By Mukhtar Ya’u Madobi
The right to sufficient food is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in subsequent international law. Food security is regarded as a situation whereby all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to sufficient food to meet their dietary needs for a productive and healthy life.
Food security is ensured when food becomes available, affordable as well as accessible.However, it is good to note that, food security is not simply having sufficient and adequate quantities of various staple foodstuffs but, it also entails access to the entire citizenry to these food items at affordable prices. It further means that not only must we engage in mass food production, but also we need to ensure that most Nigeria have sufficient purchasing power to acquire food items that guarantee good feeding and nutrition.
Food security has to do with the absence of threats of hunger or malnutrition people face in their lives. In a broad sense, it entails safety from basic physiological needs. The lack of safety will be manifested in chronic hunger or starvation and malnutrition.
Majority of the rural populace depends on Agricultural related activities for their livelihood. The appraisal in the past showed that successive administrations in Nigeria had initiated programs towards ensuring food availability and accessibility for the teeming population in the country.
These include; the National Accelerated Food Production Program (NAFPP) by Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) by Murtala/Obasanjo Administration; River Basin and Rural Development Authority (RBRDA), Green Revolution and World Bank funded Agricultural Development Project (ADP) by Shehu Shagari and Babangida’s Directorate for Food, Road and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI) among others.
Despite these efforts, Agriculture has been constrained by numerous challenges such as rural-urban migration, insufficient infrastructure, poor agricultural inputs, reliance on oil economy, over dependence on rain-fed farming, environmental degradation, poor funding, poor socio-economic status of farmers, poor mechanization, climate change, corruption and poor commitment to implementation of agricultural policies.
Yet, the most grievous bottleneck facing the agricultural sector today in Nigeria is the mass abandoning of arable land by farmers due to security challenges. These security threats include but are not limited to insurgency, banditry and kidnappings, killings and farmers-herders’ clashes. Consequently, all these turmoil lead to a deficit in agricultural production.
Nigeria still has the potentials to be food-secure through adoption and implementation of strategic measures for the peasant farmers to operate in their farming activities through ensuring rural development, provision of easy access to basic farm inputs, adequate budgetary allocations to agriculture particularly to the food crop sub-sector, enunciation of appropriate policies for food crop sub-sector, political stability, reduction in rural poverty, and peasant farmers’ education among others.
In response to that, the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has initiated multiple agricultural programs aimed towards ensuring food security in the country. Notable among include Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) that commenced in 2015, which provides farm inputs both in kind and cash to smallholders farmers in order to boost production of agricultural commodities. Tremendous success stories were achieved through this program especially with a breakthrough rice production in Kebbi State. There is also the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) which was launched in 2016, a partnership between Nigeria and Morocco in order to make fertilizer available to the farmers. Farm Youth Lab (FYL) is another Initiative of the Federal Agricultural Ministry to train Nigerian youths on livestock production and sustainable urban agriculture.
Additionally, there is also the Presidential Economic Diversification Initiative (PEDI), launched in 2017 in order to support the revival of moribund industries especially agro-processing ones through facilitating investment, reducing regulatory bottlenecks and enabling access to credit.
Moreover, in March 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the National Food Security Council (NFSC). The council was mandated to develop sustainable solutions to farmers and herdsmen clashes, climate change, piracy and banditry, as well as desertification, and their impacts on farmland, grazing areas, lakes and rivers. All these efforts are aimed towards increasing food production in the country.
The latest version of National Security Strategy 2019, a document released by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), Retired Major-General Babgana Monguno, noted that with the drastic reduction of food importation, government will continue to develop agricultural potentials to attain self-sufficiency in food production as well as exportation. “
The government will further consolidate investment in agricultural mechanization, irrigation and infrastructure to mitigate the risk and uncertainty occasioned by seasonal rainfall. In addition, modern techniques will be adopted to improve beef and dairy production and consolidate strategic food reserves to ensure that the nation is prepared for major emergencies and shortages”.
The latest Federal Government directives on the establishment of farm estates in 109 Senatorial districts across the nation deserves an accolade. This mandate is to be realized by the recently resuscitated National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA), which has already commissioned its first integrated farm estate in Katsina and other states. Across the country, each farm is expected to engage in rearing of poultry, fish and livestock, apiculture, crop farming, packaging and processing respectively.
With this development, it is hopeful that the country will be able to achieve food security and attain self-sufficiency in food production within the near future.
Nonetheless, even if all the aforementioned policies are implemented, unless strategic measures are put in place to curtail the rising security challenges bedeviling the country, otherwise, the wish of the country to become a food-secure nation will never be realized.
Thus, peaceful environments should be created for farmers to resettle and muster more strength towards cultivating the vast abandoned arable lands in order to boost agricultural production in the country.
Mukhtar Ya’u Madobi sent this piece