Nigerians have called on the Federal Government to emplace infrastructure for food production to reduce hunger and malnutrition.
This, they argued, could be done with a more enabling environment for greater food production to meet rising demand as the population increases.
Prices of food items have consistently been on the increase, while the importation of foods has been greatly checked with the government import substitution policy, just as the land borders have been closed in the last one year.
The challenges of food production become more pronounced as insecurity escalates in every part of the country, flooding ravages farms and products and as climate change-induced erratic rainfalls cause stunting of crops, poor harvests, and scarcity of food items.
Therefore, forces of demand and supply have forced up prices of food items, making such unaffordable to the resource-poor Nigerians.
The intensity of the scarcity also makes the World Food Programme (WFP) Country Representative, Paul Howe, to call for urgent interventions to save millions of Nigerians from hunger following the COVID-19 health crisis and ‘food pandemic.’
According to him, “Over 90 million people, 46 per cent of the population in Nigeria, live on less than US$2 per day. The urban poor depending on daily wages has been very hard hit by COVID-19. In Kano, where the impact is anticipated to be significant given its regional centrality and commercial importance, the number of food-insecure increased by 15 per cent, from 568,000 to 1.5 million.”
Similarly, the new Country Representative for Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of UN, Fred Kafeero, has disclosed that 600,000 people have been added to the category of those hungry over coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Northeast.
The Boko Haram insurgency has claimed 32,000 lives with property worth $9.2 billion (about N3.42 trillion) in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states.
While lamenting the impacts of COVID-19 recently, after inspecting some livelihood projects in Gongolong community of Borno State, he said: “This is a big challenge for all of us. This country has had the Boko Haram insurgency for 11 years. On top of that, we got this challenge of COVID-19 pandemic.”
He said the UN has assessed the impact of a pandemic to perpetuate those agricultural, livelihoods in terms of how it is impacting food security.
He said the FAO had been working and mobilising along with NGOs, development partners, and the government to see that the hungry people could access food with nutrition and incomes.
Speaking on hard areas to reach, he said: “It’s not like we only targeting Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) or refugees alone, but the host communities. He noted that the host communities are hospitable.
He added: “Nigeria is a very important agricultural country. When you talk about agricultural potential, you’re talking about the potential that is in several sub-sectors of agriculture.
“When you talk of forestry resources, which is part of agriculture, Nigeria has all that. The point is how we can mobilise each and every stakeholder to support the governments.”
In a related development, Professor Gbolagade Ayoola, Founder/President, Farm & Infrastructure Foundation (FIF) and Chairman, Voices for Food Security (VFS), in a memorandum entitled, ‘The Need to Make the Right to Food a Fundamental Human Rights in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,’ urged the Senate Committee on Constitution Review that without the right to food, there could be no food security in Nigeria.
He appealed to the ad hoc committee to recommend the amendment of the 1999 Constitution to Senate to guarantee the right to food as a fundamental human right in Nigeria, is a critical requirement for human, social and economic development of the country in the medium to long-term future.
President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Mr Ibrahim Kabir, said farmers should do year-round farming in agriculture by “continuing to expand our land and creating new camps because the rain-fed agriculture alone cannot feed the population 200 million people.”
He argued that countries that have made an impact on their food systems produce three or more crop cycles yearly.
“That is what a farmer in Nigeria should look forward to and once you do that and sure of that, you will produce food in abundance. Unless everybody looks into agriculture and get actively involved without depending too much on the government, food availability would always be a challenge,” he said.