Accessibility to food is human right

On 16 October 2021, the World Food Day was celebrated with the theme “Our Actions Are not Our Future – Better Production, Better Nutrition, a Better Environment and a Better Life.” Before this year’s World Food Day, statistics show that more than enough food is produced globally, to feed the world’s growing population. And that the fight against hunger has seen some improvement over the past 15 years.

Anyway, despite improvements in food production, there are several reasons why the cost of food is rising globally. Some of the reasons are transitory in nature, according to experts. There are a few Agribusiness entrepreneurs and intellectuals who strongly argue that the main cause of hunger is poverty.

But poverty and hunger form a vicious cycle as people who cannot afford food become malnourished. Millions of people around the world, experts argued, are simply too poor to be able to buy food. In addition, the poor people lack the resources to grow their own food, such as arable land and the means to harvest, process, transport, and store food.

Currently, about 800 million people still go hungry globally as stated by a United Nation’s report . After a steady decline for more than a decade, world hunger is reported to be on the rise, affecting about 9.9 percent of the world’s population. Regrettably, millions of people – young and old – are hungry, and more than 2 billion suffer from malnutrition. And what’s more?

Accessibility to food is considered a human right, according to nutritionists. Why is it so, I asked a nutritionist? I was told that the right to food protects all human beings to be free from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition. Nutritionists and many intellectuals are calling for action against food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition.

So, is this the reason why food should be human right? I was simply told that the right to food is a human right recognized by the international human rights law. Period! It was then I saw the reason why the call is necessary because for the past few months in the year 2021, the food supply chain has been under severe stress worldwide. Although, ending hunger is not only about supply, according to the United Nations World Food Program Report. “Covid – 19 is a huge challenge affecting the food supply chain.”

To educate me further, the nutritionist said “we should take a cursory look at an index compiled by an organ of the United Nations – Food and Agricultural Organization – in the third quarter of 2021 which shows that food prices are increasing higher than what it was a year before in most parts of the world.” “For instance, in Nigeria, Jollof rice, one of Nigeria’s preferent delicacies, costs an average of N8,007.50k to prepare within the same period.

This according to SBM Intel’s Survey was 4.98 percent higher than N7,618 reported in the second quarter of the year 2021. “Preparing Jollof rice in Nigeria now costs a fortune,” according to the SBM Intel’s Survey.” But what are the main factors responsible for the increase in the cost of preparing Jollof rice, I asked? Imported and smuggled rice through Nigeria’s neighbouring countries is more than the rice produced locally in the market, he retorted. Is this true, and what about rice produced from the well-celebrated and well-funded Anchor Borrowers’ program, I asked? The response I got was that “a lot more has to be done.”

The crux of the matter is that rising food prices is seriously affecting the wellbeing of Nigerians especially those that are poor

Anyway, I am aware that the cost of pepper, onion, tomatoes, cooking oil, salt etc, used in preparing Jollof rice has gone up. When a nation is import dependent, inflation is also imported along with the goods brought in from abroad. Additionally, Nigerians, according to analysts, are facing tough times as the average price for refilling a 12.5kg cylinder of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (cooking gas) has risen by 62.8 percent over the past one year. And it has been predicted that it will get worse in the year 2022.

What about the purchasing power of the poor in Nigeria? The poor have been estimated to be 100 million in Nigeria. Can a worker earning N30,000 (thirty thousand Naira which is approximately US$60) minimum wage per month cook Jollof Rice? Negative!

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The crux of the matter is that rising food prices is seriously affecting the wellbeing of Nigerians especially those that are poor. The welfare of poor Nigerians is deteriorating daily due to rising prices of food items in the market. The volatility in food prices is attributed to insecurity among other factors in the Northern part of the country. Farmers are being killed, kidnapped or forced to pay ransom in the North. Bandits are reported to burn farm products in some parts of the North.

The consequence of protracted insecurity in the Northern part of the country has led to abandonment of farmlands. Those few who go to their farms have adopted a tactic for their survival. An insurrection and sit-at-home orders in the South-Eastern part of the country have also complicated food security issues as they disrupt local supply chains in the area.

Adverse weather conditions have equally affected food security. A rise in temperature is changing production patterns negatively in some of the world’s food baskets. Extreme weather conditions are also responsible for low food production. The world as stated earlier produces enough food to feed everyone on the planet. The problem is accessibility and availability, both of which are disrupted by extreme weather, food waste, and worst of all – conflict.

Conflict displaces families, destroys state economies, ruins infrastructure and halts agricultural production. These are challenges facing the world and indeed Nigerians. Are we going to say we are not experiencing these challenges in Nigeria with the high level of insecurity in most parts of the country? The UN has released a report that about 500,000 people in the North East of Nigeria are at risk of facing starvation. What a pity?

We have seen in some parts of the country where flooding, erosion, severe drought and temperature rise coupled with rising sea level, etcetera have threatened fisheries and food security. Food prices are rising in Nigeria despite the country’s slowing inflation. Some economists believe that a rise in food inflation has therefore been one of the stumbling blocks for the Nigerian economy.

As long as we live, we must eat daily. How then will Nigeria reduce the hunger of most citizens before 2030? We need to ask this question because by 2030, the UN through its Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) expects everyone worldwide to have good – quality food to lead a very healthy life. Specifically, Goal 2 of the SDG expects all nations including Nigeria to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Achieving these goals will entail having an effective transportation system, improving storage facilities and supply chain mechanisms at federal, state and local government levels. For Nigeria, this is a tall order because of poor infrastructure and very low power supply output. If these challenges can be tackled within a short period, hopefully, productivity and incomes of small-scale farmers will improve significantly.

But the nation needs policies and strategies that will promote access to land, technology and markets. In summary, is Nigeria able, willing and ready to support its citizens to have access to nutritious food at an affordable price? Time will tell! One thing is sure, Nigeria must produce what over 200 million people will eat. Anything to the contrary will make us see the anger in youths and adults that are hungry. Thank you.

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