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Adaptation opportunities, barriers and strategies in developing countries: focus on drought management in Nigeria

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A.I. Ayeni
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Nigeria is frequently affected by disasters as a result of natural processes. Three quarters of these are related to extreme weather and climate events, including droughts, floods, extreme temperatures, thunderstorms, and desertification. Changes in global climate patterns will have serious implications for Nigeria, as most socioeconomic activities are extremely sensitive to climate variability. In this regard, concerted efforts are being made to address the issue of current and abrupt climate change. Where the environmental norm has been to react and correct, Nigeria’s challenge is now to anticipate and prevent.
Nigeria recognises that adaptation strategies are needed so that they can be integrated into long-term planning for sustainable development. Each action can also give advance warning of how climate change vulnerabilities and adaptation may affect various sectors of the economy. The author suggests that proactive, planned adaptation - relying on a deliberate response to identifiable impacts of climate change - is the way forward. Adaptations may take place at the macro-level (government policy to facilitate adaptation and improve social awareness and preparedness) or micro-level (mostly community-based coping strategies). Adaptations at each of these scales may be hampered by barriers. Macro-scale barriers include:

difficulties in ascertaining necessary time frame for adaptation, and institutional barriers to adaptation
knowledge uncertainty, arising from our incomplete understanding of the interaction between natural and human processes
dependency on donor relief, without addressing the root causes
lack of broad powerful integrated strategies addressing issues of adaptation to climate change
divergence between the priorities determined in global negotiations and local-level priorities

Examples of micro-level barriers are:

compounding problems of poor/worsening local conditions such as land degradation
lack of community resources (financial, human, social) to enhance own resilience
lack of local institutional capacity and resources to strengthen community resilience

By illustrating the impact of drought on Nigeria, the paper describes some adaptive capacity measures that could be taken. Among the poor, coping strategies change as vulnerability varies, since some groups are more lacking in financial, social and political means of securing alternative lower-risk livelihoods than others. Pastoral communities in Nigeria have developed several coping (short term response to stress) and adaptive (long, multi-year stress) strategies. Several major strategies, such as livestock mobility, livestock marketing and livelihood diversification, shows features of both coping and adaptive strategies. It is these that are most likely to be sustainable in the long term.