Why Climate Change may favour Food Production

Nigeria has had and keeps having its fair share of global warming-driven climate change with some parts of the country experiencing extreme droughts and some experiencing massive flooding. The interesting thing is that this unpredictability of climate may be beneficial to some parts of the country in terms of food production, even though climate change has been largely discussed in a negative light.

We are a country located within the tropics with a distinct rainy and dry season. The standard is that the rainy seasons last for 8 to 10 months starting March, peaking around June, and lasting till November while the dry season takes between 3 to 4 months starting rounding November/December and peaking in February.

For a country whose livelihood of the majority of her populace still depends directly or indirectly on agriculture, a little change in the standard climate usually have a profound effect on the economy brought about by effects on agriculture, especially food production. Usually, agricultural food production activities relating to most annual crops start at the peak of the dry season. Then, farmers start clearing bushes and tilling lands in preparation for the growing season. Once the rainy season starts, Planting begins with crops that complete their life cycles within a few months before the rain peaks.

Some crops like maize are planted twice within the rainy season with the first planting done as early as March and the second just after the rainy season peaked in July. The life cycle of maize ranges from 2 to 3 months depending on the breed. Some crops also require a period of low soil water before they can germinate. For example, yam seeds will not germinate in the presence of too much water.

A small-scale farmer at work. By Oxfam East Africa - CC BY 2.0

Why Climate Change may Boost Food Production

In the southwestern part of the country where I reside, the rainy season has been unusual with consistent downpouring. Ordinarily, this should have been a problem but the phenomenon has been followed by adequate sunlight and high temperature that seems to evaporate the water in little or no time. Hence, the issue of the soil being flooded hardly arises.

More important is the fact that the atmosphere is saturated with carbon dioxide from both anthropological and natural sources. When a combination of adequate water, light/relative high temperature, and adequate carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is considered, the perfect recipe for optimal photosynthesis is complete.

6CO2 + 6H2O + Light -----> C6H12O6 + 6O2

Nigeria is generally blessed with fertile, arable land. Hence, other factors for optimal photosynthesis such as soil nutrients should not be a problem. I am not saying that plants might be able to carry out unlimited photosynthesis, however, they might be able to photosynthesize and produce more than what we consider a norm due to these conditions.

The success of any agricultural practice relating to crop production depends solely on the primary productivity of plants. The product of photosynthesis in plants is used to synthesize other products require to build structural tissues of leaves, stems, roots, flowers, and fruits. Hence, the more a plant can photosynthesize, the more of these organs it will produce.

Apart from increased primary productivity, the consistency in precipitation has also increased the number of times some crops such as maize are planted in a single season. Normally, what farmers are used to is planting maize twice in a season - rainy and dry season maize. However, with the consistency in rainfall, many farmers have already planted maize thrice this year with the 3rd harvest on the horizon. If this kind of climatic pattern continues every year, there is no doubt that food production would experience a significant boost in the Southwestern part of Nigeria. Of course, this assertion assumes that other factors are constant.

On a final note, the Southwestern part of Nigeria might not be the only part of the world that would experience changes to its climate that tend to favour agricultural crop production. There could be a combination of factors in other climatic zones driven by a change to the climate that might favour agricultural food production. In other words, there could be a positive side to climate change that we are yet to explore or take note of.

What do you think?

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