• Monday, May 27, 2024
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BusinessDay

As Abuja hosts meeting to lift 50 million out of poverty

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With floods ravaging much of Nigeria’s more fertile farmlands last year, there were fears that food security would be impaired. A visit to the local restaurant will provide proof that Nigerian’s fears are being confirmed.

When the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (“New Alliance”) was born out of the Camp David Summit of the G-8 in May 2012, its Cooperation Frameworks were only for Ghana, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Mozambique. However, most certainly in view of its recent trauma, Nigeria is coming into the picture of an initiative that aims to lift 50 million people out of poverty over the next 10 years. The underpinning strategy is the use of pro-poor policies committed to by African governments, substantial private sector investment in order to increase agriculture productivity and farmer incomes, and donor governments aligning behind country-led plans (i.e., CAADP).

Central to the Alliance are private sector organisations. At the last count, over 80 Letters of Intent (LOI) have been submitted by private companies willing to plough $5 billion into the initiative.

However, people, especially smallholder farmers, have been sceptical about the initiatives, given that similar efforts in the past were undermined by lack of transparency and accountability. There was also the tendency to exclude civil society from the processes of conceptualisation, elaboration and delivery of project outcomes.

To build consensus around the initiative, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is meeting with key stakeholders as part of the process to join the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. Indeed, as you are reading this, a meeting in Abuja, facilitated by USAID, ActionAid and UNDS, is being held between the agriculture authorities and representatives of NGOs.

Participants will be expected to identify specific policies in Nigeria that need to be formulated/reviewed/refined in order to improve investment opportunities and accelerate the implementation of their country-led plans on food security.

They will also need to ponder the areas in which the private sector partners, who have already committed more than $3 billion to increase investments, can increase their investments and how these investments can make a decisive impact on Nigeria’s food security and nutrition. Over 45 multinational and African companies have committed to specific agricultural investments that total more than $3 billion and span all areas of the agricultural value chain, including irrigation, crop protection, financing and infrastructure.

Who is driving agriculture in Nigeria? The obvious answer is the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and its myriad departments and agencies, as well as the state ministries of agriculture and the nomenclatures they prefer to couch them.

The disturbing thing, however, is that local government, the tier of government closest to the very people who are genuinely involved in food production and who remain the poorest segment of the society, has all but been excluded from agricultural development programmes. Talk about an area requiring policy change.