Addressing the looming famine and food insecurity
In their latest report, both the Food and Agricultural Organisation, (FAO) and the World Food Programme stated that millions of people, most of whom are presently living in extreme hunger are on the brink of famine. Countries listed are Burkina Faso, Northern Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen.
They cite different causal perspective that includes Covid-19 aftereffect, displacements as a result of conflicts, flooding and other natural hazards. These had greatly impacted on livelihoods and distorted regular farming activities. More so, the risk of famine in the face of an already ravaged economy due to the pandemic spell doom for these countries whom had their peculiarities and domesticated issues to contend with.
Talking about domestic challenges, Nigeria, which has been listed alongside these countries, continues to grapple with humongous challenges – insecurity, social turmoil #EndSARS and the attendant palpable disconnect between the governed and the authorities. The aftermath of #EndSARS and the looting, destruction of both government and private properties, and, carting away of food and non-food items have clearly charted a path within which the country would follow. The situation, if left unchecked could adversely affect the fortunes of the country.
It’s quite disheartening seeing Nigeria lumped alongside these countries in the report. Nigeria is richly blessed with abundant human and material resources, vast and fertile land for massive agriculture both for domestic and external consumption.
Bizarrely, the agric-zones of the country are captured in the report as those on the precipice.
More than nine million people from 16 northern states and the FCT are food insecure, and at the brink of famine. Eight of the states – Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Benue, Gombe, Taraba, Taraba, Jigawa and Katsina – are facing hunger and on the brink of a full scale famine. The other half – Bauchi, Plateau, Kano, Kaduna, Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto and FCT – are lacking in nutritional food.
These are traditionally agrarian states or societies which for decades were feeding the nation.
The fundamental question is, what went wrong, when and how?
Experts have been sounding off warnings of a likely and much bigger catastrophe, if insecurity in the region is allowed to grow unchecked. A major repercussion is the distortion of agricultural activities which is the economic mainstay in the region.
In the Northeast, Boko Haram insurgency has already taken its toll on farming as most residents are either in IDP camps or migrated, leaving behind their ancestral homes for fear of attacks. Fishing activities in the Lake Chad, and the surrounding areas of Bama have been taken over by the deadly terrorists. In the Northwest, armed bandits have displaced millions and sacked farming communities which for decades had been engaged in commercial farming.
The North-central has lush vegetation and fertile land for farming and grazing. Livelihood and relations have long been strained by constant clashes between farmers and grazers.
What then can be done to mitigate the impending danger? Advocates of good governance have pointed out in clear terms that, transparency and just leadership can guarantee equitable distribution of wealth among citizens. However, distrust is rife between authorities and the governed.
Government must be seen to do more in order to restore confidence within the context of governance. It should also, tackle insecurity headlong, put in place early warning signs to prevent flooding and the attendant destruction like ravaging farm produce and farming communities across the region, and country in general.
Resettling and providing displaced persons lifeline like, training, provision of farming implements and fertilizer, so that even while living in displaced areas,they could engage in small scale farming activities.
The most profound effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is the distortion of economies around the globe, as unemployment soars, governments provided palliatives in different forms to cushion its effect. In Nigeria however, as seen recently, palliatives meant for the most vulnerable were hoarded by state governors for some opaque reasons.
Food insecurity, when allowed to fester for long has some ripple effects, one of which is famine. Therefore, the connection between human insecurity and food insecurity has now been firmly established. For years, scholars have warned of the grave danger of allowing insecurity thrive, the manifestation or reality is staring us right in the face.
Any effort(s) by government to intervene, or attain food security and self-sufficiency will be counterproductive so long as security of lives and properties is left unattended to, or politicised as seen in Nigeria.
When governors of the 19 northern states met in Kaduna a few days ago, the expectation was that insecurity, education, almajiri system and street begging, among others would dominate.
But, sadly, an uninspiring communique at the end of the meeting showed their concern was more on how to regulate social media and other mundane issues.
We cannot, as it were, stomach two-headed catastrophes simultaneously — human insecurity and food insecurity in the region and elsewhere! The stakes are way too high and no one would survive the impact.