Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number two aims at achieving food security and ending hunger to all the people in the world by the year 2030. This goal is popularly tagged “Zero Hunger”. To underscore the importance of this goal, the then United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in 2012 formally launched the Zero Hunger Challenge. The Zero Hunger vision reflects five elements from within the SDGs, which taken together, can end hunger, eliminate all forms of malnutrition, and build inclusive and sustainable food systems. Two years after the launch, United Nations provided performance assessment of the zero hunger-goal. The result indicated an estimated number of 821 million people found to be undernourished in 2017.
This figure represented about 12.9 per cent of the world population with the majority (over 60%) of the world’s hungry people living in the developing countries. Then and now, Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest prevalence of hunger. Instead of decreasing, hungry people in sub-Saharan Africa increased from 20.7 percent in 2014 to 23.2 percent in 2017. Consequently, the number of undernourished people increased from 195 million in 2014 to 237 million in 2017 in the region.
Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45 percent) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year.149 million children under 5 years of age—22 per cent of the global under-5 population—were still chronically undernourished in 2018. These are certainly disturbing results on food security situation in the world particularly in Sub-Sahara Africa. What is zero hunger?
Zero hunger in a community is achieved when each and every member of the community overcomes open and hidden hunger. This means that every member of the community is accessible to quantitative and qualitative food to sufficiently meet his or dietary needs. Food availability may not guarantee overcoming a hidden hunger in a community. A hidden hunger is a situation when important micronutrients, like iron and vitamins required by the body for optimal growth and performance, are missing. Hidden hunger can cause mental impairment for children when their bodies do not absorb important micronutrients in the first 1,000 days of life equivalent to 2.7 years of their age. This is perhaps one of the reasons why many children in developing countries hardly make it beyond five years of age. As widely reported, micronutrient deficiencies are responsible for an estimated 1.1 million out of the yearly 3.1 million deaths caused by under or malnutrition in children. Can Nigeria achieve zero hunger in the year 2030? What is the current situation today?
Looking at the picture from the pundits’ point of view, one may be tempted to accept the hopelessness of the situation. We may recall the Goalkeepers’ report of October 2018, which provided a rather gloomy picture of Nigerian stride against hunger caused by poverty. The 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. This means that one out of three people in Nigeria will be among the people in the class of “extreme poverty”. This must not come to pass!
The report further revealed, “Extreme poverty is becoming heavily concentrated in sub-Saharan African countries. By 2050, that’s where 86 per cent of the extremely poor people in the world are projected to live. The challenge is that within Africa, poverty is concentrating in just a handful of very fast-growing countries, more than 40 per cent of the extremely poor people in the world will live in just two countries: Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria. Even within these countries, poverty is still concentrating in certain areas”.
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
As expected, the report received the momentous publicity globally as a “wake-up call” to the leadership of the two countries for planning and strategizing to avert this calamity. However, it is pertinent to understand the rationale behind the goalkeepers’ report and the authors of the report. The “doom-saying” is certainly a serious concern to us as Nigerians considering the natural endowment of the unlimited agricultural resources across the nooks crannies of the country. Should we take the experts’ prediction “hook, line and sinker”? Can we avert the situation? What are the realities on ground?
Before answering these questions, let us sieve the chaff from the grain. It is true that the Nigerian population surged from 95 million in 1990 to 203 million this year, 2019. This attests the population growth prediction into the future to most likely be a reality. Increase in population moves proportionally with increase in food supply to meet population demand. The consequence on food security or effort to achieve zero hunger in a country with exponential population increase is obvious.
Nevertheless, with proper planning and commitment, Nigeria can produce enough food for meet the demand of African region. With huge population of 203 million people (about 55% active), 91 million hectares of arable land, 12 million cubic meters of fresh-water resources, 960 kilometers of rich coastline, huge terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity and strategic planning, the country can achieve zero hunger sooner than later.
Now back to the question of reality on ground. National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) conducted a research that assessed the performance of 2019 cropping season in Nigeria. The research is in form of a survey titled “Agricultural Performance Survey” (APS). The survey presents the performances of the different agricultural components; livestock, fisheries, crops and their value chains during 2019 wet season.
Agricultural Performance Survey (APS) has been an annual event that showcases the crops production estimates, challenges to farm inputs, technologies adoption, and constraints to production, pests and diseases situation and market information. An insight to answers on Nigerian possibility achieving zero hunger is readily available in the 2019 APS report. Although, NAERLS has been conducting APS in the last three decades but the 2019 was uniquely done. The survey was conducted with active involvements of key agencies in Agriculture and related sectors such as Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), Abuja, National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), six different departments of Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Sassakawa Global 2000, National Agricultural Seeds Council, and National Productivity Centre (NPC). Other important stakeholders involved were Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), ABU, Zaria, National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI) ABU, Zaria, Institute of Agriculture and Training (IAR&T), OAU, Ibadan, Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI), Maiduguri, National Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) Benin City, Nigerian Institute for Horticultural Research (NIHORT) Ibadan.
However, two important organizations; Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) and World Food Program couldn’t participate in the research but commended the effort. In 2017, FAO provided electronic tablets that facilitated electronic data capture in the last three surveys. No doubt, the involvement of these agencies raised the scope and quality of the 2019 exercise. A total of 21 agencies in addition to the states’ Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs) across the nation participated in the APS exercise.
The public presentation of the APS report was the epic of the momentous national assignment conducted by NAERLS and partners. The presentation was done after the stakeholders’ validation workshop of the survey results. The Honorable Minister of Agriculture, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono made the public presentation on Thursday, 17th October 2019 at his conference hall before the invited pressmen and representatives of the stakeholders. What are the contents of the 2019 APS report? How can these findings help Nigeria achieve zero hunger?
Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.