Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has identified the lack of continuity of agricultural policies and programmes by successive governments as a major factor responsible for food insecurity in Africa.
Mr. Obasanjo also blamed his successors for Nigeria’s current food crisis.
Mr. Obasanjo made the observation in Abeokuta on Saturday at a forum organised by the Centre for Human Security (CHS) and Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) on “Best practices in fostering food security in Africa’’.
He said that the lack of food security in Africa could be attributed to the failure of successive administrations to sustain the good agricultural policies and programmes initiated by their predecessors
Mr. Obasanjo noted that most of the programmes he initiated for the development of Nigeria’s agricultural sector were abandoned after his exit from power.
The two-time former President was succeeded by Shehu Shagari in 1979, and Umaru Yar’Adua in 2007.
He, nonetheless, said that he did not believe that Africa was jinxed, stressing that the continent would be able to overcome the challenges of food insecurity once its leaders were able to demonstrate political will and eliminate corruption in governance.
He reiterated that Nigeria would have since become self-sufficient in food production if the agricultural policies and programmes, implemented during his tenures as military and civilian head of state, were sustained.
Mr. Obasanjo recalled that his administration was able to improve the country’s cocoa production from 150,000 metric tonnes to over 400,000 metric tonnes within five years.
He also noted a similar improvement in cassava production from 30 million tonnes to 60 million metric tonnes within the same period.
“When I was Nigeria’s head of government, whether as military head of state or as elected president, the progress we made in agriculture and food security was because I personally sat at the driver’s seat.
“I recall that when I was the military head of state, we had a programme called ‘Operation Feed the Nation’ to improve agriculture and enhance food production. And we made some appreciable progress.
“We were self-sufficient in the production of agricultural produce such as poultry, rice and vegetable oil.
“However, when we left government and our successor came in, they set up a presidential task force for the importation of rice; not for the production of rice.”
Besides, Mr. Obasanjo noted that certain government officials undermined efforts to develop the country’s agricultural sector and promote food security through their corrupt practices.
“We need to find a better way not to harm ourselves; a way to consistently, continually and, indeed, continuously promote food security in Africa.”
He, therefore, urged the Federal Government, the private sector and farmers to collaborate and work out modalities to salvage the country from an imminent food crisis.
Also speaking, the CHS Chairman, Prof. Akin Mabogunje, said the centre was established to provide the necessary platform for a collective and knowledge-driven response to obstacles hindering Africa’s development.
“This regional forum is thus an attempt to facilitate the exchange of experiences in what various institutions and organisations have been doing to confront the challenges of food insecurity.
“The emphasis has been on best practices, whether in agricultural production, research, soil management, education, extension services or the overall mobilisation of farmers for sustainable agriculture.”
Mr. Mabogunje noted that in spite of its huge population and potential, Africa had not been able to cultivate viable agricultural practices, thus compounding the problems of human security on the continent.