Climate Shocks, Environmental Degradation and Resource Conflict: Implications for Agricultural Livelihoods and Food Security in Niger Delta Region of Nigeria



There is an overwhelming evidence to suggest that environmental change drives conflicts, and that resource depletion and degradation undermine food security and livelihood wellbeing in communities where people are dependent on land and water resources. Therefore, understanding the vulnerability, food security, adaptation and resilience aspects of climate shocks in the context of land degradation and conflicts has immense practical significance particularly in the climate- impacted and conflict-afflicted Niger Delta region. Employing survey data collected from Rivers and Bayelsa States, this study investigates the vulnerability of the farming and fishing households to the triple challenge of climate shock, resource conflict and environmental degradation, and how these challenges undermine food security needs of various occupation groups in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria. The study also investigated the range of adaptation practices prevalent in the region, as well as factors influencing the adoption of these adaptation strategies. Five hundred and three (503) households were selected using multi-stage sampling techniques. Ratio analysis was used to analyse the vulnerability levels of the households, ordered logit model was employed to access the effect of vulnerability on the food security status of households and multinomial logit model was used to determine factors affecting the household choice of adaptation strategies. The results show that farming and fishing households have the similar vulnerability score, 0.42 and

0.43 respectively. Although, the farming households were more exposed to the triple stressors; the fishing households seem to be more sensitive to the triple stressors owing to their poor physical and natural asset base. The two groups share similar adaptive capacity. Vulnerability to the triple stressors and having high dependency ratio increase the probability of being in the higher categories of food insecurity while household annual income, household size, access to social network, farm size and participation in non-farm work increases the probability of being food secure. Adaptation strategies adopted by farming households were soil and water management, crop management and livelihood diversification. Factors influencing their choice of adaptation strategies were age, gender, household size, education, extension and farm size. The adaptation strategies employed by the fishing households were intensification (which include use of improved fishing gears, putting more effort and time in fishing) and livelihood diversification. Factors affecting their choice of adaptation strategies were education, access to climate information, extension, household income, perception of shift in rainfall and location. To reduce food insecurity policy makers should focus on efforts that are aimed at reducing vulnerability of agricultural household to the triple stressors such as mitigation and adaptation efforts and providing opportunities for livelihood diversification. To promote the adoption of adaptation strategies among the two livelihood groups attention should focus on education, skills training and extension.




1.1   Background of the Study


At the time of independence, in the 1960s, most sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries were self- sufficient in food production. However, years after independence, SSA swung from being net- exporter of food items to dependence on food imports and food aids (Djurfeldt, Holmen, Jirstrom, & Larsson, 2005). For instance, between 1966-1970 average export of food items from SSA was about 1.3 metric tonnes/year. By 1970s an average import of about 4.4 million tons/year was recorded which increased to 10 million in the 1980s. At the same time population since independence has been rising in SSA (Djurfeldt, Holmen, Jirstrom, & Larsson, 2005). Food supply is not keeping pace with the increasing demand for food. This poses serious threat to food security and could lead to food crisis in the SSA. This is further exacerbated by the rapidly changing climatic, economic and social conditions.


Climate variability and shocks, environmental degradation and resource conflict are the greatest threats to agricultural livelihoods and food security in fragile states globally and these in turn deepens poverty (Raleigh & Urdal, 2007). Climate shocks, in particular have become a serious global challenge. Existing evidence shows that global temperatures are rising, patterns of rainfall are changing and the frequencies and intensity of climate-related disasters such as floods, storms, drought and heat waves are increasing (IPCC, 2007; Songok, Kipkorir, & Mugalavai, 2011; Tschakert, Sagoe, Ofori-Darko, & Codjoe, 2010). The 1995-2015 statistics reported by CRED (2015) show that of all these disasters, the most frequently occurring is floods (43%) followed by storms (28%), extreme temperature (6%) and drought (5%). Although these disasters occur more


frequently in high income countries, the low-income countries are more adversely affected. The continent most affected is Asia followed by Africa. A few examples include the great flood in Thailand in 2011, Bangladesh in 2007, Pakistan, China, Niger and Benin in 2010, India in 2013 and Nigeria in 2012 (CRED, 2015; Ogbonna, Albrecht, & Schönfelder, 2017; Thomas & López, 2015). In 2017, Ethiopia and Somalia were hit by drought (OXFAM, 2017; FEWS NET, 2017).


