Promoting climate smart rice farming

Nigeria’s quest to reduce rice import is being challenged by erratic weather. Adopting climate-smart rice agriculture approach is one way farmers are learning to adapt to the changing weather to sustain crop productivity, DANIEL ESSIET writes.


Like other countries, climate change is affecting food production in Nigeria. One group of farmers facing the challenge is rice growers. In the North, there are two rice planting periods – wet and dry seasons. Farmers need water to flood their farmland before planting. Seedlings flourish well in water. They need water to ensure that the plants neither dry out or rot.

Experts said it takes 3,000 and 5,000 litres of water to grow one kilogramme of rice.

According to them, this will enable the grain to mature within three months. But in many areas where rice is grown, climate change is causing erratic rainfall.

Speaking with The Nation, the Chairman, Kebbi Rice Farmers Association, Alhaji Sahadi Augie, said farmers in the North faced water supply challenges in dry and wet farming seasons.

This year, he noted that there was no sufficient rainfall to sow the fields. As climate change continues, rice farmers have a longer window for growing rice.

He told The Nation that they had two harvest times but climate change was impacting on their activities. According to him, farmers are facing an enormous challenge adapting to emerging climate variability.

Augie supports schemes on adaptation to climate change. A few rice farmers have migrated from flood irrigation to drip irrigation which saves nutrients and water in the wake of recurring droughts.

For the founder/Chief Executive, Kereksuk Rice Farm, in Nassarawa State, Rotimi Williams, adaptating to climate change is no longer an option, but essential for minimising crop losses.

He added that the key to future food security was to use technologies that adapt to emerging climatic variability.

Williams explained: “Typically, when it comes to the wet season, we rely on rainfall. For the dry season, we use irrigation. But this year, we had to go through a period of three weeks without rain. We had to change approach. We are treating dry and wet season the same way. We are going to create an irrigation system for dry and wet seasons.”

He added: “The constraint is that only corporate farmers will achieve this. The rural farmers can barely deal with it. They can’t find water during dry season because they can’t afford irrigation. They are going to suffer more when there is no rain.”

His approach to climate-smart rice farming is holistic. These include better rice variety, irrigation, proper use of input and everything that makes the difference to the farmer.

Williams has explored all the services that help rice farmers cope with low soil fertility and changing weather patterns, including unfriendly rainfall and dry spells.

From developing varieties of rice that are resilient to drought and flooding to obtaining data on farm conditions, experts said the rice sector needed a system that could respond to changing climate.

A former Dean, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), Prof Abiodun Adeloye, belongs to this school of thought. He maintained that climate change was having a negative impact on rice farming through extreme temperatures, frequent flooding and droughts.

He said there was an urgent need to find ways to meet the challenges,  noting that flooding was becoming more frequent such that farmers need varieties that are resistant. He said enhanced varieties could withstand flooding and drought.

At this point in food production, Adeloye said it was critical for farmers to be trained to use weather and Climate-smart Agriculture Advisory Service (CSAAS) for timely and rice specific information for informed crop management decisions.

He said climate-smart rice farming required using climate data, planting dates and weather forecasts, obtained through the meteorological agency.

This, Adeloye noted, would not only help farmers to survive challenges but also improve the resilience of rice production systems to climate change.

For him, Nigeria is not self-sufficient inrice and other staples. He noted that there was a considerable food supply gap that has repercussions for the economy.

Improving farmers’ livelihood

This year, Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), conceived by the United Nations and the International Rice Research Institute to increase production in a sustainable way, was shortlisted for a $100 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation, for improving the livelihoods of 500,000 rice farmers while reducing environmental impacts.

The multi-stakeholder alliance comprises 100 public, private and civil society organisations, and promotes resource-use efficiency and climate change resilience on farm and throughout the rice value chain.

SRP projects have reached 500,000 rice farmers across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, with notable results, including a 10 per cent increase in farmers’ income, 20 per cent savings in water use and 50 per cent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.The goal is to reach one million farmers by 2023.

Responding to the announcement, Olam co-founder and Group Chief Executive Officer Sunny Verghese said: “With the SRP Standard for Sustainable Rice Cultivation, we have a definition and proven model for sustainable rice. Together with our partners, Olam is aiming to bring 150,000 rice farmers in our Asia and Africa supply chains under the standard by 2023 and we’ll be monitoring the impact through our sustainable sourcing tool, At Source. Yet, this is a drop in the ocean when we consider the millions of rice-farming households around the world, so this prize funding holds an extremely exciting opportunity for the sector to scale up action and re-imagine global rice markets.”

The Vice President, Rice Research and Sustainability at Olam and SRP Executive Board member, Paul Nicholson, added: “We also recognise that to truly transform global rice markets, the sustainable rice produced will need take-up. This is where we look down the supply chain to retailers, who can use SRP as a procurement standard and engage with banks and insurers to incentivise farmers who produce rice sustainably. They can lead this change and, in turn, help grow, as well as meet, the demand for sustainable rice.”

Financing climate-smart rice production

A report by Earth Security Group (ESG) found that innovative finance solutions are needed to unlock private sector finance for climate-smart rice production with significant impact on global food security and climate resilience.

ESG’s new report entitled: ‘Financing Sustainable Rice for a Secure Future’ proposes three innovative finance solutions to support sustainable rice production in line with the Paris Agreement climate targets. The report is produced in collaboration with global action partners: the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), the leading food and agribusiness company Phoenix, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

The proposed finance solutions include a ‘rice bond’ to finance sustainable rice value chains taking advantage of 2020 being a key year for the growth of green bonds in the agriculture sector, as highlighted by the Climate Bonds Initiative. A rice bond would enable a global rice processor, trader, or retailer to provide farmers with capital to transition to sustainable production, improve farming practices, increase yields and revenue, and become more resilient to climate risks.

The report presents the outcome of Earth Security Group’s work to catalyse innovative finance mechanisms that enable agribusiness, banks, investors, and global climate finance to create new ways of harnessing private sector investment to scale up sustainable rice production.



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