The United Nations World Food Day, celebrated every year on October 16, is a day of action dedicated to tackling global hunger. Nigeria joined the rest of the world in celebrating the UN World Food Day on October 16, annually – amid growing concerns of rising global hunger, and mounting evidence of the links between conflict, poverty and food insecurity.
Undoubtedly, food is the most basic of all human survival needs. Although, so many efforts have been made in improving the quality as well as production of world food supplies, food insecurity remains prevalent, particularly in the nations of Asia and Africa, and in Nigeria, malnutrition has resulted in death of many of its citizens.
African Food Security Briefs (AFSB) estimated that approximately one out of every three persons in the sub-Saharan Africa is undernourished.
Though Nigeria prides itself as the giant of Africa with its economy becoming the largest, the hunger and poverty rates in the country are alarming. Not less than 70% of the Nigerian population is surviving on less than a dollar per day while food insecurity prevalence in the low income urban house-holds and rural areas respectively stands at 79% and 71%.
It was revealed that since the discovery of oil in Nigeria in the 1970s, the agriculture sector became less important to the government as it cannot withstand the economic sagacity of the oil industry. Thus, Nigeria became heavily dependent on importation of food.
The rural areas have become even more vulnerable to malnutrition, erratic supply of food items, unaffordable food costs, low quality foods and sometimes complete lack of food. This situation is more prevalent in many parts of the northern region of Nigeria. (Source: The Challenges of Food Security in Nigeria by Saheed Matemilola and Isa Elegbede)
It was reliably reported that since the summer of 2016, World Food Programme has been providing life-saving assistance to families affected by the conflict in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. An average of 1.1 million people have relied on WFP food trucks to arrive in their area, or on cash distributions enabling them to purchase basic foods.
Tens of thousands of pregnant or breastfeeding women as well as children under the age of five have received preventive nutritious foods as a supplement to avoid malnutrition.
Although the number of people estimated to be facing food insecurity in the three most conflict-affected states in the northeast of Nigeria has reduced considerably in the last one year, the food security and nutrition situation remain very fragile.
The Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, David Beasley said in his 2018 World Food Day address, “Affordable food and peaceful societies go hand in hand. But millions of our brothers and sisters enjoy neither; the presence of near-constant conflict makes it almost impossible to cook the simplest meal. We must do everything in our power to reduce conflict and rebuild economies, so markets can thrive and communities can prosper.”
Despite the aforementioned realities, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, at a press briefing to mark the 2019 World Food Day in Abuja, said Nigeria was producing enough food to feed itself and send to neighbouring countries.
The minister described the cry by some Nigerians of hunger in the land as laughable, insisting that there was no hunger in Nigeria.
His words: “I think we are producing enough to feed ourselves. I think there is no hunger in Nigeria; there could be inconveniences. When people talk about hunger in this government, I just laugh. In this country, it is fairly cheap to buy food.”
It is an indisputable fact that the above statement by the Honourable Minister differs with what’s ground. And this very statement by the Honourable Minister of Agriculture revealed that government and the citizens are in the same book but different pages.
While the citizens are writhing and languishing in hunger, the government is busy celebrating World Food Day and asserting to the world that all is well in Nigeria in terms of food.
Although the situation is bafflingly disappointing but it is not too late to make amends and improve agriculture, particularly food sector in Nigeria.
To solve food insufficiency in Nigeria, Dianna Ibori says, “one of the necessary conditions for improving food security in Nigeria is the creation and development of infrastructure, compliance with storage requirements of products and the development of transport and logistics network.
“The government should encourage the creation of large farms which will contribute to the development of local markets and reduction in the rate of urbanization. The important point is the development of mutually beneficial cooperation with other countries, so that we can obtain the necessary technology, knowledge, and means of production.
“In order to gradually solve the problem of food insecurity in Nigeria, the key point should be the development and implementation of the national program of food security, so we can name the following solutions to food insecurity in Nigeria:
a. the development of sustainable food markets.
b. technical re-equipment of agricultural enterprises.
c. improving the competitiveness of products.
d. improvement of land relations.” He added.
Also, Josiah Muonam of University of Porthacourt added that, “government should provide subsidy and revive “Market Board” for agricultural products. For this to be successful and free of fraud to a higher percentage the subsidy should not be in inputs or lesser percent should be in inputs. It should be in finished products.
“This is because, even if inputs are subsidized it is only few people that will have access to these inputs and later sell at a higher rate to the real users.
“Government should provide infrastructures; roads linking the rural areas where bulk of these products are produced to the urban areas. Government make sophisticated facilities accessible to the common farmer e.g. by building rice processing mills in strategic areas where rice is produced, so that farmers after harvest can come and mill their products at a cheaper rate, less labor and obtain acceptable product in the market.
“Government should build silos so as to control waste at a bountiful harvest, control price and scarcity at out of season.
“The government should build multidisciplinary research centres across the country. Centres where the plant physiologist, the breeder, the nutritionist, the pathologist, the ecologist and the agronomist can come together as a team to produce cultivars of short gestation period, high yielding, high nutritional, adaptable and resistant to diseases with simple agronomic practice. Government should increase and strengthen the relationship between the farmers and the research centres by providing more extension services.” Josiah added.
Achieving a sustainable economic development in Nigeria and Africa at large will continue to be a mirage without well-nourished and healthy people. In fact, failure to ensure food security has unavoidably resulted in many social problems including civil unrest and riots in many major cities of the world.
Almost all of the factors which create and add to the food insufficiency in Nigeria are man-made problems. Though Nigeria is not a poor country, its developmental management has been poor.
It is obvious that implementation of the aforestated recommendations, the problem of food insufficiency would be eradicated and the citizens would have bases to genuinely celebrate World Food Day.