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Aged rural populations shown to be more vulnerable to climate change


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Aged rural populations shown to be more vulnerable to climate change


Climate change/variability is fast becoming a major threat globally. Increasing temperatures, changing precipitation patterns and extreme weather associated with climate change are affecting aged populations. This blog highlights the urgent need to engage aged populations to seek their views and also educate them on climate change adaptation.


Climate variability is known to pose major global environmental, social and economic challenges. It poses serious risks to society because the physical characteristics of the planet, the biological resources on which we depend, and the social systems that we have developed are all heavily adapted to existing climate conditions. Many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) suffer particularly from the consequences of these conditions because they rely on climate-sensitive resources like agriculture for sustenance and livelihoods.

Vulnerability to climate change impact may vary among households within a community and also across geographical locations. In Nigeria, women, children and the elderly are most vulnerable to climate change impacts. This impact may be most acute for the elderly population in rural areas of developing countries like Nigeria. This is because the elderly tends to be less mobile, and thus less able to avoid hazard, than younger adults.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there will be an estimated 1.2 billion people aged 60 and older worldwide in 2025 and two billion in 2050, almost 75% of whom will be in developing nations. The increase of older populations suggests greater risk from storms, floods, heat waves and other extreme events.

Description of study

This work focuses on understanding and reducing climate variability impact on the livelihoods of aged populations in selected communities in different ecological zones of Nigeria. In most Nigerian villages, the majority of people are old and mostly economically unproductive, and therefore particularly vulnerable to climate change impact. Sub-Saharan Africa is strongly affected by climate change and adaptation can reduce its impact. However, little empirical evidence exists on responses to climate change and livelihood security on elderly rural people in Sub-Saharan Africa, nor on how climate change is perceived and adapted to by aged populations, especially in rural areas of different eco-climatic zones of Nigeria.

This research, based on primary data, used sampling technique/method? to identify Nigerian ecological zones: Mangrove, Rain Forest, Montane, Guinea Savannah, Sudan Savannah and Sahel Savannah. Of these, Guinea Savannah, Mangrove, Montane and Sahel Savannah zones were selected for this study. A state was designated within each zone – Oyo State in Guinea Savannah, Ondo State in Mangrove, Plateau State in Montane and Kebbi State in the Sahel Savannah. Two local government areas were selected from each state based on how rural they are. Three rural settlements were randomly designated from each of local government areas. Finally, houses where aged people reside were identified using systematic sampling method (systematic sampling method was used because it is more conducive to covering a wide study area) by selecting every third house in each settlement after the first house was selected randomly. Where respondents were not available, the next building was sampled. This netted four aged men and four aged women in each of the sampled villages.

Both qualitative and quantitative data were obtained. Qualitative data consisted of observations, in-depth interviews, and key informant interviews captured by field notes and audio or video recordings. In-depth interviews were open-ended and semi-structured. Progressive focusing was used to obtain new and relevant information. Quantitative data were obtained from Five (2012 – 2016) years’ daily records of rainfall and temperature of selected stations. Also, structured questionnaires administered to aged males and females available in the selected houses. Where there was no combination of aged men and women, either was deemed sufficient. Data collected were disaggregated by gender to identify different experiences of males and females. Data obtained were analysed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences.


The study revealed patterns of rainfall and temperature distribution for selected representative stations across four ecological zones in Nigeria, viz: sudano-sahelian, guinea, equatorial/mangrove and montane regions. The analysis of the periodicity of the rainfall value series indicated one significant frequency peak at all the stations, including the equatorial/mangrove climatic station, which literature have previously characterized with double maxima in a year. Also, the result of the hierarchical classification of both the temperature and rainfall suggest that the existing method of climatic characterization is biased towards rainfall effect.

The study also revealed that climate variability in the different ecological zones were perceived by respondents differently in different zones. For instance, in the Guinea and Sudan Savannah, participants reported an increase in temperature, decline in precipitation and the presence of drought. In the Coastal and Montane, participants reported a decrease in temperature and increase in precipitation and flooding.

Furthermore, respondents in different ecological zones experience climate variability impact on their livelihood differently, based on the prevailing climate variability characteristics in the different ecological zones. For instance, in the Guinea and Sudan Savannah, prevailing climatic variability characteristics are drought, desertification, excessive heat and increased temperature, decline in rainfall and delayed onset of rainfall. In the Coastal, they were characterized as flooding, early onset of rain, erosion and increased storms. Impacts on livelihood include livestock death, inadequate pastures for herds, scarcity of water, pest invasion, delayed planting crop failure, need for irrigation, water logging, drowning of small animals, and human and animal illness.

It was also revealed that these rural aged populations respond to climate variability impact by using coping traditional strategies. These strategies are particular to each zone and include rain harvesting, irrigation farming, crop diversification, sale of livestock, reduction in frequency of daily food, migration, changing routing itineraries, herding for wages and diversification of income sources. In Guinea Savannah, major determinants to response to climate variability impact: are gender, educational status and occupation.  In the Coastal zone, determinants are age, education, occupation and annual income. In the Sudan Savannah, determinants are education and occupation, and in the Montane, the sole determinant is level of education. This implies that the rural ageds’ response to climate variability impact is influenced by their socio-economic characteristics. For instance, being a man or a woman. May influence a man’s response to climate variability impact. In other words, rural aged men's response to climate variability impact might be different from rural aged women’s response in the different regions.

Recommendations to cope with climate variability impacts on rural aged populations

  • Governments must geographically target climate variability programmes. 
  • Planning must account for the views of aged populations, especially those in rural areas.
  • There is urgent need for education for rural aged populations in Nigeria and to mainstream local knowledge for climate change adaptation.
  • Progressive socio-economic policies that will provide an enabling environment for (1) diversification of income sources and (2) sufficient capital (income sources) for adaptation.


About Kehinde Olayinka POPOOLA

Kehinde Olayinka POPOOLA is a Nigerian. She is an Urban and Regional Planner (with research interest in Climate change Planning, Rural and Social Development) based at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria, and a Fellow of Climate Impacts Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement (CIRCLE) at Moi University in Kenya. CIRCLE develops skills and research results of African early career researchers in the field of climate change. It is jointly implemented by the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA), a funding, agenda-setting, programme management initiative of  the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) in partnership with the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), founding and funding global partners, and through a resolution of African Union Heads of Governments. CIRCLE is supported by the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU).