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UN warning: What Nigeria is doing to avert looming food crisis

By Augustine Aminu and Nneka Nwogwugwu

UN Secretary-General, António Guterres at a recent meeting in Bali, Indonesia, warned that with the war in Ukraine amplifying other crises, will result in increased prices in food and fertilizer; the “real risk” will be multiple famines this year, and the potential for even worse in 2023.

Guterres told G20 Foreign Ministers at the meeting that stronger collaboration among countries was the only sustainable path to a peaceful, stable and prosperous world for all.

In Nigeria the threat of food crisis is glaring. Data from National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows a steady rise in food inflation. 

The security threat, climate change and flooding have drastically affected farming. Farmers also said bumper harvest has been threatened by high cost of fertiliser and expressed concern that the situation is threatening food security in the country. 

But what is government doing to avert all of the doomsday predictions and ensure food security in the country?

Some environmentalists in their different opinions have suggested to farmers on the adoption of climate-smart agriculture techniques to curb climate change effects on food productivity.

The Network Coordinator, Let’s Do It World (LDIW) Africa region, an international environment organisation, Gafar Odubote, said farmers should practice climate-smart agriculture techniques to ensure food security.

According to him, Climate-smart agriculture is an integrative approach to mitigate climate change and adapt to its consequences without compromising food security.

He said to overcome the effects and impacts of climate change on our agriculture sector, our local farmers must adopt climate-smart agricuture techniques to ensure food security.

Odubote said Climate-smart agriculture comprises three major pillars that cater for food security, climate change adaptation and reduction of greenhouse gases emissions from agriculture activities.

“With the adoption of climate-smart agriculture techniques by local farmers we can sustainably increase agricultural productivity and food security”.

“We can also build resilience to climate change while reducing greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation), where possible in agricultural activities”.

“Our farmers must be educated and equipped to ensure adaptation to climate-smart agriculture like their counterparts in developed climes,” Odubote said.

Also, Ms Gloria Bulus, the Founder of Bridge-That-Gap Initiative, a non-profit environmental organisation, said there was a number of smart practices local farmers must adopt to overcome climate effects on their productivity.

She noted that the cultivation of crops without soil (Hydroponics) had helped a lot of farmers mitigate the challenges of climate change and irregular rain patterns.

“There are a number of smart agricultural techniques. However, we must understand each farmer’s challenge to determine what technique is suitable per farmer”.

“Hydroponics and aquaponics are smart agricultural techniques that both crop and livestock farmers can adopt”.

“These innovative farming techniques involve the growing of plants without soil through specialised nutrients that are added to water”.

She further stated that aquaponics combines the cultivation of aquatic animal with the alongside hydroponic crops. In aquaponic systems, the water containing the waste material from the aquaculture fish is used to nourish the hydroponic plants.

“After the water is used by the plants, the water is then recirculated back into the system to be reused by the fish. This technique is very good for water conservation and places that have drought,” Bulus noted.

She added that “agroforestry which involves growing trees and shrubs amongst crops or grazing land can be adopted as a smart technique by local farmers”.

“In this system, the trees help to maintain favourable temperature and soil humidity, while protecting crops from wind or heavy rain. These trees also stabilise soils, minimise nutrient runoff and improve soil structure”.

“This is the reason why agroforestry has become one of the powerful tools of farmers in dry regions with soils susceptible to desertification”.

On his part, Mr Emmanuel Emechete, an environmentalist, said that “one readily available and practical way local farmers can adopt smart practice is through investment in setting up an effective irrigation system”.

“Mixed farming, cultivation of crop species that can adapt the harsh weather conditions caused by climate change in their area, are recommended to mitigate climate change effects on agriculture”.

“Also, the use of quality seeds, organic waste, and farm practices with less greenhouse emissions are smart agricultural techniques local farmers can adopt to boost food security in these uncertain weather conditions,” Emechete said. 

In Rivers State, food shortage deepens after FAO’s food insecurity alert.

Traders at Railway market, Elelenwo, Port Harcourt have lamented over hike in food prices as well as shortage of some food items.

The traders in separate vox pops told NatureNews on Saturday that the cost of food items are extremely on the high side, making some traders to desist from engaging in more sales and making items unavailable for buyers.

This outcry of food shortage is coming few months after the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation had alerted that 19.4 million Nigerians will face food insecurity across Nigeria between June and August 2022.

NatureNews recalls that the report was processed in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development -FMARD and other stakeholders, analyses acute food and nutrition insecurity in the Sahel and West African region.

The report said the food crisis will affect Nigerians in 21 states and FCT including, 416,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

It noted that about 14.4 million people including 385,000 IDPs in 21 States and FCT of Nigeria are already in the food crisis till May 2022.

The analysis for the month of March covered Abia, Adamawa, Benue, Borno, Cross-River, Edo, Enugu, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Lagos, Niger, Plateau, Sokota, Tarba, Yobe, and Zamfara, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Speaking to NatureNews, a wine trader said that a carton of Toma wine that used to be sold for 8,500 is now sold for 18,000 naira.

Also, a portion of pepper that used to be sold for 50 naira is now being sold for 100 naira.

The trader lamented that many traders who can’t meet up with the loss in business have closed their businesses.

Another trader, a meat seller also poured out his anger over cost of things. He added that they don’t make any profit after calculating their losses.

He said, “We are just managing here. There’s no much we are gaining. The painful part is that customers don’t understand, they feel we are intentionally inflating the prices.”

