PRIORITISING FOOD SECURITY: THE NEED FOR SUSTAINABILITY
By Ene Okwanihe
Food security is a concept that encompasses availability and accessibility of safe nutritious food for everyone.
In Nigeria, the Muhammadu Buhari Administration initiated policies aimed at improving food security for its citizens.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic affected Nigeria’s food supply chain. There was reduced agricultural output because of the global lockdown, lack of access to agricultural facilities and products such as fertilizers, low work force and restrictive policies.
These factors have generally resulted in food scarcity and price inflation, which increasingly threatened the economic and social stability of households in Nigeria. The attacks on farmers and farmlands in parts of the country by terrorists and gunmen became another major source of worry in ensuring food security.
Nevertheless, the government has not sat on its oars as it embarked on series of measures to ensure the safety of farmers for a bumper harvest, including the continued improvement of farmer’s institutions through farmer groups and organisations that cater for farmers. Government has invested heavily in agriculture by developing infrastructure such as roads, irrigation canals and markets for agricultural products.
The government also inaugurated the revised 2022 National Agricultural Seed Policy, aimed at ensuring food security in the country. The policy is to enable farmers have access to improved quality seedlings. It will also deal with the ambiguities of the previous national seed policy.
The Buhari administration has also taken steps to realize increased agriculture production to transform the sector from subsistence to a very highly mechanized system. Apart from helping to bring about food sufficiency and food security in the country, it would also provide for exportation of agricultural products.
The National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure, NASENI, is already facilitating the provision of modern tools and equipment for mechanized agriculture. These would guarantee technology for food processing, food preservation and food availability as well as artificial intelligence for efficient and multi crop seasons.
The agency is collaborating with partners from the Hasmite Kingdom of Jordan, the Czech Republic and Italy to equip the Institute and five others in the country, with state-of-the-art research and manufacturing facilities, targeting the best and highest technology in the world.
The Rice revolution, introduced by the Buhari government is already yielding the desired result. Nigerians now patronize locally produced rice from local farmers. The Food and Agriculture Organization posits that Nigeria is the largest producer of rice in Africa, producing eight million tons annually, followed by Egypt, Madagascar, Tanzania and Mali.
In spite of this, Nigeria is the third highest importer of milled rice in the world, importing about two million metric tons of rice into the country. There is therefore the need for Nigeria to further improve its rice production capacity.
According to data, Nigeria’s rice production has continued to increase under this administration. For instance, the country’s rice production grew from two million metric tons in 2015 after the ban on rice importation to nine million metric tons in 2021 and it has continued to increase.
There is no doubt that a sustainable agricultural sector is a sustainable economy.
That is why the incoming government must build on the successes recorded by the Buhari administration in food security. After all, a country with abundant food tends to live a happier way of life. It reduces the social ills and improves the health condition of the people, especially children and vulnerable ones in society.
As they say, a hungry man is an angry man, and so apart from projecting the image of the country favourably to the international community, it also helps to create a conducive atmosphere for healthy governance.