The increasing frequency of these climate-related disasters undermine economic development as they negatively impact on environmental, social, and agricultural sectors, but more critically on the agricultural sector. The effects include agricultural crop failures, loss of livestock, water shortages, outbreak of epidemic diseases, hunger and poverty. Other direct impacts include death, injury, disruption of economic activities, damage and destruction of properties and natural resources. CRED (2015) reported that between 1995-2015, 87 million homes and 130,000 health and education facilities have been destroyed by disasters.


Estimates show that globally, the number of people at risk of hunger due to climate shocks will increase by 10-20% by 2050 and 65% of this will be in Africa (Parry, Evans, Rosegrant, & Wheeler, 2009). In 2010, a number of climate-related disasters demonstrated the vulnerability of African nations to food insecurity. A few examples include the drought in Niger which was followed by heavy rains, destroying crops and livestock and resulted in the worst food crisis in that nation’s history (Sasson, 2012). Also, heavy rains caused the overflow of Queme and Mono Rivers flooding two thirds of the West African nation of Benin (Miyan, 2015). In 2012 a devastating flood occurred in Nigeria which affected nearly 4 million people, with 363 people killed and 5851 injured (PNDA, 2013) as cited in (Ogbonna et al., 2017). Looking into the future there is increased risk of disasters as a result of climate change and rise in the global population as


these predispose people to live in harm’s way by settling in areas such as low lying coastal areas and flood plains which are prone to hazards thereby increasing their vulnerability. CRED (2015) reported that the overall annual economic losses from disasters in Africa are estimated at about

$250-$300 billion. These figures are higher when urbanization and climate change are incorporated.


According to proponents of the climate-conflict nexus, extreme temperature and drought could result in scarcity of water, food and arable land, which in turn leads to inter-group competition and grievances over the remaining resources (Homer-Dixon & Blitt, 1998 and Schilling Opiyo, & Scheffran, 2012). Secondly, Climate shocks could result in famine, displacement of people, outbreak of disease and reduction in agricultural productivity of an area thereby resulting in migration. Where the host community is also resource constrained it could result in struggle for the limited resources (Gleditsch & Nordås, 2014)


Another phenomenon seriously affecting agricultural livelihoods is environmental degradation. It is often linked to climate change and poverty. While environmental degradation could occur naturally, it is often exacerbated by human activities. Land degradation, for instance, is caused by soil erosion, desertification and poor land management (including deforestation, overgrazing, inappropriate use of irrigation water and pollution resulting from industrial and mining activities). Oil, gas and minerals are increasingly being discovered across Africa. However, the exploration of these natural resources is often accompanied by negative externalities, which if not properly managed could trigger conflict. It has often been a source of debate among scholars and policy circles that the oil boom will likely spread oil curse or Dutch disease across Africa (Annan, 2012; Diamond & Mosbacher, 2013). Some authors have argued in favour of the oil curse or Dutch


disease alluding to oil being a source of violent conflict, corruption and failure of state institutions in Africa, citing examples of Nigeria, Sudan, Angola, and Equatorial Guinea (Alao, 2007; Kopiński, Polus, & Tycholiz, 2013; Le Billon, 2007, 2010; Yates, 2012). However, Obi (2014) pointed out that oil endowment per se does not necessarily cause conflict but may only be a factor among several other factors depending on the different contextual and structural factors. Hence, oil endowment could combine with other factors to result in conflict. Obi (2014) further reiterated that in the case of Niger Delta, Nigeria, there was already pre-existing ethnic tensions and agitation over marginalization of the ethnic minority even before the discovery of oil, and that the discovery of oil only added a rather volatile dimension to it.


