The recent alarm raised by the World Food Programme (WFP) over a possible escalation of the food crisis in Nigeria, was a timely counsel that should elicit serious contemplation and workable action plans from the authorities. WFP is the food-assistance branch of the United Nations (UN). It is the world’s largest humanitarian organisation for food security. The UN agency had warned that Nigeria is at the risk of sliding further into hunger crisis this year unless there is a rapid response and greater investment in agriculture.
Other countries listed by the global agency include Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Haiti, Central Sahel (Mali, Burkina and Western Niger), Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq, Southern Africa, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Libya, Bolivia and Ethiopia.
In a report entitled ‘WFP Global Hotspots 2020: Potential flashpoints to look at for in New Year,’ the agency noted: “A new decade may have dawned, but there is little cause for fresh optimism in countries and regions where conflict, political instability and climate disasters are threatening the food security of millions of people.”
Noting that an upsurge in violence in the North-East of Nigeria had resulted in a fresh wave of displacement, cutting off access to farming lands, the WFP stressed: “Nearly three million people are struggling to meet their food needs in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. That could rise to more than 3.8 million people in the June-August lean season. Close to 2.1 million people have been forced to leave their homes.” No doubt, there is general insecurity in the country. Virtually every part of the country is enmeshed in one security crisis or the other, with bandits, Boko Haram insurgents and bloody clashes between farmers and herders threatening millions of Nigerians, including farmers. The administration of Muhammadu Buhari has instituted some policies to encourage farmers and agriculture. The Federal Government’s Anchor Borrowers Programme, which is being driven by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has been hailed as a great initiative. The CBN announced last year that 1,140,854 farmers participated in the production of 17 different agricultural products under the programme between 2015 and June 2019.
But many Nigerians have also noted that the figure cannot be considered as too encouraging in a country of about 200 million people. Besides, the persistent security challenges in many parts of the country have continued to place a limit on such initiatives. Many communities have been plundered and pillaged, and residents, including farmers, forced to flee from their homes and farms. Many live in pitiable conditions in internally displaced persons’ camps. Farmers and others are routinely kidnapped in their homes, on the roads, and in their farms.
Even in the Southern states, complaints from farmers bemoaning the incessant destruction of their farmlands by herdsmen are unending. Only recently, and in a bid to tackle the rising security challenges in the zone, governments of the six states in the South-West and other stakeholders in the area launched the Western Nigeria Security Network, codenamed Operation Amotekun.
Government needs to review the security architecture in the country. It must also be more committed to diversifying the economy away from oil. A mono-economy does not bode well for a country like Nigeria that is well endowed with enormous human and material resources. It is an abnormality that a nation that is blessed with so much solid mineral deposits would cling to only crude oil as its major revenue earner for decades while leaving other potential money-spinners to waste away.
Beyond the Federal Government, the states and local governments must also get involved in agriculture. The states should revive old farm settlements or establish new ones to guarantee food security. Farmers can form cooperative societies to ensure more productivity. Both the Federal and state governments should also provide incentives to encourage farmers and lure the youths into embracing commercial farming.
Government can also provide the enabling environment for farming to thrive. The roads to most of the farms are in deplorable conditions. Transporting farm produce to the cities is usually a herculean task. Facilities for the preservation of perishables and other foodstuffs are non-existent. Silos established by past governments across the country have become moribund.
Obviously, the present administration cannot afford to discountenance the WFP report as another hatchet job by its haters. It must act fast to ensure that Nigerians do not experience the looming food crisis.