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World Food Day: Nigerias food future hinged on todays actions

Published by The Nation on Fri, 16 Oct 2020

Olamide FrancisSIR: The theme of this years World Food DayGrow, nourish, sustain together. Our actions are our future.is a wake-up call to all and sundry especially African nations and more importantly, sub-Saharan nations. It reiterates the common advisory proverb of If you fail to plan, youre planning to fail. With a total of 256 million hungry people on the continent, with 239 million out of that number nesting in sub-Saharan Africa, this years World Food Day theme speaks directly to its leaders, agricultural policymakers, and farmers in one of the most beggarly regions of the world. While we can trace all food problems in Africa and Nigeria to climatic shocks, conflicts, economic slowdowns, and downturnssometimes overlappingwe must brace ourselves for the future, for our actions are our future.To understand what it means for a country to be food secured, let us appraise the WHO meaning of food security. The apex body clearly said that food security means that all the people in a given place at all times have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active ad healthy life. In other words, not only must there be healthy and sufficient food in a country, all citizens must have the purchasing power to buy the food at their own will.According to some projections, Nigerias population will almost be tripled in 2050. What this means is that food demand will automatically triple or quadruple. Nigeria, the most populous black nation will have a lot to deal with in terms of food production. An embarrassing food crisis is imminent if we fail to act now. Recently, the minister of agriculture, Sabo Nanono, made bold claims that the federal government has curbed food importation and Nigeria is now Africas largest producer of ricea claim that an average Nigerian cannot attest to.On a contrary, Nigeria is the worlds largest importer of rice after China and the Philippines according to a report published by Statista in February 2019. Nigeria isnt even on the list of top 30 milled rice-producing countries of the world. African countries that came close were South Africa and Senegal occupying the 23th and 27th respectively. More so, we still have challenges with strengthening our border security to check smuggling and movement of small arms activities. Our national grain reserve is not functioning at full capacity and we still have a huge food import bill as a country.The recent N600 billion pledge by the Federal Government to support agriculture through the Agro Processing Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support Project (APPEALS) with as loan to at least 2.4 million farmers across the country is laudable. However, I recommend that the number of beneficiaries be reduced. Funds should be made available only to already commercial farmers and subsistence farmers who have the capacity to grow into commercial farming. It shouldnt just be about disbursement but impact.The government should seek ways to upgrade a large number of subsistence farmers in Nigeria to produce commercially. One of the long-standing banes of Nigerias agricultural sector is the lack of political will to replace crude implements with machinery for small scale farmers. Nigeria is over-reliant on small scale farming, and it will always lead to low productivity and return on investments.The future of Nigerias agriculture can only be brightened by conscious efforts. We have all conditions in our favour. We must step out to work, rid ourselves of self-deceit, roll up our sleeves, and do the hard work of transforming our potential-filled agricultural sector. This should be an honest conversation we should be having for this years World Food Day.Olamide Francis, <francisolamide1@gmail.com>
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