#Editorial

Let’s Return To The Farm

THERE is no better time for the people to return to the farm and the government to accord agriculture its deserved priority than these times of biting hunger, food price free fall and economic uncertainty.For about 10 months now, ‘we are hungry’ has been the singsong of the people and the scary projections of relevant local and international organisations have begun to come to pass.

THE National Bureau of Statistics reports that food inflation rate rose to 40.66 per cent in May 2024, up from 24.82 per cent in May 2023. The World Food Price projects that 31.8 million Nigerians or 16 per cent of the population will face severe food insecurity between June and August this year, with nearly one million to be in the emergency food insecurity phase. June is here and the grim realities of the predictions have started staring us in the face. Currently, the cost of food items has pushed inflation to 33.95 per cent. Food prices have sky-rocketed by over 300 per cent with a bag of rice going for between N75 , 000 and 90, 000; garri selling for between N1, 300 and N1, 500 per standard measurement while four pieces of tomato go for N1, 000.

THE Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) says only five per cent of smallholder farmers can access high-yield seeds, and that, despite over 314 formally registered seed companies, the majority process less than 1,000 metric tons of seed grain crops annually. Government must make high-yielding seeds available to farmers and ensure that seed companies function to optimum capacity.

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INSECURITY is unarguably the major cause of food crisis in the nation. Farmers in the food basket belt and other states have abandoned their farms due to insecurity. NESG says of the 41 per cent (34 million ha) of total arable land under cultivation, 30 per cent of states experience insecurity of agricultural land and that the scale of land insecurity is aggravated by broad-based dynamics of armed groups from bandits, terrorists, political militias, community-based militias, and illicit trade syndicates that have made farmlands inaccessible and escalated farming community-related violence during planting and harvesting seasons.

THE solutions to these excruciating challenges lie with all of us. While government at all levels must lead from the front, the people must find the will to return to agriculture, the abandoned option that accounted for over 70 per cent of external earnings, fed the family, put children in school, provided infrastructure and at independence.

TECHNOLOGY remains the best option to secure our forests and farms so that thousands of farmers in IDP camps and other farmers roaming the streets across the nation can go back to the farm. Security personnel, including Amotekun and local hunters should massively secure the flashpoints. Government must invest in technology, including drones to secure our forests and farms. The hammer of justice must come down heavily on the assailants to serve as a deterrent to others.

SUCCESSIVE government’s budgetary allocation to agriculture in the last two decades has been abysmally unimpressive. The highest within the period was N2.92b or 5.41 per cent in 2008 and N3.101b or 5.38 per cent in 2009. The N362.9b or 1.5 per cent of the total budget allocated to agriculture in a year of worsening food crisis is grossly inadequate. Government must respect the 2003 Maputo Declaration to which it is a signatory, which specifies 10 per cent allocation to Agriculture and Food Scarcity in Africa for the development of agriculture across the continent.

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THE Federal Government must continue to intervene in the price of petroleum and the performance of the Naira to sustainably check inflation and the soaring cost of food items. While the agricultural and financial institutions, including the Bank of Agriculture and allied would appear to help the farmers, they ask for impossible collaterals and other conditions that frustrate the farmers. Frantic efforts must be made to make loans and other incentives accessible to farmers.

AGRICULTURAL institutions and institutes must up their research interventions and set the pace in productive farming. The three tiers of government must encourage the youths who constitute over 60 per cent of the nation’s total population and able-bodied farmers concentrated in the rural areas to go into farming by providing the relevant implements, loans, and other incentives to aid productivity and provide jobs.

THE effect of the state of emergency on food security declared in July 2023 during the constitution of the Presidential Intervention on Food Security, Food Pricing & Sustainability has yet to be appreciably felt. A loud proof of this is the high rate of hunger and high cost of food items more than 10 months after the introduction of the initiatives. The Federal Government must not only implement the strategies with dispatch, it must also rally the 36 State governors to domesticate the programme so that hunger can be frontally defeated. Governors should also be incorporated into the Food Security Council to spread the solutions to the food crisis countrywide.

THE worsening cost of food items coupled with the throes of hunger is a wake-up call on all and sundry to engage in farming. There is a need for all of us to engage in urban agriculture or backyard farming to enhance food sufficiency. All hands must be on deck to erect the four pillars of food security—availability, access, utilization and stability—to rescue us from the jaws of hunger.

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