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Food Security: 2020 NiMet predictions and socio-economic implications in Nigeria, by Professor M. K Othman



A path of achieving food security is a tricky and dodgy one for a developing country like Nigeria. The quantum of food required to provide the needed security is geometrically increasing parallel to the population’s exponential increase.

Every day the population figure changes progressively. How can we provide food security to our teeming Nigerian population that has an estimated average birth rate of 850 babies and death rate of 280 people in every hour?

This indicates an hourly population increase of 570 people, 13,680 people per day and 3,611,520 per year. These figures are conservative because the World’s population clock provides a yearly increase of Nigerian population as 5,000,428 people higher than 3.6 million quoted above (https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/nigeria-population/).

Nigeria is majestically marching to become the third most populous country in the World in the year 2050 with an estimated population of 401 million people. Today, Nigeria is the 7th most populous country in the world ranking after Brazil (6th), Pakistan (5th), Indonesia (4th), USA (3rd), India (2nd) and China (1st).

Another very frightening situation of the population in Nigeria is the demographic analysis on the national productivity or the so-called “Nigeria Dependency Ratio”.

The age dependency ratio expresses the relationship between the “dependent population” (ages 0-15 and 65-plus, referred as “youth” and “elderly”) and the “working-age population” (ages 16-64).

The groups, youth (43.49%) and elderly (2.74%) constitute 46.23% of the total population. This category of the population is economically less or even unproductive and depends entirely on the productivity of the remaining 53%.

With the demographic challenge of feeding additional extra mouths per minute, the arduous task of providing meal on every table in every household is daunting. It requires harnessing all efforts from all angles tangentially aimed at goal getting; achievement of food security.

It is in this light that the NiMet’s annual “Season Rainfall Prediction (SRP)” is considered important. If this annual event, SRP is harnessed, synchronized and synergized with the efforts of National Agricultural Research and Extension Centers across the nation, food security will be achieved sooner than later. Beyond food security, SRP has serious socio-economic implications to the nation. First, what is food security?

Severally, this column has discussed food security issues in a series of published articles in the past two years or so. In my article of Friday 1st February 2019 on the SRP of 2019 (http://breakthroughwithmkothman.blogspot.com/2019/03/food-security-2019-nimet-predictions.html)

I summarized the definition and understanding of food security. I stated 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 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 a food secured 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 is 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 an 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.

it has grown from a relatively unknown agency to become a regular household name in Nigeria. On a daily basis, tens of millions of Nigerians are glued to their television sets to listen to the 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 relatively young age of 17 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 also 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 compared to similar agencies all over the world thereby attracting global accolades. What are the NiMet 2020 predictions? How reliable are these predictions? Before then, what were the performances of 2019 SRP across the nation?

The rainfalls of 2019 were spectacularly different in several parts of the country as the rainfalls were heavy and the wet season lasted beyond the normal period. Was NiMet able to foresee the changes? Were Nigerians fully informed of and prepared for the changes? To be continued next week.

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