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World Food Day: Why Nigeria may not attain food sufficiency target

As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark World Food Day, stakeholders in the agriculture sector have expressed fear that Nigeria may further suffer a setback in her quest for food sufficiency.

They claimed that the impact of the crisis in Russia/Ukraine, climate change, rising price of fertilizer, and flooding, which caused a dramatic increase in food prices is likely to worsen the country’s food crisis and plunge many into hunger if urgent steps are not taken by the government and other stakeholders.

World Food Day is celebrated yearly on October 16 to promote global awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and to highlight the need to ensure healthy diets for all. The date was designated by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) in 1979.

This year’s theme: “Leave No One Behind, Better Production, Better Nutrition, a Better Environment, and a Better Life,” highlights that production and consumption of safe foods have immediate and long-term benefits for people, the planet, and the economy.

The co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of CATO Foods, Osun State, Mr. Pelumi Abisala, who said the effect of climate change has impacted food production greatly, warned that the incidence of the recent flooding will further lead to increased food prices as the little results from the interventions in the sector has been affected by more than 30 percent.

He said: “Nigeria being an import-dependent nation will further suffer a setback in her quest for food sufficiency. Nigeria’s food sufficiency dream has been badly hit and unfortunately, the agriculture value chain has not been enjoying the right support as most of the intervention programs have been difficult to access or failed to make the desired impact on the value chain actors like the smallholder farmers.”

On its part, FAO said the analysis carried out at the beginning of this year indicated that approximately 19.4 million people faced food insecurity in 21 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The FAO Representative in Nigeria and to ECOWAS, Fred Kafeero, said, “As food insecurity worsens, so does the risk of malnutrition. It is estimated that about two million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition, also, climate extremes, such as the ongoing floods that have severely impacted lives and livelihoods.

“There is a protracted conflict in Northeast, in the middle belt, we see the persistence of climate-induced clashes between herders and farmers over natural resources – land and water, in the Northwestern region, criminality and banditry.

“All these have severely affected productive activities across several states and are key drivers of hunger in that part of the country. As if that is not enough, we witnessed rising food prices and the cost of production.

Kafeero, who described the fight against hunger and malnutrition as a daunting task, appealed for concerted action from all stakeholders – government, international, and national research systems.

The Chief Executive Officer of Green Sahara Farms, Suleiman Dikwa, said climate change has a dual effect on rural farmers by denying them economic returns, thereby suffering environmental, social and economic problems.

“The pandemic, Ukraine war, and similar events have come to prove that we need to reimagine and rethink our approach to food security. Exportation without the knowledge of its ecological footprint leads to doom for all.

“We have to completely review our agricultural and economic policies to reflect this reality through a button-up approach to talking about insecurity. While the export dollars look attractive, we have to answer the question of the farmer that has remained poor. With very scarce resources, it presents an opportunity to create resilient communities as a building block of a new economy whereby well-being commences at the very bottom.

“When communities become resilient, the majority will be fed and subsequently produce premium healthy and natural products for premium prices. It is important, therefore, that we rethink our quest for massive mechanization and commercialization to wit. We have failed woefully and play to our strength.”

Dikwa, who said that food insecurity is a global issue, noted that the major role a government can play is to offer palliatives, saying with the climate devastation all over the country will affect the yields from the farms.

“We need to develop short medium and long-time solutions. By comparison, Nigeria has not done badly in managing inflation, but our cry is that we know we can have a better economy. The issue is beyond the farmer but a global economic issue that cuts across sectors.”

While speaking on the theme, Abisala said the country is blessed with a wide range of nutrient-enriched crops and through effective and innovative value addition, nutritious food can be available at an affordable cost to Nigerians.

He said: “Our company, Cato Foods is happy to celebrate this year’s world food day because what we promote is making more nutritious food available, accessible, affordable, and safe. It is important to note that you are what you eat, and that food is not food if it is not nutritious and safe.

“Human productivity is directly linked to the quality of their food more than the quantity. So, production and consumption of safe food have immediate and long-term benefits for people.”

Abisala said despite being blessed with a wide range of nutrient-enriched foods, Nigeria still has a very high rate of malnutrition, and a high rate of micronutrient deficiency, which affects its productivity as a country. Yearly, “Nigeria loses over $1b to malnutrition, about 33 percent of children below five years are affected and women of reproductive age too. All these have a far-reaching economic impact.

“Most Agricultural practices today are not eco-efficient thereby affecting the health of the planet. Nigeria needs to embrace and promote the consumption of nutrient-enriched crops like biofortified crops so that we can guarantee a more food-secured future for the people and the country.”