How do Nigerian farmers understand climate change?

Two men harvesting pineapple in Nigeria. The study investigated climate variations and Nigerian farmers' perceptions of climate change. Photo: T. Sunderland (CIFOR)
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Jun 8, 2017

by

Lili Szilagyi (CCAFS)

Study investigates farmers' perceptions of climate change and their choice of adaptation methods

Scientists have been greatly concerned about the potential impacts of climate change on agriculture, and about the impacts, adaptation and mitigation strategies of farmers in Africa. In a recently published article, scientists from the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) East Africa, and the Department of Geography at Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria, investigated the perception, knowledge level, attitudes, and understanding of farmers regarding climate change in some farming communities in Southwestern Nigeria. 

Using qualitative and quantitative methods, the study collected information from farmers, including their demographic characteristics, the crops they cultivate, their perceived changes in climate, and climate change impacts they have experienced over time.

The study found that the majority of farmers note changes in the patterns of rainfall and temperature. For example, when asked if they had noticed a general temperature increase over the last 15 years, about 68.9% farmers answered “yes”, 23% answered “no” while 6.6% responded ‘not sure’.

As for adaptation to climate change and extreme weather events, the results show that majority of the farmers engaged in new planting patterns, with adjustment of the planting date to the climatic events. The results from the interviews show that the range of adaptation methods employed by the farmers is influenced by the extent of the farmers’ experience, income, and access to extension services.

The results from this study suggest that to determine farmers' perception and climate change adaptation strategies, the length of farming experience, income and age are important factors, which help to understand the real scenarios. The major finding of this study is that majority of farmers received little support from the government; this puts farmers in a difficult situation and forces them to rely on savings and intervention from friends and family during crop failure.

The authors conclude that there is a need for agricultural reformation, including better government policies that provide more financial aid to farmers during and after crop loss due to climate change. Above all, farmers should be encouraged to plant drought resistant varieties of crops in areas which are susceptible to water shortages and dry spells. This can be achieved by improving local research which can lead to the breed of appropriate drought resistant seed varieties.

Read the study: Climate variability/change and attitude to adaptation technologies: a pilot study among selected rural farmers’ communities in Nigeria