2021 World Food Day: Is Nigeria food secured? (II), by Professor MK Othman


2021 World Food Day: Is Nigeria food secured? (II), by Professor MK Othman

In the first part of this article, last week, food security was defined as a state in which food is quantitatively and qualitatively available, accessible, and affordable to meet the nutritional needs of the people over a given period.

The levels of food insecurity range from mild, to medium, to severe and chronic depending on the three As; availability, accessibility, and affordability of the qualitative food to meet the dietary needs of individuals with nutritious values.

Three questions were posed; as Nigerians, what are our levels of food insecurity? What is the level of agricultural productivity in Nigeria? What are the challenges and ways forward?

Today, the country’s food system faces herculean challenges that make it very difficult to provide affordable, sustainable, nutritious, and safe food in the right quantity and quality for all Nigerian residents at all times, which is meeting the global definition of food security. Thus, Nigeria is not a food-secured nation but a great food buyer from other countries despite unlimited agricultural resources; land, labour, water resources, and more than 8 hours of sunlight duration per day. These resources are untapped, immobilized, unutilized, and heavily ignored for poachers to poach.

In reality, Nigeria has enormous and unquantifiable potential agricultural resources to feed the whole of the African continent and even export to other continents. Nigeria has a huge population of 210 million people with about 55% of the population being active, 91 million hectares of arable land, with merely 50% utilization despite the quantum of water resources, soil fertility, favourable topography, and climates.

Thus, the country has 12 million cubic meters of fresh-water resources, 960 kilometres of rich coastline, huge terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity. Additionally, Nigeria has seven distinct climate zones, which provide average annual rainfall ranging from 700 mm in the far north (Sahel savannah) to 4,000 mm in the riverine and mountainous areas in the south. River Niger passes through some countries and discharges an average of 5,589 m3/s volume of water into the Atlantic Ocean through Nigeria. River Niger with a length of 4,180 Km and a drainage basin area of 2.1 million Km2 is the third largest river in Africa and has six major perennial rivers as tributaries crisscrossing the length and breadth of Nigeria. This has made Nigeria be the most endowed country with unlimited water resources available for agricultural development.

Nigeria has a bright prospect of being food secured with a great potential of food supply to many nations. However, in the last three decades, Nigeria has been importing food massively. Between 1990 and 2011, Nigeria imported an average of ₦1.923 trillion worth of agricultural commodities per annum according to NBA statistics. That means, the nation imported about ₦1.0 billion worth of food per day in the period 1990-2011. Today, the country’s level of food importation has reached an agonizing crescendo in Nigeria’s import bills. Between 2020 and 2021, the value of imported agricultural products went up by 140.47 per cent.

In the first quarter of 2021, it spiked by 18.37 per cent compared to the last quarter of 2020. Precisely, Nigeria spent more importing agricultural products from outside the country, valued at N630.2 billion. The country only managed to export a meagre N127.2 billion in agricultural products. Of the total agricultural import value, Nigeria spent N258.3 billion on wheat importation in the first three months of 2021, representing 3.8 per cent of the total import share for the period. The pressure on Naira for the exchange rate to US Dollar caused instant inflation of wheat flour from N13,500 per 50 kg bag in June 2021 to N20,300 September 2021 for the same quantity.

How can Nigeria reverse this ugly trend of the inability to be self-sufficient in agriculture? Reversing the trend depends on our ability and sincerity to address two major categories of challenges; Technical and security. On the technical challenges, as a nation, we must resolve to increase our level of effective and quality investment. Agriculture is a livewire to our nation, which when disconnected will be akin to disconnecting oxygen supply to a patient in an intensive care unit, death will be a matter of seconds to such patient. On the increase of investment, the National Assembly should fast track the passage of the Agricultural Trust Fund Bill. This will provide the needed impetus, investment-wise to agriculture and make it modernize. Additionally, states and National Assemblies with the support of the executive arm of government can legislate an increase of budgetary allocation to the level of Mobuto declaration of 10% of the annual budget.

Still, on technical challenges, special treatment should be accorded to agricultural extension service. As agriculture is the livewire to our society, agricultural extension service is the “blood” to agriculture. Agricultural extension entails knowledge transfer, utilization and feedback, market intelligence, skill acquisition and perfection, and productivity enhancement along the value chain of agricultural commodities (crops and livestock).

Therefore, special treatment to agricultural extension can be made through fast-tracking the release of the National Agricultural Extension Policy. The policy was already developed and I am privileged to be part of the team that finalized the policy document. The development of the policy was a painstaking national assignment that was done over five years by agricultural experts, technocrats, and academics. Thus, the policy contains ready-made and holistic solutions to the challenges to agricultural extension service delivery. It also considers what to be done to modernize agriculture holistically now and in the future.

The policy has taken good care of how to source alternative and sustainable funds to support and develop an agricultural extension system in the country. If the policy becomes operational, it will automatically increase public and private investment in agriculture with special attention to extension services. This will spontaneously escalate agricultural productivity in geometric proportion.

On security challenges, cattle herders, Fulani are majorly accused of banditry and kidnapping, which constitute the most deadly insecurity to agriculture nationwide. The root cause of this challenge could be traced to a hitherto perennial conflict between farmers and herders over agricultural resource utilization. As the conflict was left unmanaged, it culminated in the current national calamity, which is fatal, risky, and catastrophe making us sleeps with both eyes open.

So, an increase in investment in agriculture will address both the technical and challenges. Cattle herders, the Fulani pastoralists will learn and adopt modern livestock farming. This is a highly productive venture with a cow producing 6-10 litres of milk against 0.5-1 litre being produced under current nomadic practice. This will gradually eliminate nomadism – stock and people movement, which is the cheap source of conflict. Hopefully, kidnapping and banditry will be drastically reduced, as herders will be settled in their choice places and be generating tremendous incomes for themselves and the nation.

To eliminate the security challenges, the concept of community policing with the capacity building of the locals must be introduced. Corruption among the security personnel must equally be addressed. These will complement the increase of investment in agriculture and will transform Nigeria into Eldorado with the capability of producing enough food to feed the whole of Africa.

Professor Othman writes from NAERLS, ABU Zaria and can be reached via email: mkothman@gmail.com.

2021 World Food Day: Is Nigeria food secured? (II), by Professor MK Othman


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