From observations, NatureNews gathered that prices of fruits, rice, beans,  garri, beverages, vegetables , meat and fish have all increased.

Earlier in September, Manufacturers in Rivers State that use cassava as raw material for their production decried the scarcity of cassava to feed their processing plants. 

The continuous exports of raw agricultural goods such as cassava, without value addition was described as one that denies industries the raw material stock to feed local manufacturing, and also making the exporters get less value for the unprocessed exported goods.

They said this at the 38th annual general meeting (AGM) of the Rivers/Bayelsa chapter of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) in Port Harcourt.

Adawari Michael Pepple, a former senator, said at the event that raw materials were being lost to exportation instead of being made available as raw materials for local manufacturers, who can add value to them and create more wealth in the value chain.

Another agriculturist in the state, Amadi Ejiogu had said in an interview that insecurity ongoing in Nigeria especially in the North, is a major reason for food shortage.

He urged the government to provide better alternatives to ending insecurity and making food affordable and available to Nigerians.

Over the weekend, the Yobe government said it has spent over N2.9 billion on the procurement of fertilisers from 2019 to date. Dr. Mairo Amshi, Commissioner, state Ministry of Agriculture and Natural resources, stated this at a ministerial briefing in Damaturu.

She said that N1.5 billion of the amount was spent on the procurement of 3,000 tones of NPK 20:10:10 fertilizer in 2021.

Amshi said that the distribution and sales of the fertilizer were ongoing through an open market at a subsidised rate of N13,000 per bag.

The commissioner also said that N1.4 billion was spent in purchasing 7,500 tones of NPK 15:15:15 in 2020.

The commissioner added that the commodity was sold to the farmers at N5,000 per bag, representing 40 per cent subsidy.

She stated that in 2019, government spent N882 million in the procurement of 40 tractors, saying they were given as loans to large scale farmers at N11million each, payable within four years.

Amshi said the state, in collaboration with International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), had vaccinated over 1.2 million cattle, sheep, goats and dogs within the period under review.

The commissioner said that the state’s Livestock Development Programme was supported by 135 veterinary surgeons, 47 animal scientists, five equipped veterinary clinics and 17 Area Veterinary/ Livestock offices across the state.

She said that the state, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), set up livestock development centres at Jakusko/Nasari, Badegana and Gurjaje grazing reserves.

To also mitigate the issue of food production, The Federal Government, in collaboration with the Sokoto State Government, has commenced the distribution of farm inputs to 20 registered women farmer groups in the state.

Inaugurating the distribution on Thursday in Sokoto, Hajiya Kulu Sifawa, the state Commissioner for Women and Children Affairs, said the gesture was part of the Federal Government’s desire to engage Nigerian women in farming.

Sifawa said the essence of the project was to boost agricultural activities and bolster food security across the country.

“The gesture is part of the commitment of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs in facilitating women participation in nation building”.

“Women are the bedrock for every societal development, as such, the government came up with the programme to support the country’s commitment to food security”.

Similarly, in the South West, some farmers and experts in agriculture have also identified post-harvest losses as a major factor militating against food security in Nigeria.

The Deputy National President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Segun Dasaolu,  said that the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) needed to be resuscitated.

This, he said, would further re-invigorate the food system and speed up the attainment of food security in the country.

Dasaolu also called on the Federal Government to restore grain reserves and set up additional silos, particularly in the food producing local government areas across the six geo-political zones.

A University lecturer, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNNAB), Prof. Kolawole Adebayo of Department of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development decried what he called abandonment of food reserves in the country.

He said that it was imperative for the country to revive food reserves in form of silos and other storage facilities.

The professor of agricultural extension also advised government to put in place, a mechanism where buyers could get commodities directly from farmers during harvest and store the remaining to prevent post-harvest losses.

Secretary of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Ogun chapter, Abiodun Ogunjimi, stressed the need for food reserves in the agricultural sector, adding that the few available reserves had been taken over by the private sector and therefore, not beneficial to farmers.

He noted that most farmers did not have access to the few available storage facilities constructed by the federal government, as they had been concession to private operators.

According to Prof. Olubunmi Omotesho of Department of Agricultural Economics and Farm Management, University of Ilorin, Nigeria loses between 30 percent and 70 percent of cowpea agricultural yield to post-harvest due to absence of efficient storage system.

Research, he said, had shown that Nigerian farmers were faced with the challenges of production management techniques as well as the extension needs.

He further noted that the adoption of improved technology was a key factor in raising crop productivity.

According to him, research on cowpea production by farmers in Kwara showed that majority of farmers still use the traditional storage techniques, with only a few of them using the improved modern practices, such as cribs and silos.

Omotesho also identified inadequate credit facilities, high cost of and poor access to improved storage facilities as constraints to efficient storage practices in the country.

 Mrs. Jumoke Bakare, a Deputy Director in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ondo State, said it was important for the federal government to beef up strategic food reserves for food to be available and affordable all year round.

“As the country is fighting insecurity all over, food security is also important for the nation to survive and for economy to grow,” she said.

The director said provision of efficient and affordable food reserves would help in reducing post-harvest loses in the food storage process.

She also said hand-held machines and simple farm equipment, such as dehydrators, could be made available to farmers to preserve some perishable foods, such as vegetables, and would still retain its nutritional value.

Bakare urged the government to provide enabling environment for private investors to invest in food reserves.

She also called on the federal government to make policies that would favour the private sector, as it cannot do it alone.

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