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Guaranteeing food security

The recently-commemorated World Food Day, once again provided auspicious occasion to reiterate the call on governments at all levels as well as other stakeholders to prioritize provision of food for all, now more than ever before, in the light of the threat posed by hunger to the world generally.
The Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, an agency of the United Nations, UN, sets aside October 16 every year to raise global awareness on the real danger posed by hunger to the world community and to promote financial and technical collaboration among diverse governments and non-governmental organisations.
This year, the World Food Day celebration was aptly themed: “Feeding the world, caring for the earth.” This clearly underscores the significance of agriculture in the quest to feed the world and the need for the farmer and all humans to reciprocate by protecting the environment.
The world body believes that only the agricultural sector has the capacity to solve the world’s food crisis now and in future, hence it maintains, as conveyed by the theme, that efforts in that direction by way of expansion and new techniques must also prioritize the need to protect the earth which will, in turn, reciprocate with greater yields.
With an estimated global figure of over one billion people said to be threatened by hunger and malnutrition, Nigeria with a population of over 150 million people, with nearly a third of that number believed to be under-fed, must, upon reflection on this year’s World Food Day begin to rethink and retool existing framework designed to ensure food provision for Nigerians against the backdrop of the seemingly growing challenges encountered by previous efforts in the same direction.
There is also the worrying prediction by food experts that by 2020, the world might face a major food crisis. And that projection does not exempt Nigeria, which already harbours a sizeable proportion of the total world population.
For governments at all levels and relevant agencies, the real danger, therefore, lies in failing to evolve mechanisms for not just the adequate provision of food for her populace but also in not putting in place a proactive policy framework to sustain such mechanisms as the population continues to grow.
Indeed, hunger and its attendant consequences like crime, terrorism, civil unrests and agitations, adversely affect the physical, psychological and mental development of the citizenry such that the overall development of the country is, in some way, stunted.
Nigeria can ill afford to be drawn into this quagmire of hunger-induced retardation as the African continent constantly looks onto the nation as the leading light of the Black race.
Some agro-based food programmes evolved by past and present leaders have seen the country making some gains in efforts aimed at providing food for Nigerians but these efforts have faced some human and environmental challenges regardless of the sincerity of those who initiated them.
Environmental challenges like drought and desertification in the north; soil erosion, deforestation, flooding  as well as heavy environmental pollution in the south have all combined to frustrate laudable efforts aimed at providing food for Nigerians.
Regrettably, the neglect suffered by the agricultural sector in the past, has meant that Nigeria for years became the importation hub of West Africa, and Africa’ s largest dumping ground for all manner of unwholesome foods. The export potential of cash crops such as cocoa, groundnuts, oil palm, cashew, among others, also seriously diminished.
This year’s World Food Day celebration therefore, we hope, presents an opportunity for stakeholders to rededicate themselves to efforts to revive the agricultural sector and take back to the place of pre-eminence which it once occupied prior to the advent of oil wealth, as it remains, according to the FAO, the only sustainable means of adequately guaranteeing food security for the nation’s teeming population.
Governments must, therefore, refocus attention on policy implementation mechanisms to ensure that all programmes and projects perform optimally and are upgraded to conform to global standards.
Road construction and maintenance must also be intensified.  Rural roads must, especially be given adequate attention because much of the nation’s food supply come from these areas. Deplorable road networks have often caused foods to be left to rot in the farms or on the bad roads where trucks, some still laden with foods are trapped.
Efforts at tackling deforestation, desertification, flooding, man-made environmental pollutions as well as soil erosion must be intensified so that the earth can be healthy enough to yield more food and provide livelihood for the many farmers.
Governments must also be encouraged to embrace modern agricultural techniques and seek international or local partnerships in that direction, while massive awareness campaigns should be embarked upon especially at the rural levels on the need to embrace these new techniques and inputs, including improved seedlings and enriched feeds for better yields and modern preservation facilities.
We commend the recent revelation credited to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina that the country’s food import bill has dropped significantly over the past three years and also support his call for more application of technology in the sector.
However, it is clear that the recent displacement of over three million Nigerians by the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East geo-political zone, the still lingering incidents of militancy and environmental pollution in the Niger Delta region, youth restiveness, some criminal activities and worrying levels of rural-urban migration all threaten to dent the relatively appreciable gains recorded in the sector.
There is presently, a problem of hunger and malnutrition in the country, the continent and, indeed, the world. More efforts must, therefore, be made to reverse the trend and prevent the prediction of a major food crisis in year 2020.

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