My dear readers; permit me to digress from continuation of my last week article on recognition of 21st Century Inventors to discuss on “World Food Day celebration, Gate Keepers’ Report and their implications to Food Security in Nigeria”. This topic is apt at the moment to remind my fellow citizens of the impending food insecurity threat to our dear nation, Nigeria.
Tuesday, 16th October 2018 was a World Food day globally celebrated on annual basis in many countries to remind nations on the devastating effects of hunger, poverty and squalour. Nigeria joined other nations to mark the day at the National Agricultural Show Complex, Km 28, Abuja – Keffi Express way, Nasarawa State. National Agricultural Foundation of Nigeria (NAFN), a forerunner NGO has annually been organising the event in Nigeria in collaboration with Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD).
World Food Day (WFD) provides opportunity for each country to assemble its stakeholders for conferences, symposia, and exhibitions as well as examines the different strategies adopted to reduce hunger and poverty. WFD is globally celebrated every year on 16 October in honour of the date of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, which was formally established in 1945. The day is celebrated widely by many other organisations concerned with food security, including the World Food Program and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. FAO’s Member Countries at the Organisation’s 20th General Conference established WFD in November 1979.
The Hungarian Delegation, led by the former Hungarian Minister of Agriculture and Food, Dr Pál Romány, played an active role at the 20th Session of the FAO Conference and suggested the idea of celebrating the WFD worldwide. It has since been observed every year in more than 150 countries, raising awareness on the critical issues behind poverty and hunger. The occasion is also used to showcase innovations and inventions made by researchers, technicians and craftsmen on the improvement of agricultural productivity.
Two years after the first WFD, the event was assigned a “theme” in 1981 and since then, “theme” was annually assigned to each WFD. The theme highlights common areas of concerns needing attention and action of policy makers, investors and the general public, examples; the theme of WFD of 2017 was “Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development” while that of 2016 was “Climate change: Climate is changing, Food and agriculture must too”. The theme of World Food Day 2015 was “Social Protection and Agriculture: Breaking the Cycle of Rural Poverty” and so on.
This year’s (2018) theme was “Our Actions are our Future. A Zero Hunger by the year 2030 is possible.” This is a smart way of sensitising the World to work towards eradicating hunger. The key words of 2018 theme, “achievement of zero hunger” gingered every stakeholder at the venue of the celebration on that day. According to FAO, “Zero hunger means working together to ensure everyone, everywhere, has access to the safe, healthy and nutritious food they need. To achieve it, we must adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, work with others, share our knowledge and be willing to help change the world – for the better”.
FAO further reminded the audience, “After a period of decline, world hunger is on the rise again”. According to the latest FAO 2018 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, “Today, over 820 million people are suffering chronic undernourishment, conflict, extreme weather events linked to climate change, economic slowdown and rapidly increasing overweight and obesity levels are reversing progress made in the fight against hunger and malnutrition”. Now is the time to get back on track. The world can achieve Zero Hunger if we join forces across nations, continents, sectors and professions. Today, 70 per cent of the world’s poor live in rural areas where people’s lives depend wholly on agriculture, fisheries or forestry. “That’s why Zero hunger calls for a transformation of rural economy” as stated by FAO.
In Nigeria, the 2018 World Food Day was celebrated with chain of events involving the stakeholders. The events included a five km road-walk; a symposium on Zero Hunger; a book/photo exhibition, National Agricultural Show and Public presentation of 2018 Agricultural Performance Survey (APS) Report. The symposium was done on October 12, which was titled the same as the 2018 WFD theme: “Our Actions are Our Future: A Zero Hunger World by 2030 is Possible”. The minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri was the special guest of honour at the event. He reaffirmed the federal government’s commitment to achieve Zero Hunger within the next few years.
The Nation, a national newspaper, quoted the minister, “In the next 12 years, Nigeria will join the league of nations who would be able to feed the world” – and make zero hunger. While we must join the minister to drum up the music of hopes as we move into the future, we may however, pause and ask how herculean the task to end hunger in Nigeria is? What is the performance of agriculture in the current 2018 wet season? The last question is answered by the Agricultural Performance Report (APS), which was presented to the public as part of 2018 World Food Day celebration in Nigeria. The Minister of FMARD, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who was represented by the permanent secretary, Dr Abdulkadir Muazu, officially performed the public presentation of the APS.
APS is one of the national mandates of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS). NAERLS) and is under the auspices of two organisations – FMARD and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (ABU). In NAERLS and two other ABU-based National Agricultural Research Institutes; IAR and NAPRI, there is a symbiotic relationship between FMARD and ABU, which brings out the best out of NAERLS. Thus, one hand, NAERLS personnel have the opportunity to interface with both undergraduate and postgraduate students of ABU in teaching and research activities. On the other hand, the same personnel are involved in agricultural extension activities thereby interfacing with field staff of the 37 ADPs across the nation. Consequently, there is no conflict of interests between the two supervisory bodies of NAERLS as they are both achieving their goals.
While FMARD is achieving agricultural extension policy and direction through NAERLS, ABU uses both the human resources and infrastructure of NAERLS for teaching, learning and community services. NAERLS, being an extension service provider, has distinctive position among the National Agricultural Research Institutes in the country. Thus, NAERLS carries out numerous annual activities with APS being one of them. The objectives of the 2018 APS are crops’ performance assessment during wet season; crops production forecasts; identification of constraints to increased agricultural productivity and effective extension delivery service. Another objective of APS is to provide feedbacks on field situation and farmers’ problems needing research, and attention of policy makers for improved research and policy performance.
The methodology of the APS involved the use of Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) technique. This includes questionnaire/checklists administration, farm visits/observations, interviews with farmers and Ministry/ADP officials /reports of technology review meetings. A total of 20 multi-disciplinary teams of three scientists each constituting 60 scientists conducted the survey across the 36 states, federal establishments and Federal Capital Territory. In each state, two communities were selected from two LGAs in two selected agricultural zones for field evaluation. From each community, five farmers were interviewed in addition to focused group discussions held at every site. In all, interactions were held with over 1,000 individual farmers and 74 different farmers groups. Data capture from the farmers was done electronically using Android Tablets.
Extensive discussions were also held with the ADP staff, ministry officials and staff of other relevant agencies. Final wrap-up sessions to validate the data generated and findings were held at the end of the exercise with officials of the State ADP and Ministry of Agriculture. The 2018 APS also captured information on Agricultural Project Interventions at the level of the Local Government Areas through states’ ministries of local government across the nation. Major findings of the 2018 APS will be discussed next week.