Notes from the field: the chronicles of sensitivity to LICCI among rural farmers in Southwestern Nigeria

During October and December 2019, the LICCI partner Ayansina Ayanlade and colleagues – Isaac A. Oluwatimilehin and Godwin Atai – started to implement the LICCI protocol among rural farmers in the states of Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ogun and Kwara in Southwestern Nigeria. The team worked to identify the sensitivities of rural farmers to climate change impacts and the choice of adaptation strategies in farming communities. The selected settlements were crop and livestock farming communities for the past century – Oko, Otamokun, and Ilora in Oyo state, Akinlalu, Odemuyiwa and Erefe in Osun state, Ijare, Ibule Soro and Owena in Ondo state; Onibode, Kobape and Odeda in Ogun state; and Ogbondoroko, Shao and Omupo in Kwara state. The selection of the field sites is based on the AIMS research project based in the Department of Geography, Obafemi Awolowo University, although, the reports from two major states are presented here.

Otamokun and Ilora in Oyo state are predominantly smallholder farmers communities who cultivate both tuber and cereal crops such as cassava, maize, rice, millet, sorghum among several others. But, Ijare, and Owena in Ondo State are predominantly farmers largely involved in tree crops like cocoa, coffee, rubber, and palm production. The sites generally fall within tropical wet and dry climate of Koppen’s climate classification dominated by two seasons which are the rainy and dry seasons.

In each farming community, farmers were interviewed individually through Semi-Structured Interview (SSI) and collectively through Focus Group Discussion (FGD). The fieldwork at this stage aims to: (1) explore the history of the study site in relation to changes in the climate and activities of the local people such as agricultural activities; and (2) to assess their perception of climate change and how their farming/cropping activities have been threatened by climate change in recent years.

Farmers during FGD

During the SSI and FGD, the majority of farmers stated that they perceived changes in the climate system including “increase in the annual temperature and reduction in the amount of rainfall in both early and late growing seasons”. Generally, the elders among the rural farmers claimed that “there have been changes in the onset of the rainy season which is now delaying the planting time, and cropping seasons are now shortened as planting dates are no longer fixed because of changes associated with weather events”. What is obvious from the SSI and FGD is that the majority of farmers reported that

the climate now is by far different from what we used to have in the past. Climate change has resulted in changes in the biophysical environment, poor yielding of crops as a result of change associated with a reduction in rainfall, attack of pests and diseases. Some pests not known in back the years are now prominent, crops planted in the past are not as productive as they used to be, even cropping trees is no longer sustainable”.

Scientific papers report that income significantly determines climate change adaptation strategies and in this case, the majority of farmers live below the poverty level, with monthly incomes less than $ 100. Therefore, we have little understanding of what motivates rural households to adapt to climate change, and how to link smallholder farmers’ climate change adaptation decisions with their local knowledge about climate change. This will be the focus in the next stage of this research and more results will be presented soon.