World Food Day: Food Security, Innovations and Challenges in Nigeria (I) by Professor MK Othman

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Monday, 16th October 2017 was a World Food Day globally celebrated on annual basis in many countries to remind nations on the devastating effects of hunger, poverty and squalor. The day provides opportunity for each country to assemble its stakeholders for conferences, symposia, and exhibitions as well as examines the different strategies adopted to reduce hunger and poverty. World Food Day (WFD) is celebrated every year around the world on 16 October in honor of the date of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, which was established in 1945. The day is celebrated widely by many other organizations concerned with food security, including the World Food Program and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. FAO’s Member Countries at the Organization’s 20th General Conference established WFD in November 1979. The Hungarian Delegation, led by the former Hungarian Minister of Agriculture and Food Dr. PálRomány, played an active role at the 20th Session of the FAO Conference and suggested the idea of celebrating the WFD worldwide. It has since been observed every year in more than 150 countries, raising awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger. In Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in collaboration with National Agricultural Foundation of Nigeria (NAFN) organizes WFD on annual basis at kilometer 25 along Abuja – Keffi Road, Nasarawa State.
Globally, the theme for this year (2017) is “Change the future of migration. Invest in Food Security and Rural Development”. The reason for selection of this year’s theme is obvious considering massive global surge of migration from countries ravaged by conflicts and wars in the last three years. FAO has catalogue facts on migration as presented in its website. In 2015, there were 244 million international migrants, which was 40% increase compared to what it was fifteen years earlier (2000). In 2013, an estimated number of 763 million people were reported to move within nations, meaning that there are more internal migrants than international migrants, thereby overstretching the food security of such countries. It was also reported that about one-third of all international migrants are aged between 15 and 34, more than half are women and children. This category of migrants constitutes inexperienced but agile population whose majority are of school aged. In 2015, more than 19 million people were internally displaced because of natural disasters. Between 2008 and 2015, an average of 26.4 million people were displaced annually by climate or weather-related disasters. Most migrants, whether international or internal, originate in the Middle East and North Africa, Central Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe as reported by FAO. In 2015, 65.3 million people around the world were forcibly displaced by conflict and persecution, including over 21 million refugees, 3 million asylum-seekers and over 40 million IDPs. Large shares of migrants come from rural areas where more than 75% of the world’s poor and food insecure depend on agriculture and natural resource-based livelihoods. On relatively positive aspect of migration, it was reported that migrants sent over 600 USD billion in remittances to their countries of birth in 2015 alone. Out of this amount, developing countries received about USD441 billion, nearly three times the amount of official development assistance. This is the global picture of migration and food insecurity.
In Nigeria, prior to Boko Haram (BH)) insurgency in the North Eastern part of the country, the migration was merely rural to urban migration, with the highest rate of 2.5% per 1000 people in 1980 and thereafter reduced at the rate of 0.35. However, the advent of BH insurgency, the migration soared to unprecedented level with the exception of civil war incidence. Most of the migrants were camped as internally displaced persons (IDP) selected locations while few of them became burden to other families in several towns across the North. As of 31 December 2015, estimated numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Nigeria were 2,152,000. This figure is based on an assessment conducted from November to December 2015 by the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) team in 207 Local Government Areas (LGA) covering 13 States of Northern Nigeria: Abuja (13,481 IDPs); Adamawa (136,010); Bauchi (70,078); Benue (85,393); Borno (1,434,149); Gombe (25,332); Kaduna (36,976); Kano (9,331); Nasarawa (37,553); Plateau (77,317); Taraba (50,227); Yobe (131,203) and Zamfara (44,929) (www.interna-displacement.org). The insurgency makes enamors contribution to the food insecurity, as IDPs could hardly be productive agriculturally. A recent online paper (Neptune Prime) report presented the gloomy picture of food insecurity in the country. The paper quoted Mr. Constant Tchona, Deputy Director of OXFAM in Nigeria saying “5.8 million people in the northeast are experiencing food insecurity and might die of malnutrition, if urgent food assistance is not provided, out of this figure, 5.2 million people are living in three states of north east; Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states”. Adding that “it was imperative for the Federal Government to step up implementation of policies that directly benefit smallholder farmers to enhance food production in the country” Mr. Tchona spoke at the presentation of a report titled ‘Fine Words Do not Produce Food’, in Abuja, Nigeria. He further explained that insurgency; militancy and Fulani/farmers crisis had pushed communities in the country into dangerous level of food insecurity. He was further quoted “Over 450,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. In pockets of Borno state, over 50,000 people are living in famine-like conditions and don’t have access to humanitarian services. Food still remains the biggest unmet need of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)”. This is certainly a bleak situation but still better than period of 2013-15 when the BH virtually annexed significant parts of Borno and Adamawa states and constituted draconian authority. Nevertheless, the need for the government and other relevant stakeholders to scale-up food assistance to save lives in these states cannot be overemphasized. This was certainly the reason why President Muhammad Buhari appealed to the visiting World Bank President to provide special intervention in the northeast.
In Nigeria, the WFD is annually combined with Agricultural show whose theme this year (2017) is tagged “Sustaining agriculture for economic development”. The show is aimed at showcasing what agricultural research institutes; inputs suppliers and other agricultural innovators have produced for Nigerians. In addition, the show creates network and collaboration among the stakeholders for increase agricultural productivity.
Over the years, strategies and concerted efforts were made by different stakeholders to achieve food security for the nation considering its endowed potentials. One important factor directly related to food security is the nation’s population growth. What is the growth rate of Nigerian population? Nigeria’s population is increasing at exponential proportion estimated to reach 450 million by the year 2050. That will make Nigeria the third most populated country on earth after China and India. Data available in the 2012 revision of the World Population Prospects by the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat indicates that Nigerian population in 1950 was only 37,860,000 compared to 159,708,000 in 2010. The proportion of children below the age of 15 in 2010 was 44.0% while between 15 and 65 years was 53.2% and above 65 years was only 2.7%. In my article of 15th July 2016, published on this page, I quoted a brilliant demographic analysis made by late Sanusi Abubakar of blessed memory, who was an ace columnist of Daily Trust Newspaper, published in its edition of Tuesday 28/6/2016. His analysis showed that Nigeria had an average birth rate of 850 babies per hour and an average death rate of 280 people per hour giving a population increase of 570 people per hour, 13,491 people per day and 4.92 million people per year. The 2015 population estimate was 186,988,000 with male population of 95,253,000 and female population of 91,734,000 and population density of 201.3 per square kilometer. What are the innovations and challenges to food security in Nigeria?
Professor Othman is the Executive Director of Nigeria Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.

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