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CSDevNet strengthens Rural Farmers’ Adaptation to Climate Change for Resilience Building and Food Security

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The Gender and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative (GERI) in collaboration with the Climate and Sustainable Development Network (CSDevNet) organised a Town Hall Meeting in Benue State in commemoration of The Global Week of Climate Action on Tuesday, 28th November, 2023 at Benue Center for Enterprise Development and Innovation (BENCEDI), opposite Staff Development Center, Makurdi.

The Executive Director of GERI, Elizabeth Jeiyol, welcomed the participants and diligently outlined the background and objectives of the town hall meeting – with a broad explication on the effects of climate change in North-Central Nigeria including unpredictable rainfall, flooding, accelerated heat and increased temperature which disproportionately affect women and other vulnerable persons such as children, the elderly and persons with disabilities (PWDs).

Furthermore, she appreciated the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) and CSDevNet for their funding support and concerted efforts in building resilience against climate change in Africa.

Mrs. Jeiyol also called on the participants and stakeholders to actively participate in the meeting and brainstorm on ways to address the climate menace in communities across Benue State and North-Central Nigeria in general.

The National Network Coordinator of CSDevNet, who was ably represented by Mr. Umoru Ameh, the Finance and Admin Officer outlined the causes of climate change and suggested adaptation and mitigation measures to address adverse impacts of climate change in Benue and Nigeria’s north-central region in general.

Mr. Umoru also stated that climate variability and change have also forced seasonal or permanent migration of rural households in highly vulnerable areas.

Given the fact that many developing countries have no comprehensive plan for managing rural to urban migration, continuation of the current trend can cause a socio-economic crisis in urban areas (e.g. extensive poverty and unemployment, and increase of crimes).

Cross-section of participants

Therefore, to reduce the destructive effects of climate variability and change and ensure food security, it is imperative to enhance the resilience of rural households to weather extremes.

He urge for more empowerment both in capacity building training for farmers and financing to increase awareness among key stakeholders (State and non-stakeholders) including farmers’ associations and rural farmers about the specific impacts of climate change on agriculture.

Also to Facilitate understanding of local perspectives on climate challenges and collaboratively devise local adaptation strategies, articulate ongoing climate actions by the North-Central States actor and call on the States for accelerated agricultural adaptation towards ensuring food security in North-Central Nigeria.

He assured participants of CSDevNet and PACJA continued support of civil society organizations (CSOs) and individuals; and enjoined individuals, organisations and groups to register with CSDevNet.

GERI ED, Elizabeth Jeiyol introduced the Special Adviser to the Executive Governor of Benue State on Agriculture and Climate Change, Prof. Anjembe Bemgba Christian, and lauded the progress being made in Benue State regarding climate change governance – specifically with the renaming of the water resources ministry as the Benue State Ministry of Water Resources, Environment and Climate Change; and the appointment of a special adviser on agriculture and climate change – which according to her, goes to show the overall commitment of the administration of Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Iormem Alia, PhD towards effective climate governance in the state.

The Special Adviser to the Executive Governor of Benue State on Agriculture & Climate Change, Prof. Anjembe Bemgba Christian, appreciated GERI, CSDevNet and PACJA for organizing the town hall meeting in Benue State and called on stakeholders to continue working together in the fight against climate change.

He also explained the effects of climate change on crops; as well as human activities such as cutting down of trees, Clay mining, Bush Burning which are the major challenges in Benue State and North central, and pledged to register with the coalition to be actively involved in activities against climate change in Benue State and beyond.

Furthermore, Prof. Anjembe stated that Benue State is open to synergize with both local and international organizations to address climate change in the state; and pledged on behalf of the Benue State Government of their total support for climate action and related programmes and projects in the state.

Representative of Prof. Moses Ogbaji, Honourable Commissioner, Benue State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Makurdi, Nigeria, also appreciated the work of GERI  in the state civil society space and for also getting collaboration with some very important National platform and international platform like CSDevNet and PACJA and briefly explained the role of the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources in the state – encompassing aspects of climate change governance.

Special Adviser to the Executive Governor of Benue State on Agriculture & Climate Change, Prof. Anjembe Bemgba Christian

He revealed that by 2024, farmers in Benue State will have access to improved seeds, fertilizer and extension services; as the ministry is currently working on a collaboration with the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) to train divisional agriculture officers on weather prediction and information-sharing across the 23 local government areas (LGAs) of Benue State.

He further revealed that the ministry is working on a detailed soil map for the state including distinct soil characteristics of the 23 LGAs; and called women farmers to be proactive in sharing information amongst themselves.

Representative of Rt. Hon. Terkimbi Ikyange, Honourable Commissioner, Benue State Ministry of Youths, Sport and Creativity, Mr. Fidelis Igbana, appreciated the organizers of the town hall meeting and called on stakeholders to work together in addressing the issue of post-harvest losses in Benue State; which is largely due to adverse impacts of climate change and lack of knowledge on crop preservation. He said the commissioner is ready to collaborate and work with key stakeholder to end climate crisis in the North Central State.

Representative of Hon. Ugwu Odoh, Honourable Commissioner, Benue State Ministry of Water Resources, Environment and Climate Change, Makurdi, Nigeria, Mary Seember Ugboho, gave a broad overview of the mandate of the ministry and encourage the total implementation and adoption of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) as an adaptation strategy against climate change.

Furthermore, she called on farmers to harvest rainwater and plant trees to curb the impact of climate change – while calling on stakeholders to work together through forums to drive climate action in Benue State.

Representative of Hon. Anna Itodo, Honourable Commissioner, Benue State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Makurdi, Nigeria, Mrs. Magdalene Andoor, spoke on the impact of climate change on women.

