• Saturday, April 13, 2024
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NESG calls for strengthened national food security response to address food crisis

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The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) has said that Nigeria urgently needs a strong institutional framework for a national food security response to address food crisis in the country. This is as contraction in the Nigerian Agriculture sector results in reduced productivity and increased hunger across the country.

As contained in its recent policy document titled: ‘Status of food security: Dimensioning the crisis, policy options, and strategic responses’ the Group stated that the nation’s food systems profile showed a critical institutional, policy and industrial coordination and governance gaps which needed to be addressed.

Read also:Taming the food crisis: Governors need to do more

National food system profile reveals policy, governance gaps

According to the document issued to BusinessDay, NESG said that considering the broad-based actions that underpin the current presidential declaration of a state of emergency on food security, everything within the collective capacity of the Federation and Nigerian society should be put in place to immediately respond to the crisis in the availability, affordability, and accessibility of the national food systems.

“There is a need to expand the Food Security Council to include Governors whose states are the key contributors to the country’s food production output. This is imperative is to rally all the available primary production centres in Nigeria and extract immediate and medium-term commitments from States. The expanded National Food Security Council should have task forces actively overseeing strategic responses for land security, soil security, seed security, water security, harvest security, storage and logistics security, and human security (the hunger response).

“A revision of the roles and responsibilities of critical institutional actors is crucial for success. In the last eight years, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has had an extensive and overshadowing role, reach and influence on food security coordination in Nigeria. Now, we understand that the new CBN leadership would like to revert to its traditional role of price stability, which is a welcome development. However, this leaves a significant and evident gap in institutional memory, funding capacity and operational capabilities without an effective and proper transition of CBN from direct food security interventions to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and other intervening Agric-focused MDAs.

“The National Food Security Council should provide citizens updates on the hunger and food systems response monthly to aid effective information dissemination that reduces fear-mongering, fake news and miscommunication but also provides a mechanism for receiving feedback from citizens, businesses across the value chains and updates from civil society, development and private sector actions that are contributing to the national food crisis response. More essentially, this builds trust between the government and citizens. We recommend that at the beginning.”
Read also:We are moving to end food crisis, hardship in Nigeria — Governors
It noted the need to apply urgency, tenacity, and a national state of emergency in dealing with the persistent structural vulnerabilities, adding that the current socio-economic structure of Nigeria, characterized by high dependence on oil revenue, food imports, high population growth, and urbanization, pose formidable challenges to the food system.

Also noted are the continued socio-economic vulnerabilities, with 133 million people experiencing extreme multidimensional poverty, characterized by significant regional disparities. For instance, the brief showed that in Sokoto state, poverty affects 81 percent of the population, while in Niger State, the poverty rate stands at 34 percent, Adding that the ongoing internal conflicts, elevated unemployment rates, and the impacts of climate change exacerbate these challenges.

“Nigeria’s response must have a food systems approach that matches the scale and dimensions of the food value chain risks and vulnerabilities. According to the Medium-Term National Development Plan (2021-2025), Thematic Working Group, some critical indices including land security, soil security, seed security and mechanization gaps are critical to food systems security response.

“During COVID-19, to cushion the impact of the pandemic, the federal government ordered the release of about 70,000 mt of food, primarily grains, from six silo complexes. The federal government also made food available to humanitarian organizations such as the UN World Food Program to support vulnerable populations affected by the economic fallout from COVID-19.

“This is not the first time the federal government released food in response to a food crisis. In previous years, it released grains to address the needs of internally displaced people, for example. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration recently ordered a series of releases from the strategic grain reserves. In general, the amount of stock available in the past and present has proven inadequate, leaving the federal government with little flexibility to respond to crises.

“Noting that the current levels of a segment of the population that is food insecure is approximately three times the size during the COVID-19 response, there is an urgent imperative for a hunger response that focuses on getting food to Nigerians that will starve today without support. As the number of food-insecure people crosses the 100 million mark – there is a need to declare a hunger response,” it stated.

It also emphasized the importance of incorporating existing food manufacturing companies in Nigeria to the fullest extent possible in designing any hunger response, including the essential importation of food to bolster strategic reserves for the 2024 hunger response.

At the same time, seeds and fertilizer must be imported to close gaps in the input requirements for food systems response, adding that one of the lessons of COVID-19 was leveraging local production lines to deliver processed and manufactured food, which built the resilience of Nigerian businesses. “One way to address the hunger problem is to increase vulnerable people’s access to food by supporting them through food banks, which globally serve as critical safety nets for those who cannot meet their nutrition and food security needs on their own.

“The food bank model is especially effective at uniting public and private efforts to reduce food insecurity in emerging market economies where the need for hunger relief and nutrition assistance can still be substantial, as formalized safety nets offered by the government may only cover some needing assistance. In that sense, food banks serve as a way to close this gap. In addition to increasing vulnerable people’s access to food, food banks can address the country’s food losses and waste issues as many commodities go into food banks’ supply chains,” it stated