Livingreen chatted with the Director of Public Policy Initiatives at the Shehu Yar’adua Center and Foundation, Amara Nwankpa on the center’s upcoming event entitled public policy on desertification and deforestation in Nigeria. Nwankpa revealed that the event which will feature prominent personalities such as Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed and the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment, Obinna Chidoka, as major speakers, focuses on the impact of climate change on Nigeria’s food security.
Tell us more about the public policy forum. What is it all about?
The public policy forum is an advocacy event, organized by the Yar’adua Foundation to sensitize the public and create awareness on the impact of climate change in Nigeria, and particularly its impact on Nigeria’s food security.
So, the focus of the public policy is on our food security?
Climate Change has socio-economic impact on Nigeria, or rather I should I say is having a socio-economic impact in Nigeria in several ways: on our human security, on migration – by creating refugees; it’s having an impact on our economy, it’s having an impact on livelihoods, and also has an impact on our food security. So, the public policy forum is trying to create that connection so that people can see it.
How exactly is the impact of climate change on Nigeria’s food security and economy relate to desertification, deforestation, and land conflict?
Well, when you hear of most of the conflicts in Nigeria that is connected to land conflict, it is between herders and farmers. When there is conflict between two groups of people that produce food for mass consumption, it has an impact on food security. It is good to explore the extent or severity of this impact, and how farther it impacts the plates of Nigerians or households food expenditures.
Also, a look at other issues that affect land such as Desertification, which affects food security, owing to loss of arable land, also affects food security. In Nigeria, the desert is fast approaching, at the rate of 6km per year. That’s a huge impact. And some of these communities within those areas facing desert encroachment, produce food in large quantities for consumption.
Which communities are currently affected or susceptible to desertification?
We have 14 states in Nigeria designated as frontline desertification states. In Katsina State, where we are screening our documentary, Nowhere To Run, it has 14 local governments impacted by desertification. A month ago, it was on national news that three communities in Gada Local Government, in Sokoto, were relocated; the entire communities, because they have been overtaken by sand dunes. Some communities in Nigeria are being were relocated, and others have witnessed a reduction on their arable, owing to desertification.
How much has the desertification affected their farm produce?
That’s the information we hope to get from experts on October 25, 2016, during the public policy forum. We don’t have all the answers, but we think that it’s an issue that Nigeria needs to start discussing, because if there is no food security, then there is no security at all. I don’t think a lot of Nigerians have made the connection between the global phenomenon called climate change and its local impacts here in Nigeria. Because if we do, maybe, we can start changing some of our practices. Nigeria’s agriculture (crops) are 90 percent dependent on rainfall. Definitely, you know that climate change will affect crops that are dependent on rainfall patterns.
So, what can we do to mitigate the impact of climate change on our food production? And where we cannot mitigate it, how do we adapt so that communities continue to thrive, and their means of livelihood protected, to ensure we have adequate supply of foods in our market, adequate supply of protein for our meals? If we do not pay attention to this, it will have a severe impact on our economy. It has an impact on socio-political conditions in Nigeria. We are experiencing at the moment seasonal scarcity of seven critical crops. Recently, we had a scarcity of tomatoes. You never know when you’d have a scarcity of wheat or rice, which can severely affect peoples’ disposition.
You mentioned the center has embarked on screenings of the movie Nowhere To Run in some states of Nigeria, are those the 14 states you mentioned?
It is in some of those states. We will be going to Sokoto, for instance, to screen in Sokoto. We have screened in Katsina, Kaduna and Kano. We don’t have a screening yet for Yobe, Jigawa or Gombe states, but we have screened the documentary in Yola, Adamawa State, and we have plans to screen in Borno State. We hope that we can take this across the country. We have defined an advocacy programme that will take us to about 27 states across Nigeria.
What about states like Kogi and Anambra which face climactic disasters such as flooding and erosion, are there plans to advocate on such events that also affect agriculture?
We hope that communities there, having gained awareness, will begin to ask their leaders and ask themselves how they can cope with these challenges. Because if this is connected to climate change, the message for everyone is that it’s going to get worse not better. If that’s what we are going to expect, then, we need to draft a response. We need to begin preparations to cope with the changes in our environment, the weather, and changes in our lifestyle.
We are taking this message across, but we don’t have answers to everything. There are people who have some answers, we hope and we have invited some of them to our panel, so that after the film screening, we can discuss and answer questions, and pose solutions. We are bringing government representatives and policymakers on the panels.
We are hoping that first, it will be a learning experience for everyone, and also an opportunity for people to inspire solutions and discussions on what we need to do, or change to inspire solutions to this global phenomenon.
The Mentimeter will feature significantly as the instrument for gathering opinions and thoughts of participants at the event, how exactly does that work? And how can people who don’t have access to technological gadgets contribute to the discussion?
This is specifically for the public policy forum, we have scheduled. We are simply doing something a bit more innovative. We are going to put out a survey that people will access via their mobile phones. On completion of the survey, we can see in real-time the results projected on the screen during the forum. We hope that the interactive forum will excite people and create a more engaging atmosphere and creative experience for stakeholders at the forum than the typical traditional practice, which is passing around microphones for people to talk.
We believe that way, we can collect more opinions than we would collect, if we had to pass around microphones, because of the limited timeframe. Also, because we will be asking specific questions, we will be collecting structured feedback from stakeholders. Hopefully, what we get from the experience will be a lot more useful for a post-event report, and will be useful in advising policymakers.
So, is the platform Mentimeter, open to any Nigerian who have access to the mobile phone?
No, it will only be for the people in the room at that moment. We are going to apply the survey right after screening the documentary, for the people who have watched the segment, so we can measure how their opinion have changed about the issue.
We are going to screen some segments of the documentary at the event. After that, we will administer the survey. It will help us determine how that new information has impacted peoples’ thoughts about food security in Nigeria, the prospects of improving food security, and what they think the priority of government should be, given the new information they acquired. That way, they become a part of the solution.
Is this a kind of an experimentation before it is taken to a wider audience?
No, it is more like another way of interacting with an audience in a room. It is meant for audiences in a room, because it is meant specifically for the things only the audience in that room has experienced. Rather than just piece of paper to gather information, this is just us, taking it to the next level and using technology to poll opinions.
When you have gathered information on the Mentimeter, what specifically is its use?
That feedback from relevant stakeholders is very useful. That tells us what impact our advocacy has had on people, how our target audience has received the information we are passing along, and also provides more than just our opinion on what the stakeholders should do.
Do we expect a white paper from this public policy forum?
There will be a report from the public forum, which will have conclusions and recommendations. Since we have the key stakeholders in the room, and their contacts, they will receive copies of the report, which will feed into whatever decisions they want to make on the issue.