As the world celebrates World Food Day (WFD) on October 16, some agricultural experts celebrated the day pondering how to end hunger and food insecurity in Nigeria.
The meeting was facilitated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Oxfam and Action Aid Nigeria, (AAN) on Wednesday in Abuja.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, in 1945, began celebrating WFD on October 16.
Since the inception of the day, several themes have been chosen annually to bring attention to hunger and food and its effect on the lives of people worldwide.
The theme for this year’s celebration is ‘Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together; Our action, our future’. Celebrated around the world, World Food Day honours commitment to defeating hunger.
FAO says nearly 690 million people went hungry 2019, about 10 million more since 2018.
It also said the COVID-19 pandemic could add between 83 to 132 million people to this number, depending on economic growth.
The World Food Programme in Nigeria said dogged poverty affects more than half the population, most severely in the Northeast and Northwest regions.
In Nigeria, around 110 million representing over 60 percent of the total population, live below the poverty line.
This number is very significant, bearing in mind that Nigeria has an estimated population of 200 million people.
Furthermore, Nigeria is subject to periodic droughts and floods; this has had an adverse impact on agricultural output and increased the vulnerability of populations, especially in rural areas.
Experts suggest solutions
As a contribution to discussions around food security to commemorate this year’s WFD, the minister FMARD, Sabo Nanono, represented by the permanent secretary, Abdulkadir Mu’azu, said the government is focusing on closing the demand-supply gaps in the agricultural sub-sector.
He said if the gaps in the sub sector are not properly addressed, it might contribute to the global food crisis currently affecting the world.
He maintained that policy direction is fashioned towards increased agricultural output in the country.
Mr Nanono said the re-activation, and utilisation of existing dams and irrigation facilities will strengthen agricultural extension services and implement a private sector-driven mechanization programme.
“Streamlining the mandates and operations of research institutes and federal colleges in the sector, aligning the curricula of agricultural universities to best technology and entrepreneurial practices, restructuring the Bank of Agriculture to promote agro-allied enterprises, collaborating with finance institutions to facilitate credits to agribusiness initiatives, mainstreaming youth and gender productivity.”
Fred Kafeero, the FAO country representative in Nigeria, who spoke through Abubakar Suleiman, said that the organisation would continue to provide technical support for Nigeria’s government policies in the agricultural sector.
He disclosed the organisation’s intervention for farmers in Borno and Yobe states by providing quality fertiliser and agricultural inputs, amongst several other interventions.
The dean, Faculty of Agriculture, Nasarawa State University, Olumuyiwa Jayeoba, said the various organs of government and stakeholders should meet the needs of vulnerable populations through emergency food assistance and improved, more accessible, social safety nets.
Mr Jayeoba also emphasized the importance of establishing evidence-based policies and legal support for sustainable food systems, such as regulations on nutrition, decent employment, and land resources.
The country director, AAN, Ene Obi, called for improved agricultural investment in the country
Ms Obi said that the sector only had 1.25 percent investment in 2017, 2.23 percent in 2018, 1.85 percent in 2019 and 1.73 percent in 2020.
She lamented the poor transportation system for rural farmers, who find it difficult to move their products.