“Looming Food Crisis” The scary reports of imminent food crisis in Nigeria keep coming at us in a fusillade, like the scourge of a devastating flood. Precisely on November 5, 2017 a report jointly prepared by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the National Programme for Food Security projected that about 4.8 million Nigerians, up from3.1 million in 2017 may face critical food insecurity situations in 16 Northern states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in 2018.
The report was titled: ‘Cadre Harmonise for identification of risk areas and vulnerable populations’. According to the FAO Country Representative, Sufyyan Koroma, who analysed the report at a stakeholders’ meeting held in Abuja it provides reliable data on food security status in 16 states and FCT. Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Bukar Hassan, stated that “the report will assist government to take the necessary steps to address food crisis and emergency situation in the country.”
Subsequently, on March 15, 2018 UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP), listed the 16 states as Bauchi, Benue, Gombe, Jigawa, Plateau, Niger, Kebbi, Katsina, Kaduna, Taraba, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kano, Yobe, Borno and Adamawa. Even the FCT was not left out. According to the report: “More than 10 million people were analysed and over 3.8 million people need urgent attention of food, while it was projected that 5.8 million people would face extreme food and nutrition deficits”.
The report said that the analysis was based on four conceptual frameworks, which included food security, nutrition, livelihoods and mortalities. It noted that the results of the analysis indicated that three local government areas (LGAs) in Adamawa, including Michika and Madagali LGAs, and another three LGAs in Borno were experiencing severe food crisis.
More than half way into the year, the situation has been compounded by devastating floods in Ogun, Katsina and Zamfara states. Other factors that have aggravated the sad situation include the Boko Haram insurgency, killings in Adamawa, Taraba, Southern Kaduna and Benue states, said to be the food basket of the nation by fully armed herdsmen. The diversion of attention by power-seeking politicians ahead of 2019 at the expense of good governance is another critical issue militating against food security.
Food security exists when all people, at all times have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. Nutrition security means access by all people at all times to the adequate utilization and absorption of nutrients in food, in order to be able to live a healthy and active life.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a state in which “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.” Terms for food insecurity are, “struggling to avoid hunger,” “hungry, or at risk of hunger,” and “hungry, or faced by the threat of hunger.”
As at January 11, this year the World Food Programme (WFP) released some terrifying facts as it relates to hunger and malnutrition in Nigeria. According to the planet’s apex food security outfit, Nigeria is a food deficit country and is Africa’s largest importer of rice. Also one third of children under five (5) are stunted, that is twice the rate of Thailand and three times that of Tunisia. Not done, the WFP equally posits that a child in the remote north-western region of Nigeria, where stunting rates are around fifty-five percent; is four times more likely to experience malnutrition than a child in the south. Other salient areas the WFP report focused on were the underlying effects of insurgency which has left a large part of the displaced population without access to adequate food.
It is not as if previous administrations have not done their bit on agriculture. But their best has not been enough. For instance, the Green Revolution Programme was a major agriculture policy of the Shehu Shagari administration and the Fourth National Development. Chief Olusegun Obasanja, a renowned farmer brought Operation Feed the Nation. General Ibrahim Babangida instituted DFRRI and the River Basin Authorities.
Between then and now we have seen what the forward looking agriculture policies driven by Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina did for the country, with the focus on areas of comparative advantage, pest control and the more accessible and cheaper to get fertilizer policy. That was all under ex-president Goodluck Jonathan. His successor, President Muhammadu Buhari brought Agriculture Promotion Policy and has allocated N118.98 billion for Ministry of Agriculture in 2018 Budget . The rejuvenation of rice farming, including the Lagos-Kebbi, Lake Rice is a commendable initiative. But policies go beyond rhetoric.
According to Olatunji (2005), a programme is a collection of coordinated activities that are mutually directed towards the attainment of a definite goal and it usually comprises several segments or projects which can be separately
pursued as a component of the whole. The concept of programme implies that a goal is in focus and several activities would be needed and coordinated to attain the goal.
It is generally accepted that Nigerian agriculture has suffered as a result of the resource cause- effect of oil and inappropriate policies and institutions. This, coupled with heavy handed and unpredictable government intervention programmes, has led to short term investment decisions and rent-seeking behaviour by
programmers and has created dysfunctional and disconnected benefit to the poor masses.
To avert the looming food crisis, government must stem the tide of blood-letting of the rural dwellers most of who are farmers in the Middle Belt stat by the so called bandits and herdsmen as earlier mentioned. There should be incentives for graduates of agriculture, agric economics, agric engineering, food science and technology to move into the rural communities as farm extension workers.
Besides, research institutes that have to do with agriculture should be well funded. So should state and federal budgets on food production, processing and preservation. Proactive efforts should be geared up to reduce the incident of floods.
Also, warning signals given by NiMet, FAO and WFP should be taken seriously by policy makers and all the relevant stakeholders.
Apparently, that given by Zakariya D. Goshit with the title: ‘The Impact of the Current Food Crisis on the Nigerian Society’ was not heeded. Nigeria is an abundantly blessed agrarian country and should be the food basket of Africa, not the other way round. A stitch in time saves nine.