The resource conflict prevalent in the Niger Delta include struggle over agricultural lands, lands with oil deposits and this conflict is usually about resource control. For conflicts involving struggle over lands with oil deposits is usually between the communities and the federal government or between the communities and multinational oil companies while struggle over agricultural lands are usually between communities or individuals. The root cause of conflict in the Niger Delta has been attributed to be connected with the way oil is extracted isolating the locals from their land and livelihoods and the extremely skewed sharing of the proceeds and malicious liabilities (Obi, 2009, Ikelegbe, 2010 and Obi & Rustad, 2011) . The activities of the multinational oil companies in the region spur oil spillage and gas flaring. Spilled oil on farmlands and water bodies destroy fish ecosystems, vegetation and natural habitat. This in turn undermine rural livelihoods and spur local grievances. For instance, between 1976 and 1996, about 4,600-7,000 oil spills were recorded with a total volume of 2.4 – 3.6 million barrel of oil wasted (Agbola & Olurin, 2003; Iyayi, 2004). It has been reported that the highest gas flaring activities in the world takes place in the Niger Delta region as about 75% gas produced is flared (UNDP, 2006). Besides


contributing to greenhouse gas emission, gas flaring breeds serious health challenges, a condition that increases livelihood underperformance and poverty.


Climate shocks and environmental degradation undermine human security now and even in the future. Firstly, it impacts most on agriculture by undermining the social and economic life of those who depend on agriculture ultimately affecting the income and food security of a large percentage of the population. Secondly, the increased competition for declining or degraded resource could lead to conflict within and between states; These three interacting factors, climate shocks, environmental degradation, and resource conflict together, pose a serious threat to the agricultural and fishery livelihood on which about 60% of the Niger Delta population depend and this in turn deepens poverty and vulnerability among the people (UNDP, 2006).


Vulnerability relates to the degree to which socio-ecological systems are affected by some forms of hazards or simply put, the capacity to be wounded (Turner et al., 2003 and Proag, 2014). Vulnerability has been shown to be a function of exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity (IPCC, 2001 and McCarthy et al. 2001). Vulnerability increases when exposure and sensitivity to hazards increase beyond the adaptive capacity of a socio-ecological systems or region. Sub- Saharan Africa, and in particular coastal regions, are highly susceptible to climate disturbances because of exposure to extreme weather events, high dependence on climate sensitive sectors and activities such as agriculture, fishery and forestry (Cline, 2007; Zewdie, 2014 and Connolly- Boutin & Smit, 2016) and prevalence of weak support systems and lack of economic development (IPCC, 2007; Preston et al., 2008 and Pachauri et al., 2014). The Niger Delta region is predominantly a coastal area prone to flooding and coastal erosion. The region is vulnerable as it is faced with the menace of degraded environment and resource conflict exposure.


Several studies (Hahn, Riederer, & Foster, 2009 and Antwi-Agyei, Fraser, Dougill, Stringer, & Simelton, 2012) have sought to understand how climate variability and shocks spur vulnerability in developing world contexts but fail to account for several stressors ranging from political to socioeconomic to conflict that shape vulnerabilities in such contexts (Turner et al., 2003; Smit & Wandel, 2006 and Tschakert, 2007). For instance, Hahn et al., (2009) investigated the differential vulnerabilities of two regions in Mozambique to climate variability. Antwi-Agyei et al., (2012) measured the differential vulnerabilities of different regions and districts in Ghana to drought. O’brien and Leichenko (2000) who introduced the concept of double exposure suggests the combination of two overriding stressors in the study of vulnerability, yet there is a dearth of studies that examine climate shocks in combination with environmental degradation and conflict – particularly in the climate-impacted and conflict-afflicted Niger Delta region. This is particularly important in developing nations, which are faced with array of stressors ranging from political, economic, social and climatic conditions which together shape vulnerability. O’brien and Leichenko (2000) asserted that climate change is taking place alongside other stressors and most of these studies have rarely considered these multiple stressors and highlighted how vulnerable a group, sector or ecosystem might change when jointly considered.


1.2   Problem Statement


Agriculture constitutes the main economic activity of rural people especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where it is a source of livelihood to about 70-80% of the population, accounts for 30% of GDP and 40% foreign exchange earnings (FAO, 2006; Toulmin, Huq, & Rockstrom, 2005). In Niger Delta of Nigeria, with a large population of rural people, it constitutes a major source of


their livelihood where about 60% of the population depend on natural environment for their life sustenance (UNDP, 2006).

