‘The weather keeps playing tricks’: living on the frontline of global heating

12th November, 2021.      //   General Interest  // 

Daharu Isah on his farm in Gusau, Nigeria.

I knew farming through my father, as a child. I worked closely with him, alongside my siblings, in his rice, soya bean and maize fields at Gidan Kado, a farming community on the outskirts of Gusau, the capital city of Zamfara state, north-west Nigeria.

When I was a child, I had big dreams of being a farmer. I felt I would take after my father and improve his standards when he retired. In those days, the farms had enough rain, were even waterlogged occasionally. There were labyrinths of streams that survived till the dry season, when our farms needed irrigation. There were pastures, too, for the sheep and cattle, enough for pastoralists.

My eyes have seen strange changes to these conditions. The rains came sparingly; the streams have all dried up. As a farmer, knowing the possible patterns of the weather is crucial. It guided my farming, planning and planting.

Today, however, I have lost that control and certainty regarding the weather. In fact, the weather keeps playing tricks on me and other farmers. This year, for example, I might incur a huge loss on my rice farm because the rain abruptly stopped a month ago, instead of in November. The rice hasn’t matured.

I don’t speak for myself alone: other farmers suffer, too, and a lot of my friends have left farming. The streams around the farms have vanished, so I can’t do irrigation. In fact, not all portions of my farms are arable. Some have become so dry and hardened that they can’t support the growth of any crops. The yield of this farm has dropped by more than 50%, from producing more than 40 bags to fewer than 20.

This is not a small matter. My resilience is running out. My labours in the farms are increasingly unrewarded owing to low yield.

My feeling is that almighty God is punishing humanity through climate change because of our attitude towards him. When man disobeys God, there will be calamity, and climate change is one of those calamities. If we can come to him in repentance, he will reverse climate change.

For now, I have embraced new solutions. I have increased the use of fertilisers and pesticide to cut down on losses. Yet fertilisers and pesticides have not solved all the problems. Crop yields have continued to decline. There may not be food for the world in the future, with this pattern and this defeat. I am contemplating quitting farming already, because my income is rarely enough to cover my family’s living costs.

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