Food Security: 2019 NiMet Predictions and Socio-economic Implications in Nigeria (I)

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Professor Sani Mashi

Between October and November 2018, I published a 3-series article titled “World Food Day: Goalkeepers’ Report and Food Security in Nigeria”, where I extensively discussed the challenges to food security in Nigeria and strategies for addressing them. It was published in this column. The article presented an in-depth analysis of the public presentation of 2018 Agricultural Performance Survey (APS) report by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh on 16th October 2018 during the occasion of World Food day celebration. The 2018 APS report provided the latest baseline information and status of food security in Nigeria.

In the write up, the 2018 APS provided a rosy picture of agricultural performance in Nigeria with marginal productivity increase compared to the 2017 performance. While the performance was being unveiled, however, the Goalkeepers’ report presented earlier in the same month of October provided a rather gloomy picture on Nigerian stride against poverty – food security. The Goalkeepers’ report indicated “Nigeria will have 152 million people in extreme poverty out of a projected population of 429 million by the year 2050”. Going by this figure, it means that Nigeria will represent about 36% of the total number of people in “extreme poverty” Worldwide. By the same year, 2050, Nigerian population is expected to overshoot to 450 million people, as the third most populous country in the World after India and China (India is estimated to overtake China in population).  This means that one out of three people in Nigeria will be among the people in the class of “extreme poverty” and food insecurity. Why do we have to worry about Goalkeepers report?

As discussed in the article, the “Goalkeepers Report” is an initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation (BMGF). It provides an annual assessment report of how countries across the globe are making efforts towards meeting Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets. It acts as a mirror for the countries to look at their progress in their efforts of achieving SDGs. Those who fared well are celebrated as heroes who made a difference towards attaining the targets while those with below average performance are similarly shown what they should do to improve. Consequently, Goalkeepers’ report is a serious policy formulation document that cannot be ignored nation’s leaders globally.

In over two decades, APS has been an annual activity of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. APS is conducted in collaboration with public agencies and developmental partners. Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) has been an avid frontrunner in synergizing with NAERLS for the conduct of APS annually. NiMet enriches the APS report with supply of rainfall and temperature data across the nation, which makes it handy for policy makers, agricultural planners and researchers. How can Nigeria avert the gloomy picture painted by Goalkeepers report? This is why the annual NiMet Predictions become extremely important in undertaking an arduous task of avoiding national disaster: extreme poverty and food insecurity. Before the prediction, it is important to comprehend the concept of national “food security” and its implications in the nation building.

Food security has more than 100 explicit and implied definitions because of the technical and policy issues involved in its definition. However, the definition has evolved over the years to contain the necessary issues as guidance for achieving the food security. The 1974 adopted definition of food security was “availability at all times of adequate world food supplies of basic foodstuffs to sustain a steady expansion of food consumption and to offset fluctuations in production and prices”. In 1983 the definition was modified as “ensuring that all people at all times have both physical and economic access to the basic food that they need”. 1986’s definition was “access of all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life”. The 1996 World Food Summit adopted a still more complex definition:“Food security, at the individual, household, national, regional and global levels is achieved 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”. The latest adopted definition that encompasses the different aspects of food consumption, access; nutrition of household, community and nation is generally used. This definition states that “Food security is a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. This means that access to quantitative and qualitative food, of high nutritious values that can meet dietary needs of people, at all times have to be guaranteed in a nation for such a nation to achieve food security. For a nation like Nigeria with an estimated 3% annual population increase means that the food availability must increase by more than 3% to attend an arduous task of food secure nation. Thus, achieving food security requires excellent strategic planning for increased sustainable agricultural productivity across the nation. However, strategic planning requires timely and reliable information on climate generated through proven scientific methods. Generation, collation, analysis and dissemination of climate information are sole the responsibilities of NiMet, which are critical to achieving food security.

NiMet is a forerunner national agency mandated to generate information on climate and weather, analyze and use such information for prediction to support farmers, airliners and other interested stakeholders. NiMet predictions are increasingly becoming helpful in mitigating the effects of extreme weather conditions and avoidance of colossal losses of lives and properties. The import of NiMet predictions are better appreciated in view of devastating global warming and climatic change challenging the living condition of humanity. The effects of climate change on agriculture are diverse and tremendous. They include sharp changes in seasonal rainfall, temperature and humidity alongside increase in pest and disease populations, low crop yields and incomes to farmers. Climate change is directly responsible for wild diversity loss and ecosystem collapse with inconceivable consequences.

NiMet has grown from relatively unknown agency to become a regular household name in Nigeria. On daily basis, tens of millions of Nigerians are glued to their television sets to listen to daily announcement of NiMet weather predictions across the major Nigerian cities and the rest of the world. The predictions that have become so useful to operators of the airliners, farmers, security agencies and several other Nigerians for the purpose of planning to avert losses and increase system efficiency.No doubt, NiMet is recording some marvellous achievements in discharging its mandates to the nation. This is in spite of its relative young age of 16 years in existence.

Historically, NIMET was established by an Act of the National Assembly – NIMET (Establishment) ACT 2003, enacted on 21st May 2003, and became effective on 19th June 2003 following Presidential assent. It has three core professional Departments, namely – Weather Forecasting Services, Applied Meteorological Services, and Research and Training (R&T). The support Directorates includes Engineering and Technical Services, Finance and Accounts, Administration and Supplies, and Legal Services, which also serve as Secretary to the Board.

The NiMet excellent prominence in service delivery can be credited to its leadership under Sani Mashi, an erudite professor of geography with vast experience. He was appointed as its Director General in January 2017. During his maiden media outing, he was quoted saying, “My vision for NiMet is clear; it is to make NiMet a world-class outfit. This is because the services we render are not just for Nigerians but for the benefit of everybody anywhere in the world. When foreign airlines are coming into the country, they rely on us. So, we want to keep up the service and better it so that whenever they go up, or they enter Nigeria’s territorial airspace, they get the best type of information that any meteorological agency can give anywhere in the world… This way, whenever any country, especially those in the developing world – whether African, American or Asian – wants to develop their own meteorological agency, they will look at NiMet as their role model.” Since then, the agency has continued to fare well comparable to similar agencies all over the world thereby attracting global accolades. What are the NiMet 2019 predictions? How reliable are these predictions? What are the socio-economic implications of these predictions?

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