they have not always been compensated for their work, even as the industry and profits grew. Agroforestry allows for more community involvement in farming, which in turn opens up opportunities for women. NGOs like CECI and WUSC help to train women in shea harvesting as part of the Uniterra project, which aims to get women involved in entrepreneurial ventures such as developing their own shea butter businesses for international exports. As a result of agroforestry, more women are empowered to take themselves out of poverty.

  3. India is a global leader in agroforestry policy. India was the first country to create a national agroforestry policy in 2014 despite existing policies that were unfavorable to agriculture, weak markets and a lack of institutional finance. The country set the ambitious goal of increasing national tree cover to 33% as a way to make agriculture more sustainable while optimizing its productivity. Agroforestry is currently in use on 13.5 million hectares in India but the government hopes to expand it to increase benefits like reducing poverty and malnutrition by tripling crop yields. Already, agroforestry provides 65% of the country’s timber and almost half of its fuelwood. Timber production on tree farms generates 450 employment days per hectare per year, which can reduce rural unemployment, and in turn, rural poverty.

The Potential of Agroforestry in Poverty Reduction

Many other rural communities in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia have relied on agroforestry throughout history, with and without government backing. As a whole, agroforestry is underused in the fight against global poverty. Nations with large agricultural sectors need to adopt agroforestry policies and promote the training needed to help farmers implement agroforestry on a large scale. These agroforestry efforts have the potential to significantly contribute to global poverty reduction.

– Brooklyn Quallen
Photo: Flickr

New Proposals for Development in Haiti
In an ambitious goal to help other nations help themselves and possibly shift the paradigm of foreign aid forever, Canadian aid worker Hugh Locke has started a forestry program aimed at fostering a sense of independence in the Haitian citizenry. Lock, critical of the current state of NGO and government involvement in projects, is employing his aptly titled “exit strategy aid” to change the scope of development in Haiti.

The country of Haiti, still emerging from the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy and previous natural disasters, has had no shortage of challenges involving their crippled infrastructure and forecasted food shortages. However, Lock, armed with his forestry background, noticed that the Caribbean nation was lacking key ecological resources and decided to embark upon a re-forestation program dependent upon native farmers to encourage development in Haiti. When questioned about the efficacy of such a program, Lock remarked: “A road that is built by donor money using foreign contractors is never going to be fully a part of the national transportation system,” before clarifying that such a project, because of its foreign ownership, would need foreign aid to maintain it, which is neither sustainable nor helpful to empowering local projects.

Lock, along with his Haitian counterpart Timote Georges, were able to bring together a group of farmers in a forestry cooperative whose primary goal is both the growth and sales of trees. The Haitian forests, a natural resource that once afforded certain energy and topsoil advantages, has since been stripped from much of the countryside, devastating crop and charcoal production levels.
Subsequently, by having farmers plant trees, Lock hopes to encourage greater internal participation in the development of Haiti. Thus, by establishing a strong ecological and agricultural foundation, the people of Haiti can look forward to a much brighter, more independent future for years to come.
– Brian Turner

Source: World News
Photo: Trees for the Future

agroforestry- big
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has presented a new guide for governments and NGOs to promote agroforestry, a farming practice that benefits both the farmers and the environment, ensuring food security in a sustainable way. Agroforestry involves planting trees with crop or livestock rearing, integrating agricultural and forestry technologies, which results in a more effective and sustainable use of land.

The FAO has suggested that agroforestry could alleviate poverty and urges countries to promote this practice. The nature of agroforestry requires coordination between various government sectors from development to agriculture and forestry. Because of the complex nature of methods of this practice, policies and legal constraints often inhibit it. In its guide, the FAO illustrates how agroforestry can be incorporated into policies, accommodating various specific environments.

The FAO guide advocates for raising awareness of the benefits of agroforestry, creating incentives, and reforming regulations that restrict or impede the practice. Using Costa Rica as an example of a success story, the FAO guide reveals how the country has planted more than 3.5 million trees on farms in less than a decade.

– Pimrapee Thungkasemvathana

Source: UN
Photo: World Agroforestry