Climate Change and the Struggles of Smallholder Farms
At a time when our world is battling with Climate change, the worry is no longer about the devastating effects human activities have had on our planet but on our own ability not only to mitigate the negative impacts of our activities on the environment but also our ability to adapt to the devastating effects currently affecting us and posing a serious threat to our own existence. It is a clear fact that the most vulnerable to these devastating effects of climate change are the poorest that are seemingly unaware of this threat.
As the planting season were around the corner in 2017, I called my father whose passion for farming and food production is unwavering to ask how they were doing with the planting season, surprisingly he told me they had tilted the farms but were still waiting for rains to do the planting, just like my dad, many more smallholder farmers are confused, ignorant and most especially suffer the greatest consequences on their daily livelihoods which is solely farming
According to a report by world Economic forum in 2016, 70% of Africans depend on Agriculture for their livelihood and further explains that agriculture is critical to the economies of all African countries. Out of this great number of people who depend on agriculture (farming) for their livelihoods, a great majority of this number are smallholder farmers that are mostly concentrated in the rural areas. Not only are these farmers most prone to the devastating effects of the changing climates, unpredictable weather patterns and fluctuating rainfalls but their ability to adapt to these change is becoming more and more of a challenge threatening food security amidst the rapid population increase.
In Cameroon, where these smallholder farmers are becoming more and more vulnerable day by day , crop yields are drastically dropping making their ability to maintain their livelihoods a serious challenge, poverty and hunger is more and more plausible amongst these farmers. Food security is a serious challenge not only to these small farmers but it is drastically affecting the economy. I talk to these local farmers every day, they are confused, weather patterns are unpredictable, they don’t know when to expect rain neither when to plant their crops, because of low yields, families are starving, the great majority of people who can work are been displaced, we need to do more!
Running an educating and awareness campaign on climate change for these smallholder farmers, I realized that more than 80% of these farmers didn’t understand what was even happening and how their own activities have contributed to the effects they are facing. Most of the times when discussions about climate change mitigation and adaptation plan and strategies are been developed at the regional ,national and even international levels, these smallholder farmers are not taken in to consideration or not given much attention, meanwhile their activities are indispensable in ensuring food security.
Education and awareness about climate change for these farmers is key to mitigation and adaptation. The government should put forth education programs, community based campaigns in any mitigation and adaptation plan or strategy. There should be cooperation and partnership between stakeholders, governments and private sector, local organizations and NGOs, community groups and local authorities not forgetting international organizations and partners. These are all the facets that constitute a strong integral part for an effective education system of the population and these smallholder farmers about climate change thereby enhancing a clear path and an effective ability to implement any climate change Adaptation plan at the level of these local farmers.
According to the National Adaptation Plan to climate change ( Plan National d’adaption aux changements climatique du Cameroon ) put forward by the Cameroon government, Enshrined in this plan is a set of strategy for adaptation in the field of agriculture( farming), considering the 5 ecologic zones of Cameroon and considering the situation of agriculture and smallholder farmers in most parts of the country, it is widely observed that the implementation of this adaptation plan is still at a dismal level, much still need to be done .A strong and effective monitoring and evaluation plan should be put in place because these smallholder farmers are the backbone to ensuring food security not only in their communities but in the whole country.
With the Advent of technology, innovation and technology can be put at the center of climate change adaptation and mitigation, Not only should cross-border research in this area be encouraged, more financing should be put in climate change research adaptation at both the local and national levels, Universities, organizations and development organizations and stakeholders including private companies and enterprises should all engage in innovative ways of not only mitigating climate change but also adaptation as it is key to ensuring food security and reducing the growing rate of hunger and poverty.
According to a report by World bank in 2014, 30.7% of rural populations in Cameroon are affected by food insecurity, in the North west region of Cameroon, more than 90% of the rural population are farmers and constitute the region with the greatest supply of food crops to the other part of the country, farmers are facing serious drop in their crop yields and there’s increasing rate of hunger and poverty amongst farmers whose livelihoods is farming.
In the Ndop plain of the Northwest region of Cameroon with 4 villages each possessing rivers lakes streams and or small dams constitute a great potential for irrigation during the dry season and amidst the intermittent rainfall periods which in itself is a strong adaptation method that can be used in these villages to effectively boost crop production amongst these smallholder farmers and to ensure food security and a continuous adaptation strategy in the phase of changing climates. Well planned and managed irrigation systems in these villages can also foster a year round cultivation (that is both in the dry and rainy season). Irrigation is a pivotal component in the mitigation and adaptation strategy for climate change in the domain of Agriculture (farming) , also more viable options in extremely dry areas should be employed like the use of water resistant crops (hardy crops) that can withstand extreme dry conditions especially with frequent droughts in most part of the country. To meet the food challenges of the constantly increasing population, these smallholder farmers who are at the center of food production should be fully equipped and well informed about adaptation strategies and farming methods that can foster increased food productivity amidst the changing climates.
According to an article by renowned scientist, scholar and researcher at Auburn University, Dr. Esther Ngumbi, in the United States where despite drought that has plagued the state of California for four years, farmers have continued to feed the U.S population by switching from thirsty crops to more hardy ones.
These and many more are the ways farmers are using to adapt to the changing climates and continuously maintaining high productivity and output thereby ensuring food security. While much needs to be done in the development and implementation of adaptation plans and strategies for climate change in the developing countries, Much attention and focus should be made on climate smart agriculture as it is the key to ensuring food security.