Addressing Nigeria Food Crisis

NIGERIA has been battling high level of food insecurity for the past four decades as a result of neglect in food production when oil has become the major export product. This crisis has reached an all time high in the past few months. Nigeria’s  adoption of neo-liberal economic policies such as devaluation of the naira, trade liberalisation and withdrawal of government from economic activities, ethnic and religious conflicts; disasters, such as flooding and drought, have also contributed to food insecurity in Nigeria.

FOOD is different from other commodities because everybody needs it for survival, and it is an indispensable factor in a nation’s quest for economic growth and development. Unfortunately, most of the food needs in Nigeria are produced by peasant farmers who lack capital, skills, energy and other viable ingredients to produce in large quantity that will meet the demand of the growing population. Thus, food insecurity in Nigeria is a recurrent and double digit problem.

THE  main causes and drivers of food insecurity are poverty, environmental degradation, conflict and climate change. Food insecurity leads to worse health outcomes and worsens poverty. The nation is experiencing a severe hunger with the sky-high inflation on food products and other commodities.  The menace of insecurity, removal of petrol subsidy and other policy interventions from the Nigerian government have worsened the situation. With 25 million Nigerians at high risk of hunger, we urge the government to encourage private investments in the agricultural sector by providing incentives that apply to both primary and secondary food producers.

With over 220 million people, Nigeria is the most populated country in Africa and the sixth in the world. It is the tenth-largest producer of crude oil  in the world and achieved lower-middle-income status in 2014. However,  statistics show that around 84 million Nigerians, representing about 37 percent of the total population live below poverty line. Conflict and insecurity, rising inflation and the impact of the climate crisis continue to drive hunger in Nigeria with 26.5 million people across the country projected to face acute hunger in the June-August 2024 lean season. This is a staggering increase from the 18.6 million people food insecure at the end of 2023.

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Nigeria is subject to periodic droughts and floods. This has had an adverse impact on agricultural output and increased the vulnerability of populations, especially in rural areas. Insurgent activities have added pressure to a fragile resource environment, deepened insecurity, hampered development, and heightened the food and nutrition insecurity of vulnerable women and children.

The World Food Programe is prioritizing its operations to reach 1.1 million vulnerable people every month in northern Nigeria. Those receiving assistance include displaced people living in camps or host communities, as well as vulnerable members of host communities and people returning home after months of displacement. Children are the most vulnerable to food insecurity.

Amidst the rising food prices, President Bola Tinubu in July, 2023 declared an “State of Emergency” on food insecurity in the country. He said the move is seen as part of an aggressive push to boost agricultural productivity and reduce the high prices of major staple foods in Nigeria. The development is in line with the government’s short, medium and long-term strategies towards addressing the challenges of food affordability and accessibility in the country.

APART from poverty, harsh weather patterns, drought, extreme temperatures and floods also impact agricultural productivity and food production not only in Nigeria but globally. The impact of climate conditions is evident on crop production across Nigeria. Given its very large deficit between local food production and demand, the country is highly dependent on imports to meet its dietary requirements.

THIS situation is aggravated by a high population growth rate and urbanization, which also intensifies pressure on natural resources. So government  at all levels must encourage local production to reduce importation of goods. Reports indicate that Nigeria still imports millet, maize, wheat, soya, and it is now obvious we cannot produce adequate food for livestock. Fifty percent of poultry farms have closed down.

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ADDRESSING food insecurity needs comprehensive, long-term strategies, investment, modernisation of farming techniques, robust supply chains, promoting local food production and social protection policies for the vulnerable.

THEREFORE, we emphasise the need to encourage more youths to go back to the farm while government supports in terms of seedlings, chemical and equipment etc. Government should secure the environment for them. In any nation which desires to have a bumper harvest, mechanised farming is very essential. Hence, we must begin to deploy technology and make farming attractive. The government should encourage and invest in urban farming by ensuring stability in food-producing regions, adequate storage infrastructure, and provide agricultural commercialisation to put an end to the ugly trend.

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