As Nigeria joins the global world to celebrate the World Food Day (WFD), indications arising from various stakeholders have shown that the nation is far from achieving food security.
A free publication, light of the world, defines food security as a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life".
Unfortunately this cannot be said to be the case in Nigeria which still suffers nutritious food depravity despite the huge existing opportunities to become a food secured nation. LEADERSHIP recalls that the United Nations Children's Fund, (UNICEF), in July 2016 claimed over 2.5 million Nigerian children were suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition.
Similarly the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the UN had reported that some 7.1 million people are now severely food insecure across four countries including Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.
Director of FAO's Emergency and Rehabilitation Division, Dominique Burgeon, said in the worst-affected areas, famine continues to loom and millions will remain trapped in cycles of severe hunger if we don't enable farmers to start cropping now. "Our collective efforts cannot be limited to merely avoiding massive famine - they need to allow people to return to a dignified life. And supporting agriculture is the key to both" he said.
LEADERSHIP findings reveal that these levels of food insecurity arise from the high cost of food commodities across the nation, lack of infrastructures, high cost of production, poor/lack of storage facilities, lack of markets, limited/non-existent extension officers across the states, poor security of lives occasioned by insurgency in the North East, and the constant clashes and invasions between farmers/herds men, poor /insufficient fertilizer (this is despite the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative) introduced by the present administration to supply fertilizer at N5,500 to farmers.
Other issues include the continual importation of agric commodities which denies local farmers access to markets, natural disasters including flooding and the unmitigated effects of climate change, aging population of farmers and use of crude methods of production among other issues.
LEADERSHIP findings have uncovered that the PFI fertilizer is limited and farmers in many states cannot access the product, while some sharp hands are able to hoard the fertilizers and sell at higher prices. It should be recalled that the federal government marked the bags with toll free numbers to enable Nigerians report irregularities, but findings have also revealed that the number never gets through
Speaking at the 2017 and 10th anniversary of the National Agricultural Show and World Food Day, which began in Keffi Nassarawa state, on Monday 16 to end Thursday 20,2017 with the theme: Agriculture for Sustainable Economic Diversification and Growth ,United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (UN/FAO) Country Representative, Mr. Suffyan Koroma said the "WFD is a chance to showcase development to achieving SDGS Goal 2.
It will help to achieving zero hunger by 2030 by promoting worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer hunger and for the need to ensure food security and nutritious diet for the world." He noted that "This year's WFD with the theme Change the future of migration: Invest in Agriculture and Rural Development" is highly relevant as we have 65 million people worldwide who were forcefully displaced from their homes by conflicts, violence and prosecution in 2015."
The country representative noted that the increasing number of conflicts their complexity ,their protective nature rural development and food insecurity, weak employment and income generating opportunities, inequality, limited access to social protection, the accelerated environmental degradation and increasing impact of climate change would result in a growing number of people forcibly displaced or migrating under distress than ever."
He urged that on this WFD 2017, "We shall all reinforce our beliefs that the right to food is a basic human right and achieving the 17 SDGs cannot happen without ending hunger and without sustainable and resilient climate compatible agriculture and food systems that delivers for the people and the planet."
Koroma said "We need to stand together in solidarity against acts of discrimination and called on leaders to make migrations safe, orderly and regular." Also speaking, Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture and Chairman Board of Trustees (BOT) Nigerian Agricultural Foundation of Nigeria(NAFN), Senator Abdullahi Adamu lamented the lack of price control affecting agricultural commodities.
He said "what Nigerian farmers are expecting is that their commodities should have price, they should know when they produce, what price they are going to get, either by tonne by volume or whatever to be set by the government which he said is lacking at this point in time"
The Lawmaker added that since the abolishing of the marketing boards which government very ably used for the marketing of its produce, there has been no alternative to it, adding that there is a huge vacuum which is why the sector has been having the kind of problems in regards to pricing, warehousing and marketing of products. "It is our hope that in order to give our efforts the necessary push, government would need to address those issues" he said.
Also speaking, the National President, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Architect Kabiru Ibrahim said "it is instructive to note that Nigeria is in the process of implementing a green alternative agenda (APP) which espouses the need to change the mindset Nigerians to envision Nigeria as capable of making economic growth through Agriculture in the main as against relying on oil.
"This is both challenging and interesting to do. It is challenging because we are being asked to cast our mind to the 50s and the late 60s when Nigeria's economy was sustained by agriculture and Interesting because our current population calls for innovation" he said.
The farmers president said "for the nation to be able to have food sufficiency, food security and overall economic growth sustainably "Nigeria must deploy agricultural technology by embracing Biotechnology: encourage the use of genetic engineering to evolve seeds which will resist drought, resist insects, striga infestation, increase yield and enhance wellness of the consumer."
He said "the nation must further adopt good agricultural practice, Seek foreign exchange through processing, create the enabling environment to bring about additional cultivable land and give the farmer a slot on the actual drivers' seat of the Green Alternative Policy: involve the farmer in the nitty-gritty as he knows where shoe pinches etc."
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Ogbeh said the Federal Government has restated the commitment of government to tackle food insecurity and ensure Nigeria becomes a food Sovereign nation. According to Ogbeh, the federal government had introduced an array of agricultural programmes to ensure food security and the long term economic growth of the nation.
"Accordingly, the federal government of Nigeria has committed itself on tackling food security in the nation and also to respond to the current challenges of food insecurity." He also said "over the years, Nigeria agricultural sector has been focusing on the conventional paradigm of harnessing resources to sustain food security and that presently, the ministry is committed to making the sector a pivot for economic stabilization in diversifying, generating employment and creating wealth in the country.
The World Food Day is an international event established during the 20th session of the food and agriculture organization (FAO) of the United Nations conference in 1979 and is observed on 16th October annually by all member nations to promote worldwide effective action to end hunger, malnutrition, reduce poverty, improve food security and social economic conditions, especially of the rural populations.
The Minister assured that over the years the ministry had imbibed the culture of promoting best practices in agricultural development through improving access of farmers to inputs and credit facilities in rural areas, employment generation, building a national extension system and driving agriculture through commodity value chain approach .
Whatever the challenges there is no doubt that Nigeria can become a food secured Nation with the vast agricultural lands it has, the over 70 million population of farm workers and the many policies government always brings, what remains is for government to create the enabling environment by ensuring access to inputs and loans, agric machinery and implementation of all policies to support Nigerian farmers.