By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
With the devastating effects of climate change registering its faces in so many parts of the country, a 13 year old Amina, (not real name), found herself caught in the web of early marriage.
She said her father coerced her to marry his 60 year old friend so as to feed well.
Amina, who lives with her family in Ruga, a popular Fulani settlement behind Lape Estate in Karu Local Government Area of Nasarawa state, said trouble started when her father discovered that his farm did not produce enough grains for the family to feed on daily basis.
“It was a terrible scenario for my family, and my father could not watch us go hungry because our once fertile land was not producing enough to feed us. We used to feed twice daily but now we can barely feed once, owing to the challenges that we are facing.
“With the decrease in our farm produce, the next option was for my father to give me out in marriage to his close friend, who is currently producing better than we do.
“At least, his family feed better, eating varieties of food on daily basis. We used to peep through to see what they eat, and at times sneak in to eat with the children. With this marriage, I am currently feeding better than what my siblings are eating at home. I now have hope of eating three or two times daily, compared to the once daily that I was used to back home.”
When asked about school, Amina said she never had the opportunity of going to school, because she was always in the farm or hawking fruits.
“ Our father does not value modern education. None of my siblings had the opportunity of going to school. All of us are in the business of hawking fruits. When ever we go round, I admire people in uniform. But I know that such opportunity will not locate someone like me because of my background and the kind of father that I have.
“Now that I am married, I will concentrate and feed well and do what ever I am told to do because my husband and my father have the same ideology of not training children in school. “
On her part, the man’s wife, popularly called ‘Maman Kabiru ’, said she view the marriage as a disrespect. She said having her daughter’s age mate as a co-wife is a sign of disrespect to her person.
“ This 13 year old girl is my daughters age mate, and they play together in the sand; how can she now be my co-wife? This is an unfortunate situation which I can’t control.
“Currently, my husband has started seeing us as mates and want us to do things together, but most times, she finds herself back to the sand playing with her mates. Unfortunately, despite that, my husband sidelined me, and is now concentrating on her. He told me recently that he will soon divorce me”.
Speaking on the challenges in the country, Philip Jakpor, the Executive Director, Renevlyn Development Initiative, said “I think the poverty situation in the country is driving many households to the extremes to make ends meet. Many families can’t feed and do not know where the next meal will come from. These sad developments were rare in the past but now rampant and happening in every part of the country. Only an improvement in the economy and the living conditions of Nigerians coupled with sensitization by government will address the issue. In addressing the situation leaders at the grassroots level must be involved.
Speaking on why crops don’t have yield like before, Mr. Bala Gokut, former Director, Desertification Draught and Land Degradation Department in the Federal Ministry of Environment, said climate change has affected yield and diseases have also affected crops.
“It is very hard for farmers to get seeds these days. Most of them rely on improved seeds,and when they plant those improved seeds for the second or third time, it cannot give them yield like the first time. In a nutshell, the produce declines gradually; and that is the challenge that most farmers are experiencing.
“Also, as population of people increase in a particular area, the land is also reduced. This is because a father who has 9 children will share the land amongst his children who will also share amongst their own children. With that practice, the land owned by an individual is reduced, just as the farm produce.
“Another thing that affects the soil is the use of chemicals which affects the soil and kill micro organisms which give nutrients to the plant. Also, deforestation which causes erosion also affects soil nutrients and reduce yield”.
On how to improve yield, Gokut harped on the need for improved based practices and improved knowledge.
“We need to study the soil and know what to do with each type of soil and not just adding fertilizer.
“There is need for farmers to work with extension workers and also employ experts to help in that area. There is also need for agro-forestry, which enables us to plant trees and crops in-between trees.”
Speaking on their activities in addressing climate change, Save the Children International (SCI), Nigeria, Advocacy, Campaign, and Policy Manager/Survive, Ifedilichukwu Innocent, said children suffer more from climate change related challenges
“It is unfortunate that children are always at the receiving end of the challenges posed by climate change, which is largely caused by human activities.
“Currently, this menace has serious effects on child health and wellbeing. As it stands, heat, drought, floods and fires make growing food more difficult and increase risks of nutritional deficiencies in children.”
He added that children’s optimal development occurs with stable families, schools, neighborhoods and communities.
Innocent further said that the SCI is working with other stakeholders to protect children from harm and help them achieve their full potentials.
On his part, the Programme Officer in charge of climate change at the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Ogunlade Martins, said, the activities of oil multinationals is destroying communities in Nigeria.
He said Shell’s oil exploration activities in Niger Delta have been destroying the ecosystem and livelihood of the people, saying CAPPA is engaging with those corporations to pay for their infractions.
“Dangote and others are smiling to the bank while people are suffering from the activities of their industries. We will not relent in our responsibility to hold them to account.”