According to Tamuno and Edoumekumo (2012), before independence and discovery of oil, the Niger Delta to a large extent contributed immensely to the Nigerian economy for about 297years through its rich agricultural potential, especially in palm oil production. The contribution of agriculture to the GDP in the 1960s before the discovery of oil was between 60-65% (Lawal, 1997). But with the discovery of oil, agriculture suffered significant neglect and so its contribution to GDP declined in the 1970s to 50%, 34% in 2003 (CBN, 2003) and in 2017 to 24.14% (CBN,



Attention was shifted to crude oil production and so the contribution of crude oil to GDP rose from rose from 0.3% (1960s) to 32.43% (2013) and has since continued to rise (Adedipe, 2004). In 2017, 95% foreign exchange earnings and 70% revenue of the Nigerian economy comes from the oil sector. Although the contribution of agriculture to GDP has dropped drastically it is still the dominant economic activity employing a significant number of the population and linking with other sectors of the economy (NNPC, 2004).


In Niger Delta, the decrease in the share of agriculture to GDP could be attributed to a number of factors. First, the available land for agriculture was reduced as massive lands were taken by the state through the Land Use Act of 1978 and Petroleum Act of 1969 and given to the oil companies (Idemudia, 2009; Idemudia & Ite, 2006). According to Human Right Watch (2002), over 14,500 families lost their farmlands to either installation of oil infrastructure or oil spills.


Most of these displaced persons could not secure jobs in the oil companies as a result of low level of education and capital-intensive nature of these oil companies. Oil sector employment constitutes


  • % of the overall employment in the This spurred inter and intra community competition for the available resources. Hence, there are cases of conflict within ethnic groups and between ethnic groups and usually these conflicts are spurred by struggle over resources especially land. Von Kemedi (2003) blamed the resource conflicts to grabbing of land by the state for the oil companies and the resultant degradation of the environment by the oil companies. This problem to some extent forced people to settle in low lying coastal areas and flood prone plains. Given population increase, there are more and more people settling in such areas.


Climate shocks have become a menace in the Niger delta region. Most of the areas in Niger Delta region are coastal areas and as such are bedeviled with a number of environmental challenges and flood related disasters. These range from coastal erosion to flooding resulting from sea level rise. Udofa & Fajemirokun (1978) reported a mean sea level rise of about 0.462m along the Nigerian coastal water. It has been predicted that Niger Delta could lose about 15,000 km2 of land with a meter rise in sea level by 2100 and at least 80% of the population rendered homeless as a result of the low level of the region (Uyigue & Agho, 2007).


Miguel, Satyanath, & Sergenti (2004) predicted that sea level rise will not only aggravate the problems of coastal erosion which is already a menace in Niger Delta but the associated inundation will increase the problem of flood, intrusion of sea water into fresh water sources, ecosystem destruction which will in turn affect agriculture, fisheries and general livelihoods (Okali & Eleri, 2004). This menace is already being felt in the region. For instance the flood event of 2006 as reported by Douglas et al., (2008) (cited in IPCC, 2014) rendered 10,000 people homeless and caused wide spread traffic chaos in Port-Harcourt city. This flooding submerged houses, crippled


economic activities and displaced some residents of Mgbuoba, Diobu and Nkpolu communities (Zabbey, 2007).


Also, in 2012 another devastating flood occurred which affected the whole nation including the Niger Delta region. According to National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) this affected almost 4 million people, with 363 people killed and 6000 injured (PNDA, 2013) as cited in (Ogbonna et al., 2017). Also flooding leads to increased risk of communicable diseases such as malaria, cholera, typhoid and acute lower respiratory tract infection (PNDA, 2013). In addition, it poses threat to city infrastructure such as electricity and roads.


The links between the climatic and non-climatic factors that threaten livelihoods are depicted in the conceptual framework for this study (Figure 1.1). It consists of three main segments: drivers, vulnerability context and consequences. The first segment comprising of climate shocks and non- climatic factors shows how different factors operating at different spatial and temporal scale trigger vulnerability. There is general consensus that a number of interacting factors or stressors (biophysical and socio-economic factors) shape vulnerability hence, it will be incomplete to focus on one (Casale, Drimie, Quinlan, & Ziervogel, 2010; O’Brien & Leichenko, 2000; Reed et al., 2013). The biophysical drivers are factors related to biology and physical environment such as climate variability and change, land and water degradation, etc. while the socio-economic drivers are factors such as demographics, economics, institutions, policies, culture and conflicts.


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