Food availability or abundance makes a nation partly secured, especially when issues of social security are being discussed. But the lives and livelihoods of people come under threat when that privilege is absent.
Over the past two years, farmers in North Eastern parts of Nigeria, particularly Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states are no longer able to farm for security reasons especially for fear of attacks by the dreaded Boko Haram sect who continued to unleash untold havoc in the part country.
This insurgent activity has in turn affected food production and consequently raised prices of foods that are majorly cultivated in these places like pepper, tomatoes and onions, cowpea as well as production of fish. This same part of the country has been known for mass rearing of cattle, which made meat available to other part of the nation but today, the story is not the same.
One major criminal activity greatly affecting food security in recent times is cattle rustling (which is the act of stealing herds of cattle ranging from 50 to 200, 300).
Recently, the Bauchi State police command reported an arrest of ten rustlers, who stole about 32 cows from a herdsman, named Mohammed Jamo after killing him.
The issue of cattle rustling became noticeable in 2009. For instance, out of 17 local governments of Plateau State, only three have minimal cases according to a report. The crime goes with huge economic losses and hike in price of meat considering that most cattle headsmen lose huge sums to these coordinated attacks so they in-turn hike the price of the commodity. Observers believe that cattle rustling are aided by large scale unemployment and hunger in the country.
Factors responsible for looming food security is therefore multifaceted as Boko Haram insurgency, ethno-religious conflicts in the north central as well as resource conflicts related to oil exploitation and environmental degradation in the Niger Delta, have jointly affected the availability and affordability of food.
Many rural farmers have been displaced, while others restricted from going to their farms because of checks and the militaristic counterterrorism approach of the government.
A statement issued by Gombe State Governor, Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo says “it will take the North-east 20 years to rehabilitate its economy after the five-year terror unleashed on it by the Boko Haram”.
The governor pointed out that generations yet to be born may have to struggle to be able to overcome the devastation that the Boko Haram has done to the people of the north eastern states.
The very first of the eight Millennium Development Goals ( MDG ’s) targets aims at eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, setting standards and radical targets for global poverty reduction has importance and value. According to Dr. Precious Gbeneol, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDG ’s, there is need to eradicate poverty in the country, by ensuring stability in the economy and emphasing on agriculture that bring food to the table of the citizens.
Gbeneol argued that in the face of insecurity that has threatened farmers in the country, government policies that are tailored towards ensuring food abundance may not yield expected results. She observed that for the country to make significant progress there is the need for more collaboration among government at all levels, private sector operators and other well-meaning individuals to double their efforts towards putting the unrest in some part of the country to an end.
No person in any country should have to wonder where their next meal is coming from, or forgo food themselves in order to feed their children. Unfortunately, easy access to food is a necessity that far too many in emerging economies do not have.
For those who farm their own food, changing conditions and demand can wreck one’s livelihood, driving food prices up, and farmers out of business.
As it is, the country faces a looming crisis with a growing population that is increasingly dependent on imported foods. The once dominant subsistence-oriented farm economy is at risk of gradual marginalisation. Insecure land tenure, scarcity of funds and credit, labour scarcity despite overall high unemployment and stagnant technology have crippled its further development. Until today, a wide range of policies, programmes and projects have had limited impact in ameliorating these problems.
It is unfortunate that populations across the world have faced various degrees of food shortages, some with very damning humanitarian consequences. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, food security can be said to exist when “all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.
There are four major dimensions of food security: availability of food, access to food, adequate utilisation of food, and stability of food supplies at all times.
Amongst most West African countries, food security is best understood in terms of agricultural productivity, because agriculture maintains an intricate dominance in the region’s economy. Local food production and animal husbandry account for much of the daily food and nutrition needs of West Africans and is the major employment and income generating activity for the rural poor.
The attainment of one of the objective of halving hunger in Nigeria can only be achieved, if the right structural framework is laid. In other words, if the Nigerian government is able to harness its resources properly by driving critical improvements in areas of irrigation systems, better agricultural institutions and agricultural extension services, as well maintaining consistency in its policies, and curtailing security issues, like the insurgency and cattle rustling in the north.
It must be noted though that a consistency in policy over the last few tears has considerably improved the food security situation and prospect. The series of presidential initiatives such as in rice production, cassava, cocoa, oil palm have ensured that less foreign exchange is being deployed to food importation. Nevertheless, when compared to other regions of the world like Europe, America and Asia, Nigerians still spends disproportionately high percentage of their incomes on food purchase.