Speaking at the public presentation of NiMet’s 2019 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP) on Thursday January 31, 2019 in Abuja, the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, said the forecast indicates that the country is expected to experience below normal rainfall season. He said the rains are expected to start late especially in the northern parts of the country while the south eastern zone as well as the coastal areas will experience a normal onset of the rains. He stated that most of the northern states would experience earlier than normal end growing season.
Senator Sirika declared that shorter length of the growing season was predicted for most parts of the country, with frequent and severe dry spell over the northern region during the rainy season. He warned that “dry spell will be more frequent and severe (10-18 days) in some parts of the extreme north around June and July, while the little dry season or (August break) in parts of the south is expected to be pronounced”.
The minister noted that the expected below normal-normal rainfall in parts of the country does not rule out the possibility of isolated flash floods due to high intensity rainfall at the peak of the season, especially in places that are naturally prone to flooding. He said “In every season, dry spells occur and in certain cases, lead to crop losses. Although he advised farmers and other stakeholders to get in touch with NiMet to access meteorological updates within the growing season; he observed that these are risk factors for farmers in the affected areas and have to be carefully and scientifically managed.
According to Sirika, early release of the SRP before the beginning of rainy season was to ensure effective harnessing of the climate resource; adding that such information would further guarantee minimal losses from associated hazards, which were becoming quite devastating in this era of climate Change. The minister stated that an increase of at least 30 per cent agricultural yields could be achieved if relevant meteorological information was utilised. He quoted the World Bank as saying “for every dollar invested in early warning services on weather, about seven dollars is saved from cost of disaster management”.
In his presentation, the Director General of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, (NiMet), Prof. Sani Mashi, predicted late onset of rainfall and its early cessation in most parts of the country in 2019. Presenting the SRP highlights in Abuja, Prof. Mashi, said “As the year 2019 is anticipated to be an El Niho year, rainfall deficit with varying magnitude is expected for most part of the country, especially northward”.
Prof. Mashi said “The country is expected to experience late onset in most parts, but this delay is likely to be more evident in the northern states. However, normal onset is expected over coastal and some south-east states”. He declared that the earliest onset date was predicted to be from March 7 around the coastal region of the south-south. He said “The onset dates are expected to change as we move northwards with areas around Maiduguri, Sokoto, Katsina, Dutse, Potiskum, Kano and Nguru predicted to have onset from June 16th.
The earliest cessation dates, according to Mashi, are expected to be from September 29 around the north-western parts of the country. He further revealed that “Most of the north is expected to witness cessation dates within October, while the growing season is expected to end between late October and mid-November”. Mashi reiterated that parts of the central and southern states are expected to experience end of season by mid-November to early December while the season is expected to end by late December along the coast. NiMet’s DG advised farmers to delay planting of their crops to forestall planting twice.
As timely and as useful as the SRPs are, they add up to nothing if such valuable information on climate fails to reach farmers. We therefore advise NiMet to collaborate with agricultural extension officers to educate farmers on these early warnings. We encourage NiMet to also sensitize farmers through jingles especially on radio because less people watch local television stations. This is to ensure they are adequately informed about the 2019 SRPs.
It is presumed that for all the years that the National Seed Council and relevant agricultural research institutes have existed, Nigerian farmers should by now have hybrid seeds and seedlings that could stand most climate risk factors that are peculiar to Nigeria. While we urge necessary agencies to equip the Nigerian farmer with necessary scientific ideas and products needed to increase or sustain his yield under Climate change drift, we recommend that the Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC) should be repositioned to serve Nigerian farmers better when they incur losses.