FOOD is one of the most critical elements to the survival of any living creature. It is a very important factor to be contended with in human physiological and emotional well-being. It was Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist and philosopher in his popular 1943 paper titled “A Theory of Human Motivation” that among air, water, shelter, sleep, clothing and reproduction classified food as the first line of the most pressing human wants in his five hierarchy of human needs.
Even among us today, there is always this palpable fear of uncertainty, loss of sense of esteem and tension when individuals or families are confronted with a situation in which sourcing for food poses a challenge. Of course the concomitant health and emotional, at advance stage, social effects cannot be undermined.
Paradoxically, with our massive arable lands put at 37.33% according to World Bank collection of development indicators 2014, sufficient availability of productive workforce, soil fertility, our dear country has since 1973 grappled with challenges of adequate production of food for domestic consumption for her citizens and for export for revenue generation. Not even several interventionist programs by the successive administrations, most of which were initiated by military government have helped in salvaging the ugly situation.
For instance, there were five agriculture policies in the period between 1972 and 1985. They include the National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP) 1972-1973, Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) 1976-1980, Green Revolution Programme (GRP) 1981-1983, Go Back to Land Programme 1983-1985, and A restoration of the elements of NAFPP after the military coup in 1985. The policy goal of NAFPP was to make Nigeria self-sufficient in food production. Consequently, land reform and mass literacy policies were recommended for farmers.
Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo’s Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) of 1976 sought to increase local food production and thereby reduce imports. Under the program, citizens were encouraged to cultivate any empty plot of land, urban dwellers being encouraged to garden undeveloped building plots. Expectedly, this agenda could not wield the magic wand to lift the country from the oblivion of food insufficiency since the core focus was basically subsistence farming.
The return of democratic governance in 1999 has not brought any visible and significant change in the sector either. The popular Obasanjo Reform in key sectors of the economy, agriculture inclusive achieved a very minimal result and collapsed like a pack of cards just like many others. In 2011, the administration of President Jonathan launched an Agricultural Transformation Agenda which was managed by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The intended outcome of the agenda was to promote agriculture as a business, integrate the agricultural value chain and make agriculture a key driver of Nigeria’s economic growth.
The major reasons why these gigantic interventions could not see the ray of light cannot be extricated from obvious lack of the inclusion of key stakeholders, weak agriculture development policies, short duration of agriculture development policies, inadequate monitoring and evaluation of programmes and of course lack of political will for incoming governments to carry on with the policies of the government they succeed, yet we are told government is a continuum.
Even with these steps, our dear country has continually been a matter of global concern in terms of right quantity of food and nutrients for our citizens. The legible indices of chronic hunger and acute shortage of food have continued to stare us at the face with audacious impunity. Citizens have simply resorted to faith and divine intervention as each day comes by. Hardly is there an average Nigerian family today where hunger and glaring deficiency of stomach infrastructure (apologies to Fayose) does not have a well furnished accommodation in one corner of the house. Most affected is the Northern Nigeria, particularly Borno state where insecurity has reigned supreme over a decade.
According to the Borgen Project, in Borno State, 64.2 percent of households are food insecure. In late July of 2017, the federal government declared a state of food and nutrition emergency in the state. The report also said about 400,000 children in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe under 5 at risk of severe acute malnutrition in 2016. Instructively, Borno case is a reflection of the larger picture across the country even though no emergency has been declared in their cases. From Anambra to Delta, to Kogi, Kwara and Rivers, the situation is not different. According to World Food Programme (WFP) Nigeria’s human development indicators are poor. The country experiences persistent poverty affects more than half the population, most severely in the Northeast and Northwest regions. Around 110 million in the total population of about 182 million Nigerians, representing over 60 percent of the total population, live below the poverty line. A 2018 report by Brookings Institution which placed Nigeria above India as the country with a higher number of poor people, making the giant of Africa and the 10th global oil producer the poverty capital of the world is a clear testimony to this claim.
In addition, Nigeria is also 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. In 2018 for instance, rice farmers who benefitted from CBN’s anchor borrowers fund in Sokoto State, (another interventionist agenda of the Federal government) lost an estimated 61,197.5 tonnes of rice valued at N27.5 billion due to flood during the cropping season.
The flood was said to have affected 19, 000 rice farmers across the 23 local government areas of the state. Hear Alhaji Ibrahim Salihu, the state Chairman of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), “Based on the estimates, the cultivated farms’ yields lost to floods are 61,197.5 tonnes, because farms were submerged by rainwater and crops destroyed before harvest. According to bags, yields lost are 3,059,875 bags, while if converted to money each bag of 100kg is N9,000 at open market, therefore, at least about N27, 538, 879, 000 was lost,”. Isn’t this a monumental national loss?
Also Sokoto State said it lost an estimated 61,197 tonnes of rice valued at N 27.5 billion because of the flood during the last year cropping season. Adamawa too was affected. Also tied to the alarming hunger statistics in our country today is the high levels of conflict that has plagued the country especially the Northern region which has over 80 percent signature of our total staple food production as a nation. In the last decade when insecurity assumed a deadly proportion in the North East, especially with the emergence of Boko Haram, agricultural activities have seriously been jeopardized with the mass displacement of farming populace and the production of army of internally displaced persons (IDPs) whose productive ventures have been in dormant and inactive mood. No thanks to the constant clashes between the herdsmen and their pastoral locals who usually accuse the former of trampling on their right by wanton destruction of crops.
Enemanna writes from Abuja