From Agriculture to Agroecology: How Nigeria can use Genetic Modification Technology to mitigate the effect of climate change


Climate change (CC) refers to seasonal changes over a long period with respect to the growing accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Tackling this phenomenon is of utmost importance given the pivotal role that climate plays in the formation of natural ecosystems and the human economies and civilizations on which they are based.

It is the utmost ecological menace that harmfully affects the yield of crops and animals worldwide. The primary cause of climate change is the accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere resulting to increased greenhouse effect. The rising changing temperature around the world is becoming alarming. In Nigeria, a temperature rise of 1.5 0 to 2.50C have been predicted. The consequences of this is heart breaking as the threat has serious negative consequences for all sectors of the economy. A strong link has been established between Climate change and Agriculture. The fast-tracking stride of climate change coupled with global population and income growth portends food security everywhere including Nigeria.

The vulnerability of agriculture to climate change is very high. The yield of most crops tends to decrease with increasing temperatures. High temperatures also reduce the effectiveness of pest management system there by leading to higher rates of pesticides application. Wilting of plants (owing to higher transpiration rates) and extreme heat stress in crops can be caused by heat waves which eventually leads to reduction in crop yield if they occur at certain period of the plants' life-cycle (e.g. pollination). Global warming is also the principal cause of flooding.

Recently, heavy rains and flooding have been linked with global warming. Heavy rains usually
result in flooding which eventually cause detrimental effects to crops and soil structure. Most
crops are damaged because of their inability to survive in prolonged waterlogged conditions

because the roots need to breathe. The inclusive impacts of climate change on agriculture is
certainly negative leading to global food and nutrition insecurity.

How Nigeria can use Genetic Modification Technology to mitigate the effect of climate change
Figure 2: Consequences of 1°C rise in worlds temperature source: How Nigeria can use Genetic Modification Technology to mitigate the effect of climate change

Unfortunately, the impart of climate change is more felt by the developing world including Nigeria due to inadequate facilities that could curb its effects. More crippling for the developing
world is the fact that many are unaware of the subject matter (climate change) due to low level of education and awareness. Already, the negative impact of climate change is being felt across the various geopolitical zones of Nigeria. It is no longer news that the southern part of Lake Chad, the part of the lake that lies inside Nigerian territory has dried up. About twenty years ago, the Lake enclosed a total area of over 40,000 square kilometers. With the continuous unabated negative trend, the dried land is laid to waste by increasing temperature resulting to rapid southward expansion of the Sahara Desert.

In 2018, the strife between Fulani herds men with crop farmers which resulted in the death of
hundreds of persons, became a national issue as thousands of Fulani herds men were forced by the growing desertification to migrate to the south and middle belt. The Guinea Savannah region of Nigeria is not left out with the forest around Oyo State being reduced to grassland. While many settlements in the eastern part of Nigeria have been devastated by gulley-erosion resulting to poverty, many settlements of in southern Nigeria has often experienced massive flood with houses, farms and farm products, and even human beings swept away.

Climate change is triggered by two elementary factors, which comprise natural courses
(biogeographical) and hominid activities (anthropogenic). The biogeographical processes include the planetary and the extraterrestrial factors. Greenhouse effect is caused by greenhouse gas which absorbs and emits radiant energy within thermal infrared array. In Agriculture, the rearing of livestock is a major source of carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) and methane (CH 4 ) greenhouse gas emission which may eventually lead to future land infertility and extinction of local species.

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Conventional agricultural practices add to climate change by anthropogenic release of greenhouse gases. In 2010, it was reported that the combination of Agriculture, forestry and land-use change contributed 25% of global annual Greenhouse gas emissions. The current
agricultural activities are a significant source of Green House Gases (GHG) that intensify climate disruption. The practice of agriculture is very different between Nigeria and other developed counties, which results in variation of agricultural contribution to climate change. For instance, in Nigeria, GHG emission emanating from farming is principally as a result of inadequate manure management, improper use of agro-chemicals, cattle and land mismanagement.

How Nigeria can use Genetic Modification Technology to mitigate the effect of climate change
Figure 3: The consequence of the Greenhouse effect Source: CO2 Cooperative Research Centre (How Nigeria can use Genetic Modification Technology to mitigate the effect of climate change)

Surprisingly, the potential to mitigate climate change is with the agricultural sector. Mitigation is different from adaptation. Whereas mitigation is an interference to diminish the production
sources Green House Gases, adaptation is the alteration in natural or human arrangements in
response to an expected change in climate in order to reduce harm. A variety of strategies can decrease the hazard of damaging climate change impacts on agriculture and the emission of greenhouse gases coming from the various ill-farming practices one of which is the adoption of genetic modification technology. Agricultural practices including the use of synthetic fertilizer, over grazing and deforestation leads to the production of 25% of greenhouses gasses (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) in the atmosphere.

READ MORE: Oil Giant Nigeria To Sell First African Sovereign Green Bond

Agricultural Biotechnology is the most dependable solution to mitigate climate change through the use of climate smart crops, energy efficient farming, reduced synthetic fertilizer usage and carbon sequestration.

How Nigeria can use Genetic Modification Technology to mitigate the effect of climate change
How Nigeria can use Genetic Modification Technology to mitigate the effect of climate change

Planting Genetically Modified Crops have resulted in momentous decreased in the amount of
greenhouse gasses produced. The reason for this is because genetically modified crops do not need plentiful maintenance as conventional crops. Farmers of genetically modified crops do not need to waste much fuel to power their equipment (which is one of the main sources of greenhouse gases). The reduction of greenhouse gas by this means is in no way negligible. In 2012, the reduction of these greenhouse gas emission due to the farming of genetic modification crop was equivalent to eliminating 27 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere which is also proportional to removing 11.9 million cars from the road within a year. The commercialization of genetically modified crops has resulted to farmers to expending less fuel due to the fact that they may not need to ride on farm equipment long, leading to a reduction of the carbon footprint that is left behind. Production of bio fuels, both from Genetically Modified crops including oilseed, sugarcane, rape seed and jatropha will facilitate the decreased the adverse effects of pollution by the transportation industry.

The adoption of GM Cowpea in Nigeria also translates to climate mitigation by reducing the amount of chemical spray. For example, the conventional cowpea allows about 6 to 8 times spray of chemicals to control the Pod Borer, but the Genetically Modified Cowpea allows just
about 2 to 3 times spray of chemicals. The application of Agricultural Biotechnology provides an ultimate way to combating the deleterious effect of climate change effects on agriculture by offering new opportunities for improving stress resistance. Following the deleterious effects of these adverse changes in climate to the agricultural system of Nigeria, planting of climate smart crops is the way out. Recent studies by some Nigerian scientists have reported that the Nigerian Bt cotton is a climate smart crop. The Bt cotton is able to grow well with minimal water requirement. This will also go a long way in salvaging the drought situation in the north east and north west of Nigeria.

DR. ROSE SUNISO MAXWELL GIDADO, Deputy Diector, National Biotechnology Development Agency
(NABDA), Abuja.

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