Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday called on leaders in Africa to initiate a revolution in their policies and actions that would guarantee adequate food production to help combat poverty.
Mr. Obasanjo, who was speaking at the launch of the First Africa Human Development Report in Abuja, said leaders have in the past been allowed to get away with poor policies and inadequate performance towards food production, resulting in the high poverty and hunger in the continent.
“For too long we have made excuses,” he said.
“We have been inconsistent. We have encouraged corruption, inefficiency, waste and incompetence. For too long, leaders at local, continental and international levels have got away with murder through poor, inadequate and incompetent performance towards food production. What the report is saying is enough is enough. Africa has suffered enough shame and disgrace,” Mr. Obasanjo said.
He faulted international organisations’ prescription on Africa’s poverty, saying the report is an indictment on African and international community leadership on African economic development generally and food production and nutrition securities in Africa in particular.
Although he noted that the report revealed what Africans already knew about the poverty in Africa, the former President cited the successes in Rwanda, Malawi, and Ethiopia as models that could be adopted, saying their giant strides in economic development and food production and food security is an indication that Africans were not created to starve.
He recalled that between 2003 and 2007, Nigeria’s agricultural production grew by more than 7 per cent annually, arguing that this is an indication that poverty can be eradicated if the political leadership and government provide the direction, motivation and sustainability of the policy and programme as well as the machinery for adequate funding.
Urging international organisations, civil society groups and donor agencies to jettison the old practice of dictating to any country what must be done and how, whether or not it is relevant, but to ensure that they build genuine partnership and cooperation for farmers to produce to the specification and standards required in the market.
“Leaders and the led must wake up to their responsibilities of giving Africa a new name and image,” he said. “What the report is saying is ‘enough is enough’. Africa has suffered enough shame and disgrace. The time of Africa would only have come if Africa throws away the toga and policies that failed us in the past.
“To get to the Promised land, we must have a revolution in policy and action against poverty. Programmes such as ‘Grow Africa and Feed Africa’ focusing on Africa’s food and nutrition securities signal the beginning of the revolution. Everyone has a role to play, and let no one be found wanting in our effort to make Africa self-sufficient and a net exporter of food in the shortest possible time. We can do it, and we must do it.”
The Minister of Agriculture, Akinwunmi Adesina, noted the country’s potentials and the growth of the economy in recent times, pointing out that despite these benefits, majority of Nigerians, mostly in the rural areas, are still in poverty.
The minister, who acknowledged that the key to national security is food security, added that peace and security can only be assured, when the stomach is secured.
He said in recognition of this, the government has articulated a clear vision to achieve a hunger-free Nigeria through an agricultural sector that will drive economic growth, accelerate the achievement of food and nutritional security, generate employment, and transform the country into a leading player in global food market.
“Our vision is for Nigeria to become an agriculturally industrialised economy to create wealth, jobs and markets to farmers and revive the rural economy, to grow the sector from the current level of N99billion to about N300billion per annum by 2030,” he said.
He announced plans to commence the exportation of one million metric tons of processed cassava chips next month with financing from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), an arrangement that would earn cassava farmers about N40billion per annum, while the government is to facilitate access to the private sector to import about 18 cassava processing plants into the country to handle about 1.3 metric tons of cassava flour.
United Nations Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative in Nigeria, Daouda Toure, said more than one in four Africans (about 218million) remain undernourished, while more than 40 per cent of children under five, almost 55 million, are malnourished.
Though the report identified drought and crop failure as cause for the food crises in Africa, Mr. Troure said the actual causes of food insecurity are low agricultural productivity, wide-spread, and extreme poverty, erratic weather patterns, environmental degradation, food price volatility, and conflict.