5 December 2012

Nigeria: Under-Rating Food Challenges

IF providing food is about talking, Nigerians would have no problems meeting their needs whether in 2013 or years to come. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Dr. Akinwumi Adesina has been issuing assurances since the floods that there would be no food shortage.

"Let me assure you that the Federal Government is taking all measures to mitigate the impacts of the flood. Nigeria will not have famine. We will not have a food crisis. We will recover from the flood," Adesina said.

What is the source of this high octane confidence? Adesina said, "From our efforts this year alone, from maize, rice, cassava, sorghum, we are adding a total of 8.1 million metric tonnes of food to our domestic food supply. That is 70 per cent higher than the target of five million metric tonnes we set for 2013; and 41 per cent of the total target that we set for 2015. We will continue to work hard."

Does Dr. Adesina see agriculture as an economic activity or just availability of food? Does food availability mean no famine? Would the food be distributed free? How would millions of Nigerians the flood incapacitated get resources to purchase government's "million metric tonnes of food"?

How did the Federal Government get the food it boasts about, as if it translates to prosperity of Nigeria's agriculture? The floods visited more poverty on poor Nigerians. We expect Dr. Adesina to be discussing sustainable agricultural practices that would enhance well-being of Nigerians even if it would take floods to improve agriculture.

In reducing the floods' challenge to statistics of food government procured, Adesina failed to address critical linkages between agricultural productivity and rural infrastructure floods washed away. Does he know Nigerian farmers have more problems preserving, storing and transporting their products, than producing them? What are his plans to tackle wastes entailed in food production? Are farmers excluded from benefitting from the President's acclaimed wealth creation policies?

Nigerians do not panic about government policies. Nigerians do not depend on governments for basic services citizens elsewhere take for granted. With all the promoted importance of agriculture, the Minister still sees his responsibilities beginning and ending in speeches and he is excelling.

Small farmers feed the country, with ancient practices that harm the soil, without meaningful assistance from governments who consider agriculture one of several points of evacuating national resources for personal purposes. The floods hit small farmers and the rural poor most.

If the floods do not compromise Nigeria's food security, it is not because of government's agricultural policies, but the Nigerian's resilience, attribute governments generally ignore as they gloat over plans for a country they have not cared to understand.

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