There is urgent need to invest more in food production
Millions of people across the globe yesterday marked the World Food Day. But coming at a period Nigerians are rated as “seriously” hungry, going by the 2015 Global Hunger Index (GHI) statistics, it was disturbing that the authorities gave no indication of any concerted efforts to address the challenge of food security in our country. Yet, with the 2016 theme being “Climate is changing, food and agriculture must too”, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations is calling on countries to address the challenge of food security in their climate action plans and invest more in rural development.
With a score of 32.8, Nigeria is currently ranked the 14th most hungry out of 119 countries and 152nd out of 187 on the 2015 UNDP Human Development Index (HDI). To worsen matters, the 2016 Report of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) is quite revealing of the prevalence of wasting and stunting in children under the age of five in the country. And to the extent that hunger, poverty and disease are interlinked, with each contributing to the presence and persistence of the other, there is an urgent need for critical stakeholders to begin to fashion solutions to tackle the challenge of hunger and food in Nigeria.
Ranked as the world’s largest producer of cassava, yam, and cowpea, it is a shame that Nigeria depends on imports of grains, livestock products, and fish to feed our people. Against the background that, of an estimated 71 million hectares of cultivable land, only half is currently used for farming, mostly by small holding rural dwellers, there is need to take agriculture much more seriously.
However, the greatest challenge relates to climate change which is the kernel of this year’s World Food Day. Poor people are the hardest hit by droughts and other problems associated with weather and the environment. “Growing food in a sustainable way means adopting practices that produce more with less in the same area of land and use natural resources wisely. It also means reducing food losses before the final product or retail stage through a number of initiatives including better harvesting, storage, packing, transport, infrastructure, market mechanisms, as well as institutional and legal frameworks” said a statement by the FAO to mark this year’s World Food Day.
That is a message that will serve well the authorities in our country, especially at this most difficult period for many families. While government, at all levels, periodically reiterate commitment to reducing by half the number of impoverished Nigerians by 2020, most of the programmes for helping the poor that we have had in recent years have ended up as slush funds. It was therefore common to see those who administer such programmes ostensibly meant for the poor helping themselves and their cronies with little or no thought for the people on whose behalf they were to work.
No matter the spin officials put on the issue, emerging facts suggest that the nation’s finances and the economy are already in dire straits.This is therefore the time for our leaders to put on their thinking caps on how to redress the situation, especially regarding food security for majority of our people who are living below the poverty line. They should not take it for granted that because Nigerians are somewhat resilient they will continue to struggle to make a living oblivious to their tough socio-economic conditions and the failings of those in authority.
The message should be clear: if things continue the way they are today, nobody should be under any illusion that Nigeria is insulated from any kind of social upheaval.