• Monday, May 27, 2024
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Nigeria on the brink: Urgent action needed to ensure food security

Nigeria on the brink: Urgent action needed to ensure food security

Nigeria is faced with a precarious situation today, with food security hanging in the balance. Soaring food inflation, a relentless beast fueled by both domestic shortfalls and international pressures, casts a long and menacing shadow. The latest statistics paint a grim picture: headline inflation surged to a staggering 33.2 percent in March 2023, the highest in 28 years, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. But the sting is even sharper when it comes to food—the very foundation of our sustenance.

Food prices, making up nearly half of Nigeria’s consumer price index, witnessed an even steeper rise, jumping to a backbreaking 40 percent in March from 37.92 percent in February. This is not just a number on a page; it’s the escalating cost of putting food on the table, a cost that millions of Nigerians are struggling to bear.

Read also: NESG calls for strengthened national food security response to address food crisis

The question lingers: can Nigeria bridge this widening gap and ensure its citizens have access to affordable, nutritious food?

This crisis has deep roots. President Tinubu’s decision to eliminate petrol subsidies in June 2023 triggered a significant price hike, further squeezing household budgets and hindering access to basic necessities like food. A stark warning emerged from a 2022 Cadre Harmonisé analysis, a government-supported food security assessment. It was predicted that nearly 25 million Nigerians would face hunger in the absence of immediate intervention.

Nigeria faces a perfect storm of challenges that threaten its stability and well-being. In the north-east, constant conflict disrupts lives. Armed banditry and kidnapping plague entire regions, creating a climate of fear. Climate change adds fuel to the fire, making vulnerable areas even more desperate. On top of all this, inflation is skyrocketing, squeezing household budgets and making it harder for people to afford food. As farming suffers and food supplies dwindle, the consequences are dire. Nigeria faces a daunting task, but it must find solutions to ensure its people have a secure and stable future.

Q: “The question lingers: can Nigeria bridge this widening gap and ensure its citizens have access to affordable, nutritious food?”

Nigeria cannot afford to be a bystander in this unfolding crisis. Decisive action is paramount to safeguarding its food security and preventing a humanitarian catastrophe. A two-pronged approach, focused on bolstering domestic production and mitigating external shocks, offers a path forward.

Empowering smallholder farmers:

The lifeblood of Nigerian agriculture lies with its smallholder farmers. Empowering them through initiatives like extension services, improved seeds, and access to finance, mirroring the success of Ethiopia’s Agricultural Transformation Agency, is crucial.

Prioritising irrigation:

Drought is a constant threat. Following the blueprint of Morocco’s Green Plan, which emphasised water management infrastructure like dams and canals, Nigeria can significantly improve irrigation efficiency and expand cultivable land. The nation’s vast network of 264 dams, currently underutilised, holds immense potential to facilitate year-round farming. Industry experts advocate for enhanced management of these dams for irrigation, a strategy with the dual benefit of boosting production and reducing food prices.

Embracing climate-smart agriculture:

A changing climate disrupts traditional growing seasons. Zambia’s example, where farmers adopted drought-resistant maize varieties and conservation agriculture practices, offers valuable lessons for Nigeria. Encouraging widespread adoption of improved seeds and climate-smart techniques can strengthen agricultural resilience in the face of a warming planet.

Nigeria’s heavy reliance on food imports exposes it to global price fluctuations. Diversifying import sources, taking inspiration from Rwanda’s approach of fostering trade with regional neighbours, can create a buffer against external factors.

Countries like Senegal have established emergency food reserves to manage price spikes during crises. Nigeria can optimise its strategic grain reserve system by stockpiling staples like rice and maize to stabilise prices during disruptions. The recent release of 42,000 metric tonnes of food items from reserves is a positive step, but ensuring these reserves reach the most vulnerable Nigerians remains a challenge.

Read also: Group offers to help Nigeria on food security through irrigation

Supporting Local Food Processing: Post-harvest losses significantly reduce food availability. Investing in food processing facilities, similar to those established in Kenya with government backing, can minimise waste and extend the shelf life of produce.

Drawing on the experiences of other African and Asian nations, the establishment of a National Food Security and Export Promotion Agency is proposed. This agency would spearhead initiatives to bolster domestic food production, mitigate external shocks, and even promote food exports in the long term. Collaboration with relevant stakeholders, including government bodies, agricultural organisations, and private sector entities, will be critical for the agency’s success.

Nigeria stands at a crossroads. The spectre of food insecurity looms large. With decisive action, unwavering commitment, and a focus on innovation, Nigeria can rise to this challenge and emerge as a food-secure nation, capable of feeding its people and potentially contributing to regional food security. The time for procrastination is over. Bold action is needed now to secure a brighter future for Nigerian agriculture and the nation as a whole.

By implementing the proposed solutions and establishing a dedicated agency, Nigeria can usher in an era of food security and agricultural prosperity and potentially even become a food exporter. The time to act is now.