Small-scale farmers at the Bmuko Community in Bwari Area Council of Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), have continued to lament how climate change is affecting Banana production and impacting their children’s education.
Mr. Liberty Oseni, the Coordinator of MAWA Foundation, under the organization’s “Community Voice Project” led a team of journalists and researchers to the community for interviews on Climate Change and environmental safety.
The community which is located about one kilometre at the right-hand side on the entrance from Tipper Garage along Dutse Alhaji – Bwari road, is a Banana plantation owned by small-scale farmers.
In different interviews, the 13 local farmers who spoke to MAWA Foundation recounted how in the past, they made huge revenues from Banana plantations. But, however, said in the last five years they have been facing a huge decline in production. A development of 10 out of the farmers attributed to the handwork of witches and wizards and three attributed it to the impact of climate change.
Lamenting the development, Mr. Dauda Umar, one of the local farmers said between 2018 to 2022 when the Chinese company intensified its mining operations in the community, Banana production decreased massively.
According to Umar, about four years after the Chinese company commenced operation in the community, they suddenly realized that their Banana plantations were turning yellow leaves, and production was marginally reduced.
Narrating the development, Umar said at first they taught it was pests, but when it continued, they engaged an Agricultural Extension practitioner who told them it was as a result of Climate Change and advised they stop Banana plantation because both the lands and environment have been contaminated and not fit for arable farming anymore.
“At first we taught it was pests, but when we engaged an Agric Extension expert, he told us the lands and environment has been contaminated and not fit for arable farming, we were shocked when he told us Climate Change is responsible,” Umar said.
A situation the local farmers said is difficult because they do not have other lands, and have no financial capacity to purchase lands for farming purposes in places like FCT where grounds are very expensive and can only be afforded by the rich.
Two of the Banana farmers told MAWA that the Agric Extension expert explained to them that hot temperatures that come together by increased dryness of the air, place huge stress on the Banana during fruit development resulting in lower yields.
Seven of the farmers told MAWA that a massive decrease in their Banana yield, has a huge consequence on their income and that has made it impossible for them to fund their children’s education.
Mrs. Zainab, popularly known as Mamma Aisha in the community, disclosed that she relies solely upon her Banana plantation to fund her family’s needs, including education. But, however, said since they are facing a huge decline in production as a result of climate change, she is finding it difficult to generate income. And, that has forced her to withdraw three of her kids from school.
“At first in 2020, I asked my first daughter to leave school thinking there will be an improvement in the Banana yields, but from 2021 and 2022, the situation becomes more terrible, making income generation very difficult. I had no option but to ask the remaining two to stay at home and forget about schooling for now while we work hard and see if we can find food to eat and be alive”, Zainab told MAWA team.
Worse still, in the interview conversations, MAWA found a huge knowledge gap around Climate Change among farmers. Nine out of the 13 farmers that were interviewed say they have not heard about Climate Change but rather attribute the poor Banana yield to the handwork of witches and wizards and have resorted to prayers as a way to finding a solution.
“I am hearing Climate Change for the first time, we know, witches and enemies are behind our poor Banana yield, we will deal with them spiritually using prayers” Paiko, a farmer told MAWA team.
Mr. Kunle Agbadun, a soil scientist and environmental communication expert, in an interview, attributed the poor Banana yield in the community to Climate Change. He accused a Chinese Company mining minerals in the community of being responsible for a vast percentage of environmental destruction that is affecting farmers and residents.
According to Agbadun, before the Chinese Company began mining in the area, the community enjoyed a good environmental atmosphere with the farmers having arable farmlands for their crops. A situation he said no longer exists because of the operations by the Chinese company that has contributed hugely to Climate Change and destroyed the environment.
Agbadun, in an angry tone, told MAWA that Bmuko is not the only community in FCT that suffers the impact of Climate Change and huge environmental degradation. He pointed out that there are communities in Kuje and Gwagwalada that are suffering the huge impact of Climate Change and environmental injustice as a result of forest deforestation and mining.
“If you know FCT well, there are communities in Kuje and Gwagwalada suffering the huge impact of Climate change as a result of mining, forest deforestation, and others. And, in the midst of all these, the government doesn’t care” Agbadun said.
A senior official of the Nigeria Ministry of Environment who spoke to the MAWA Foundation and wants his identity concealed, accused the Nigerian government of not doing any tangible thing to protect the people from Climate Change and environmental hazards.
The official pointed out that the Nigerian state has shown commitment to addressing Climate Change through the introduction of the Climate Change Act and the establishment of the National Council on Climate Change.
He, however, expressed fears that the Council is likely to go in the direction of other agencies established by the state to address public interest issues that ended up being a conduit pipe to siphon public resources using them as compensation for the political boys.
MAWA Foundation could not immediately reach out to the government to hear their perspective as efforts made to speak to the Department of Climate Change in the Ministry of Environment were not unsuccessful.