She stated that women are more vulnerable to overall impacts of climate change, such as food insecurity; and called on stakeholders to continue designing and implementing programmes to address these impacts.

Mr. Tersoo Akor, Representative of Prof. Moses Ogbaji, Honourable Commissioner, Benue State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Makurdi, Nigeria

Special Adviser to the Executive Governor of Benue State on Special Need, Bem Anshe, appreciated the organizers of the town hall meeting and spoke on the adverse impacts of climate change on agriculture.

Mr. Anshe also decried the lack of information on climate change in Benue State and emphasized the need for stakeholders to always factor in the needs of PWDs in climate change programming in Benue State.

A spokesman, Prof. Agada in his message, explained the advantages of beneficial soil microbes in performing fundamental functions such as nutrient cycling, breaking down crop residues, and stimulating plant growth.

He also underlined the merits of sustainable agriculture and called on farmers to reduce the use chemical fertilizers as they affect plant life and adversely terminate soil microorganisms.

As part of the town hall meeting, a panel consisting of representatives from smallholder female farmers, academia, NGOs and CBOs working with smallholder farmers, youths, and the media.

The panel presentation was kick-started by Mr. Tavershima Richard Ugoo who harped on the importance of agronomic practices on food security and crop lifespan. Mr. Ugoo also gave a profound explanation on the importance of building resilience and the need for farmers to have knowledge on seeds before planting.

Furthermore, Mr. Ugoo explained the difference between grains and seeds – with the former for consumption and the latter for planting. He outlined the benefits of organic fertilizer and the need for synergy-building between MDAs and farmers; as well as the need to always employ the services of agronomists.

The Executive Director of Jessy Ojoma Drive for Environmental Development Foundation (JODED-F), Mrs. Martha Akoje, emphasized the importance of good agronomic practices in building resilience against climate change impacts starting from choice of land, care for stems and seedlings, transportation of stems/seedlings, pre-emergent spraying and the need for women and men to form groups and acquire farmlands where the good agronomic practices will be employed.

Mrs. Akoje also stressed the need to provide farmers with knowledge about climate-smart agriculture techniques, weather forecasts, soil conservation techniques, and water management practices to adapt to changing climatic conditions.

She further called on stakeholders to ensure adequate access to information and the need to work closely with NiMet to access weather forecasts.

She concluded by advocating for policies that promote climate-resilient farming practices and called on government to provide subsidies for adopting climate-smart technologies; access to insurance schemes and the need to establish community gardens, seed banks and forming of farmer cooperatives.

Women group

Patrick Ayila Ukange, representative of the Head of Department (HOD) Geography at the Benue State University, Makurdi, spoke on the need to approach agriculture as a business and stated that in order to survive in the business of agriculture, farmers must first and foremost acquire the right knowledge.

Mr. Ukange further explained to need for adaptation and mitigation against climate change impacts by farmers – by employing measures such as planting of high-yield crops.

He stressed the need for extension workers in farming communities and underlined the importance of irrigation agriculture as a counter-practice of Nigeria’s overdependence on rain-fed agriculture. In her response, ED GERI, Elizabeth Jeiyol, emphasized the importance of mapping all climate change programmes in the Department of Geography.

Mr. Victor Asobo, Programme Manager, Agro-Climatic Resilience in Semi-Arid Landscapes (ACReSAL) explained the work of ACReSAL as a World Bank assisted Project aimed at addressing the challenges of land degradation and climate change in Northern Nigeria on a multi-dimensional scale.

He also called on farming communities to form cooperatives to enhance their access to ACReSAL interventions; and emphasized the need for climate-smart agriculture in Benue State and north-central Nigeria in general.

Mr. Samuel Nyikyaa, Programme Officer, ELIM Christian Vocational Training Center, thanked the panelists for doing justice to key topics of discussion and explained the work of ELIM Christian Vocational Training Center in Benue State – specifically a pilot project in Gwer-West and Konshisha LGAs.

Mr. Nyikyaa also emphasized the need to educate women, persons with disabilities (PWDs) and youth on impacts of climate change; and the importance to reaching out and educating communities in the native languages.

The ELIM Programme Officer concluded by stating the need for tree-planting to build a resilient future to ensure food security in Benue State.

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Mr. Salemfan Kenneth Iorhemen, a student participant from the Benue State University, Makurdi, in his reaction, appreciated the organizers and admitted that he has learnt a lot from the discussions and implored that people in rural areas should always be engaged to effectively drive down climate change messages to rural communities.

Members of the Small Scale Women Farmers Organization in Nigeria (SWOFON) led by Mrs. Rita Iorer, individually reacted by appreciating GERI, CSDevNet and PACJA for organizing the town hall meeting and called on stakeholders to create awareness on climate change impacts in rural areas and stated that events such as town hall meetings should not only be organized in urban centres but rural areas as well. SWOFON also raised the issue of dangers associated with herbicides in rural areas.

Reverend Sister Justina Jor, PhD, opined that since there are no readily available alternatives for women and rural dwellers to access climate-smart fuels for cooking and sustenance, implementation of climate change adaptation and mitigation measures should provide alternative fuels for women and rural dwellers whose livelihoods are solely reliant on deforestation.

In his response, Mr. Victor Asobo outlined the smart measures being innovated to solve the problem of alternative fuels in communities across Benue State and beyond such as briquettes made from combustible biomass materials such as sawdust.

GERI ED, Elizabeth Jeiyol, in her closing remarks, appreciated the participants and dignitaries for gracing the town hall meeting and also gave a broad recap of the event. The meeting ended with group photographs.

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