Food is one of the basic needs of all living things; man can survive without clothing and shelter but cannot without food. In spite of Nigeria’s rich agricultural endowments, food insecurity still stares
her in the face, especially with a fast-growing population estimated to reach 258 million by 2030. The need to ensure food security should be one the country must look into towards preserving the lives of citizens.
The World Bank Committee on World Food Security defines food security as the “physical and economic access to adequate food by all household members without undue risk of losing the access.” This puts Nigeria’s status at a disadvantage. The number of people living on less than one
dollar a day is even growing larger in an increasingly dwindling economy.
According to Dr. Chinwe Onumunu, Project Coordinator of Association for the Advancement of Family Planning (AAFP), “food insecurity and malnutrition give rise to many consequences for health and development, with mothers and children most vulnerable to the devastating effects, malnourished mothers are at a greater risk of dying in childbirth and of delivering low-birth-weight babies who fail to survive infancy.”
She added that children are vulnerable to the consequences of food insecurity and malnutrition because of their physiology and high calorie needs for growth and development. Malnutrition is the underlying cause of death of more than 2.6 million children each year, a third of under-five deaths, and a third of total child deaths worldwide. It is a silent killer that is under-reported, under-addressed and consequently under-prioritised.
The United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN’s) 5th report describes malnutrition as “the largest single contributor to disease, taking a particularly severe toll on preschool children.”
One in three developing country pre-schoolers – 178 million children under the age of five – suffers from stunting as a result of chronic malnutrition. Eighty percent of these children live in just 20
countries in Africa and the Asia Pacific region.
However, experts are of the opinion that hunger has both technical as well as political dimensions. A convincing effort to stamp out hunger must address both dimensions of the problem. First, there should be sufficient food for the populace which will be achieved through multidimensional approach to issues at stake.
Few years back, Nigerians were anxiously concerned about how the federal government could tackle the corrosive corruption, dwindling education, and agriculture and power failure. However, these days the spate of killings in the Northern part of the country has forced the citizens to impress it on the federal government to concentrate on tackling the security threat before looking at food issues.
More so, some stakeholders are of the opinion that the farmers that grow these commodities do not go to the farms anymore because they fear they might be kidnapped or killed.
The Northern region, where these basic food items like yam, beans, millet, fish even fruits and tomatoes, to name a few, farmed and supplied to other parts, is already in crisis. This is as a result of the activities of the Boko Haram insurgents in the area.
Observers say that about 60 per cent of the total food consumed in the south comes from the north, but this is no longer the case as the general insecurity in the northern part of the country is adversely affecting farmers in the area.
Unlike in the previous years, only few trucks of food commodities now come down to the south these days with the attendant rise in prices. Worse still is the security crisis occasioned by the activities of the Hausa and Fulani herdsmen who have sacked some Middle Belt and Isoko
communities from their farmlands by using sophisticated arms and ammunition. This has led many farmers to their early graves with the desperate herdsmen taking possession of their farmlands.
Recently, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said that agricultural business in the livestock sector will be improved and expanded to include commercial production of grass for feeding cattle. This, the minister said, would bring an end to the roaming of cattle rearers and perennial conflicts between the pastoralists and crop farmers all over the nation.
He said: “We are taking a radical step and we are beginning now, we are going to grow grass on a very large scale all over this country. I am as rigid as a rock that we are going to grow grass.”
Chief Ogbeh also disclosed that some grasses taken from Africa to Brazil and subjected to 16 years of research for use in that country, producing 28 per cent crude protein, will be brought in for use in the country, he added that by April ending 2016; the first grass supply should be on the way if not already arrived.
The minister was emphatic that with the continued existence of “cattle grazing and stock routes, conflicts still continue to grow, with cases of deaths rising along the routes.” To reverse the untoward trends, Chief Ogbeh said cattle roaming have to end.
He noted that “the largest cattle ranch in the world is in Saudi Arabia, with 153,000 cows, and the country sells milk to other gulf states. They buy grass from Sudan and from the US.”