What do the international climate change negotiations in Copenhagen mean to the many millions of people who will be most affected by global warming? DM2009 winner Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu (with microphone in photo below) has some on-the-ground answers from Nigeria. Ikegwuonu's novel radio drama project will help educate up to 15 million small farmers in southeastern Nigeria whose livelihoods are affected by torrential, soil-eroding rains aggravated by climate change.
1. Given an opportunity to address world leaders in Copenhagen, I would tell them that climate change is global but the solutions are local. To this end education is the key to long-term climate adaptation. While education on climate change mitigation and adaptation is well advanced in developed nations of the world, it is relatively unknown among billions of people at the base of the pyramid in developing countries who ironically have the least means to cope in the event of climate change- induced disaster. I would tell world leaders that efforts to tackle climate change must first dwell on education because it breaks all forms of barrier, poverty included. Education opens the mind and motivates the quest for results. An educated person is empowered to make better choices. Furthermore, people cannot be developed but can only be given options through a system of education to develop themselves.
2. Climate change is relatively unknown in Nigeria. This is because people have not been properly educated or informed. Rural people consider climate change to be a short-term weather change but fail to realize that the change is not short term but long term. Indeed some conversations centered on mitigation and adaptation are being taken at Federal government level in Nigeria, but the outcome of these conversations is still relatively unknown to Nigerians. However, the present Copenhagen COP 15 has drawn small media attention to climate change, but this has not sparked up a debate which Nigerians are used to on such an important issue. More media attention is desired.
3. In Nigeria, the climate has changed drastically. This rapid change has unsettled the known seasonal cycle and affected natural water supply. Since April 2008, there have been eight cases of flash floods and several isolated cases of landslides . Local crop cultivation is dependent on rainfall. However, due to recent changes in rainfall patterns, there are present uncertainties in the onset of the farming season, resulting in food shortages which leads to late harvest and harvest failure. Smallholders are being faced with rising daily temperature which is posing a challenge to livestock production and reproduction. The rainforest is scorched and retreating, due to increased atmospheric warming and increased evapo-transpiration exacerbated by local farming practices. The now heavier but once-in-a-while torrential rainfall is destroying valuable soil nutrients through massive runof and acres of farmlands are on the verge of being degraded by huge gully erosion. In coastal areas of Nigeria, the possibility of flooding in event of sea level rise is impending.