The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) recently released the 2020 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP) report to guide various sectors of the country, especially agriculture, which is top on the agenda of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, and provides employment opportunities for millions of Nigerians.
NiMet predicted that the onset of the growing season is expected to be near-normal to earlier than normal in most parts of the country. It also forecast February 24 as the likely date for the earliest onset around coastal zone of South-South states and June 2 for Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Katsina, Jigawa, Yobe and Borno states.
The agency further predicted the earliest cessation date of around September 26 around Katsina and Northern parts of Sokoto and December 28 for the Niger-Delta region.
While also predicting the length of 2020 growing season to span between 110 and 160 days in the Sahelian region of the North and between 210 and 280 days in the South, NiMet forecast rainfall events that could be enormous and tend to give a false start of the season before full establishment of the onset of planting season over various ecological zones.
Also to be noted with regards to the 2020 SRP is the forecast of a severe dry spell that might last up to 10 to 21 days in the following states: Niger, Bauchi, Jigawa, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Kebbi, Yobe and Borno in the months of June and July. Such dry spell, the agency warned, may last between two and three weeks after the onset.
The information contained in SRP is no doubt crucial to both the government and other stakeholders in the agricultural sector, particularly with regards to the weather. The prediction by NiMet also has implications for the sector as most Nigerian farmers rely on rainfall for their farming needs. There is also the conflict which constant movement of cattle from the northern to the southern part of the country as herders look for pasture for the animals can lead to.
The government should therefore be proactive by putting in place measures that would guarantee a cordial relationship between farmers and herders as well as ensure that there is no breakdown of law and order because of the activities of any of the two parties. It is also an opportunity for stakeholders to adopt strategies which could help bring about reduction of both human and material losses.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and its state counterparts should work together and assist farmers especially in the area of irrigation farming to compensate for any losses that may arise as a result of the prediction. Agricultural research institutes who have the mandate to enhance food security and improve livelihoods in Africa through research for development should also assist farmers by coming up with draught-resistant, early maturing crop varieties.
Farmers, on their part, should take note of the prediction contained in the report of NiMet by adopting soil-moisture conservation techniques to avoid crop losses during the period. Farmers should also work closely with agricultural extension workers in their areas who may guide them about certain aspects of the prediction that require further explanations for better understanding.
The Nigerian Meteorological Agency should also take note of the fact that a sizeable number of Nigerian farmers do not understand English language in a way that they can appreciate the predictions contained in its report. So we advise the agency to translate this very important report into all the major local languages for wider reach and impact. The agency should also constantly update the report as weather situations keep changing due to the realities of climate change.