From Walter Ukaegbu, Abuja
The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (Nimet) 2017 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP) may have come and gone, but the predictions and takeaways would still be remembered and felt all over the country, especially the northern part of the country, which includes Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
Nimet had predicted that normal to early onset, early cessation of rains in the northern part of the country would result in shorter than normal length of growing season, which now is real in Abuja, where it has been difficult to have serious rains.
Instead there have been strong winds that blow dust onto houses and roads. This has been in line with the agency’s prediction that said this scenario would affect the rainfall amount negatively as below-normal rainfall has already been witnessed in several states in the North, Abuja inclusive.
The result is that rain-fed agricultural production in the northern region this year needed to be supported with irrigation for the farmers to get good yields, apart from the provision of good seeds, fertilizer and other inputs.
Nimet also stated that the expected below-normal rainfall would pose a challenge to enhanced food production, and the federal government policy on agriculture and food security as a business towards foreign exchange earnings.
Government, Nimet advised should take the predictions seriously to enable it meet its projections in the current policy. This includes the achievement of self-sufficiency in basic food supply and food security, increased production of agricultural raw materials for industries, increased production and processing of export crops, using improved production and processing technologies, job creation within the agricultural value chain and improvement in the quality of life of citizens particularly rural dwellers resulting in poverty eradication. The predicted shorter length of the growing season this year would also pose a challenge for farmers who desire to cultivate crops such as maize and other cereals twice during the season unless they choose the appropriate variety and undertake water-catchment measures.
Nimet advised that rainwater storage should be encouraged during the rainy season to enable its availability during the dry season and support farming during the dry season later in the year.
Over the years the SRP has been shown to contain veritable weather and climate-related hazards, leading to increased productivity. Dr Ifeyinwa Nnamchi, who works in one of the federal ministries, disclosed that Nimet predictions would affect the agricultural products while there would be famine and reduced harvest. She said the meningitis witnessed in some of the northern states was because of the excessive heat.
Nnamchi called on the federal government to strengthen irrigation in the northern states or construct more dams to assist farmers.
She also noted that there has been high rate of sun burn diseases while the prediction would affect farmers’ income, resulting in malnutrition and slow economic growth.
Mr. Uchenna Ifeonu, director, Creative Minds Computer School, Abuja, stated that the situation in the area would result in unfriendly weather and would affect the prices and consumption of foodstuff, while there would not be enough food, and cereals like maize that are harvested between May and June would be scarce.
Ifeonu opined that the shortage of rainfall would lead to heat, more so now that electricity has been inconsistent. This he said would cause health hazards.
Also, Barr. Davies Nwarungwa said poor rainfall would give rise to poor vegetation, less productivity in agriculture, hunger and unemployment because people are usually employed when there is bountiful harvest. He explained that it would also subject children to ailments. However, since government cannot control weather, he advised that the authorities can come up with measures like irrigation to boost agriculture and there could be subsidies for food production by granting farmers facilities, as well as vaccinating children against diseases such as meningitis.