...Redifining Journalism for Development

World Food Day: Food Security, Innovations and Challenges in Nigeria II with Prof. MK Othman


The 2015 population estimate for Nigeria 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.
As I am writing this article today, Sunday, 22nd October 2017, at 11.25am American time, the Worldmeters population (www.worldmeters.info/world-population/nigeria-population), the famous tool for estimation of real-time population of countries globally estimated that Nigerian population had hit 192,425,377, moving towards having an estimated population of 450 million people in 2050. At conservative cost of N150 per plate of food per person per meal, a staggering amount of N116 billion Naira worth of food is required to feed this teeming population per day and 3.5 trillion Naira per month.
For the purpose of analysis, let me give a vivid picture of the enormity to feed Nigerian population today for a meal of rice alone without the additives. It requires 24.1 million metric tons of milled rice to serve the estimated number of 192 million people for a single meal on the assumption that 100 kg of rice can serve 800 people. What are the innovations and challenges to food security in Nigeria?
What is food security? Defining food security precisely is very difficult and there are more than 200 definitions and 450 indicators of food security. According to the 1996 World Food Summit “food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy lifestyle.
In another context, the World Health Organization (WHO) maintained that “food security means that all people at all times have both physical and economic access to enough food for an active, healthy living…” Therefore, attaining food security means that consumption and production of food should be governed by social values that are just and equitable as well as moral and ethical. This way, the ability to acquire food by all can be ensured.
In addition, the food should be nutritionally adequate, personally and culturally acceptable; and the food should also be obtained in a manner that upholds human dignity. No matter how food security is defined, having enough to eat regularly for active and healthy life is the most essential human need. Many developing countries, especially in South Asia and Africa, are yet to fulfill this vital need. However, some basic components of food security should guide us to examine the innovations to achieve food security in Nigeria.

What are the essential components of food security?
The components are basically three. The first is quality implying that the food is safe, healthy and of nutritious value. The second is the quantity implying that the food is enough to lead a healthy and active lifestyle. The third is availability implying that a person has financial capability to purchase the food where one lives. That means the food has to be accessible and affordable without strain or constraint. Thus, every food security program targeted to a given community must contain these basic components to qualify it as “a standard food security project”.
In Nigeria, from the year of Independence to date, there were several innovations to attain food security for the country in form of programs and projects mostly championed by the Federal Government. One of such program was the National Accelerated Food Production Program (NAFPP). This was a well-conceptualized strategy that incorporated research, extension and input supply (through a network of agro-service centers) and farmers.
Another one was Operation Feed the Nation (OFN), introduced in 1976 as a strategy to substantially increase food production and availability on sustainable manner. The establishment of The River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs) across the nation was another effort. The responsibilities of Extension services were removed from them in 1985 and their farmers were presumed to benefit from the extension services of ADP within their catchment areas. This caused a huge vacuum that led to poor and inefficient performance of RBDAs.
Yet another effort was the Green Revolution, launched in 1979 to replace the OFN. The primary objective of the program was to achieve food self-sufficiency for Nigeria within a target of five years. However, the approach placed emphasis on input supply, improvement of infrastructure and provision of price incentives. Alongside Green Revolution, another effort was the introduction of Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs) as an extension approach. A pilot project was started in 1975 at three enclaves; Funtua, Gombe and Gusau, respectively.
The ADP extension system was based on the premise that a combination of essential factors comprising of the right technology, effective extension, access to physical production-enhancing inputs, adequate market and other infrastructure facilities are essential to achieve food security.
The ADP system uses Training and Visit extension delivery system, which recorded huge success with World Bank support funds. The success led to establishment of the enclave ADPs in six more states. By 1989, the ADP system had become statewide and covered the whole nation providing extension services at the grassroots. The strategy worked and recorded tangible success nationwide while the World Bank support lasted.
One of the defects of the ADP system was its crop-bias on introduction. The correction of this defect led to the introduction of the Unified Agricultural Extension Services (UAES) in 1989. The correction made provision for the inclusion to the other sectors, such as livestock, fisheries, forestry and natural resource management.
Thus, under ADP system, one village extension agent (VEA) is expected to deliver extension messages in all agricultural disciplines to the farmers. This was informed by the need to remove the problems of conflicting messages to the clientele by multiple agents. It was also expected to make the system cost-effective by eliminating duplication of efforts.
Some of the recent efforts worth mentioning are Nigeria Special Program for Food Security (NSPFS), Nigeria Root and Tuber Expansion Program (RTEP), National Agricultural Land development Authority (NALDA), Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) and few others by states governments.

In addition to all these programs, there are also several breakthroughs in machinery inventions and technology innovations related agricultural development and food security in Nigeria as reported in my past artcles in this Column, which can be accessed via www.breakthroughwithmkothman.blogspot.com. However, these efforts were tried with insignificant impacts on the Nigerian farming system as farmers still largely use hand tools to cultivate their lands. The nation is still incapable of attaining the status of food secured nation and food items are still massively imported. Some of the challenges for the poor performance of these efforts are:
1. Planning was a top-down with no involvement of the clientele
2. There was poor or no linkage with research centers in all the approaches resulting in the development of inappropriate technologies,
3. Conflicting roles of extension –education and law enforcement,
4. A flawed extension philosophy, which saw the farmers as “traditional, fatalistic, ignorant and resistant” to change,
5. Some of the approaches such as RBDAs failed due to lack of focus and diversification of efforts that could not be sustained,
6. Some of the approaches followed one another in quick successions, left the rural populace probably more confused and undecided as there were too many instructions coming from government agencies,
7. Some of the approaches such as ADP system proved to be very expensive hence the serious management problems after the withdrawal of the world Bank support to the projects,
8. The farmers involvements and participation in technology development remains low as there was no effective means of feedback
9. And several other reasons
To address these concerns, an extension and research institute was upgraded to examine the various approaches, in addition to capacity building of extension personnel to meet the emerging challenges of extension delivery services. That institute was Extension Research Liaison Services (ERLS), a section of Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), which was upgraded to National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) in 1987.
Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.

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