Blog Post

Adapting to a Changing Climate: Adaptation Strategies in Nigeria

An estimated 23 percent of Nigeria’s GDP comes from agriculture, and as many as 70 percent of the nation’s labor force engages in the agricultural sector. At the same time, approximately 40 percent of Nigerians face poverty and food insecurity, driven in part by low agricultural productivity and low levels of technology adoption. With climate shocks expected to become more frequent and extreme, these smallholder households will be even more vulnerable to reduced agricultural productivity, loss of incomes and livelihoods, and food and nutrition insecurity. A recent policy paper from the Nigeria Strategy Support Program (NSSP) examines the efficacy and impact of different climate adaptation strategies on enhancing smallholders’ resilience.

The study uses household-level panel data and long-term satellite-based spatial data on temperature and precipitation to measure the impacts of climate change (both precipitation and temperature) on agricultural productivity, household income diversification, crop selection, and decisions regarding agricultural input use. These types of livelihood diversifications (diversifying crops planted, income sources, and labor types, adjusting input use, etc.) are often used by smallholder households to mitigate the effects of climate variability, particularly when they do not have access to credit and financing, insurance, or strong labor markets.

Looking at growing degree days (GDDs) and harmful degree days (HDDs) in both the northern and the southern regions of the country, the report finds that northern states have a more unpredictable climate and more frequent extreme heat events. Southern states, on the other hand, enjoy a more reliable agricultural growing season and fewer extreme weather events.

The results show that increased HDDs negatively impact agricultural productivity more than changes in precipitation. Increased HDDs also reduce households’ share of income from crops and non-farm self-employment; however, more HDDs increase share of income from livestock production and non-agricultural labor. Changes in precipitation similarly reduce income from crop production and increase income from livestock and non-agricultural wage labor.

Impacts on households’ decisions regarding crop mixtures were significant, with increased HDDs reducing the land planted to cereals and tree crops and increasing planting of drought-tolerant legumes and tubers. These strategies, the brief’s authors say, could be particularly effective in helping households mitigate the negative impacts of climate change.

Increased HDDs have positive impacts on the amount of land planted to crops but reduce use of fertilizers (3 percent) and purchased seeds (18 percent). However, HDDs increase use of pesticides.

Poor households see stronger negative impacts of both increased temperatures and reduced precipitation on productivity and input use. These results suggest that poor households are even less resilient in the face of a rapidly changing climate.

Policymakers can help better mitigate the impacts of climate change and increase household-level resilience by investing in pro-poor interventions, the brief concludes, including reducing barriers to land access and financing low-cost agricultural technologies. Additional policies should focus on developing the livestock sector, as livestock production appears to be less negatively impacted by climate change than crop production.  Policymakers should also prioritize increasing access to drought- and heat-tolerant crop varieties and water storage and irrigation infrastructure. In this way, Nigeria’s critical agricultural sector can become more resilient and less negatively affected by extreme temperatures and drought conditions.