Strengthening food production in riverine communities
This project aims to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in three riverine communities across the Southern Ijaw and Nembe Local Government Areas of Bayelsa State, by supporting growth in their incomes and businesses, and protecting them from shocks such as climate change.
Climate change and oil pollution contribute to challenging conditions for agricultural production in these communities, increasing the risk of food insecurity and further inflating the rates of unemployment. This project targets communities living in the coastal riverine areas as they are particularly vulnerable to crop losses due to increased flooding from sea-level rise or erratic and extreme weather associated with climate change. Resilience among these communities to crop losses is then frustrated by limited access to, or awareness of, financial support.
This project seeks to reduce crop losses by working with small-scale farmers to develop climate-smart agricultural practices, in collaboration with the Bayelsa Ministry of Agriculture and Agricultural Development Programme. Where crop losses do occur, this project aims to bolster local resilience by facilitating access to financial services that support farmers’ recovery. SDN uses an inclusive and gender-sensitive community-led participatory approach, with at least 60% of the 6,000 farmers we aim to reach being women. The benefits of this approach will be felt long after the project funding comes to an end.
This project aims to support a reduction in losses and bolster the resilience of 300 farmers and small agriculture and aquaculture businesses through improved climate-smart agricultural practices and increased access to financial services.
- Conduct baseline research into existing links between small scale business owners and financial institutions to inform training and support smallholder farmers to make applications for financial support.
- Engagement with financial institutions and the Bayelsa State government to secure commitment and support for strategies to improve access to loans for small farmers and business owners in riverine communities.
- Organise and deliver classroom and field-based knowledge sharing on climate-smart technologies to expand on the local expertise of those involved in rice farming and aquaculture. The training will include improving value chains and navigating finance to increase resilience.
- Raise awareness of climate smart agricultural practices and finance through radio broadcasts and social media to reach around a quarter of the farming population.
A large proportion of the estimated 44,000 people who live within the three riverine communities targeted in this project depend on a livelihood in agriculture and aquaculture for food and income. Women dominate small scale farming here, where production challenges often compound, and are compounded by, barriers relating to gender inequalities and constricting social norms.
Climate change impacts can contribute to production challenges for farmers and small agriculture and aquaculture businesses in the riverine communities of Southern Ijaw and Nembe Local Government Areas of Bayelsa State. Impacts associated with climate change include flooding from sea level rise, tidal surge, and erratic rainfall. Most households in riverine communities rely on traditional farming methods, local varieties of seeds and other agricultural inputs, and fishing methods for their agricultural production. However, these traditional practices can struggle to adapt to climate change and pollution risks (including decades of oil spill pollution), resulting in low agricultural yield and income. Inefficient production systems, lack of storage and post-harvest loss, and lack of access to financial and insurance services, agricultural inputs, and markets are some of the major challenges in these communities. This reduces the viability and attractiveness of the predominant livelihood in the area, contributing to unemployment in the region.
Following the spread of Covid-19 and associated lockdowns, SDN surveys in the Niger Delta found that 71% of respondents had seen a drastic reduction in their incomes by May 2020. There have been dramatic rises in already high unemployment rates, which particularly affect women and young people. Combined with a period of lower oil prices and production levels which the Nigerian economy is heavily dependent on, Covid-19 is likely to have a significant long-term economic and social impact. This includes pushing more young people into illicit economic activities which fuel crime, violence, and environmental damage, such as piracy and the artisanal oil industry.
The triple challenge of climate change, environmental pollution, and Covid-19 measures threatens viability of agricultural production in these communities, increasing the risk of food insecurity, and escalating economic tension and unemployment.
Prevention of crop losses through climate smart agriculture, and enhancing the attractiveness of agriculture through improving the value-chain is key, but where crop losses do occur access to financial services can bolster livelihood resilience. Government and non-governmental initiatives have been focusing largely on better-off upland areas, rather than riverine locations. One of the reasons for this is the physical ease of access and security concerns that create comparatively high implementation costs. Similarly, a small number of local small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) have also been able to access funding under the Federal government post-COVID-19 household loan of N500,000 and an SME loan of N5 million through the Federal Ministry of Finance. However, these are not available in all the communities, such as in Nembe or Igbomotoru where there is an urgent need for access to financial services and improved climate smart farming practices.
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