To achieve food security, Nigeria needs to tackle the issues of security, growing population, climate change and illiteracy, to foster public and private partnerships in the sector.
These were some of the points made by panellists on Monday at the 26th Nigeria Economic Summit (NES#26) which opened in Abuja on the theme ‘Building Partnerships for Resilience’.
The participants spoke in the opening plenary session on ‘Tackling Food Insecurity and Malnutrition in the Nation’.
They said leaders should be committed to ensuring that infrastructural development and security is achieved in the nation.
The panellists include Sabo Nanono, minister of agriculture and rural development; Ndidi Nwuneli, managing partner, Sahel Consulting; Mira Menta, chief executive officer, Tomato Jos; and Fred Kafeero, the country representative, Food and Agriculture Organisation.
The World Food Programme in Nigeria said severe poverty affects more than half the population, especially in northern Nigeria.
In Nigeria, around 110 million representing over 60 per cent 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.
Nigeria is also subject to periodic droughts and floods, meaning that agricultural output is at risk, further worsening the rural population’s vulnerability.
Ms Nwuneli said some in the private sector have indicated an interest in the agricultural sector but are constrained by poor infrastructure.
Also, she blamed security officials and insecurity for being a bone in the neck to the sector.
“We have not looked at population, climate change, and hunger, which is going to be a major future issue if not taken care off soon,” she added.
Another panellist, Ms Mira, said rural farmers usually can not afford dry season farming in Nigeria.
She said illiteracy plays a major role in this sector in Northern Nigeria, which denies farmers access to new technologies.
In reality, farmers keep an eye on the market to know when sales will be high because they do not want to spend money on agriculture, she said.
Mr Kafeero said the growing population adds to food insecurity in the nation and this increasing number of people need food now and in the future.
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He clamoured for efficiency in food production and food consumption to avoid food wastage.
According to Mr Nanono, the problem with the sector is poor mechanisation, which has led to the provision of tractors in some states.
“There is low productivity in agriculture and the reason is because we are too far below the expected level. Look at the agricultural mechanisation, we have fewer tractors to attend to our farmers, so the low level of agriculture arises from the low level of mechanisation,” he said.
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