...Redifining Journalism for Development

Peter Pans seeking help in the Catacombs, by Osmund Agbo

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Peter Pans seeking help in the Catacombs, by Osmund Agbo

Recently, amidst the chaos of war, Ukraine made a remarkable gesture by donating 25,000 tonnes of wheat as emergency food assistance to 1.3 million vulnerable, crisis-affected people in North-east Nigeria. This act of generosity, while commendable, also sheds light on the precarious situation facing Nigeria and many other African countries, where poverty and lack of economic development have left millions in dire need of assistance.

Ukraine, embroiled in a devastating war with Russia, finds itself not only fighting for its own survival but also extending a helping hand to distant shores. In a twist of fate, it is now a nation amidst the throes of its own battle for existence that stands as a beacon of hope for nations such as Nigeria, grappling with their own crises.

Ukraine’s reputation as a leading wheat producer on the global stage is beyond dispute, thanks to its profound agricultural expertise. Conversely, Nigeria’s climatic conditions may not be conducive to wheat cultivation, leading to the necessity of imports to satisfy local demand. However, it is indeed perplexing to find ourselves in a scenario where a nation embroiled in conflict extends assistance to us. For those who perceive this aid as part of a mutual assistance pact between nations, what reciprocal measures do we intend to offer? Could this involve allowing many of our desperate young men, eager to enlist and fight in their conflict, as a means to escape the harsh realities on our own shores?

For Nigeria to find itself on the receiving end of aid from a nation entrenched in its own struggle for survival speaks volumes about the gravity of our situation. Despite possessing extensive arable land and abundant natural resources, Nigeria finds itself in a perplexing predicament where prosperity is overshadowed by pervasive poverty. This stark paradox underscores the urgent need for transformative action to address the root causes of our nation’s challenges and hopefully unlock its true potential for prosperity and well-being.

In our country today, the scourge of warehouse foodstuffs looting has reached alarming proportions, painting a grim picture of the nation’s struggle against an unprecedented food crisis. Hoodlums recently descended upon a storage facility in the Gwagwa area of Abuja, ransacking its contents and pillaging essential food items.

Bags of rice and grains, meant to alleviate hunger amidst dire circumstances, were carted away from a warehouse belonging to the Federal Capital Territory Administration. This brazen act of theft not only underscores the severity of Nigeria’s food insecurity but also highlights the vulnerability of essential supply chains in the face of criminal opportunism.

Adding to the distressing narrative, residents in Dogarawa, a suburb of Zaria in Kaduna State, seized upon desperation by looting cartons of spaghetti from a parked truck owned by BUA Company. This brazen display of lawlessness further exacerbates the challenges faced by communities already grappling with scarcity and deprivation. Such incidents not only deprive vulnerable populations of much-needed sustenance but also erode trust in institutions tasked with safeguarding essential resources during times of crisis.

Despite achieving lower-middle-income status in 2014, a staggering 37 percent of Nigerians, roughly 84 million people, live below the poverty line today. Conflict, insecurity, inflation, and the climate crisis exacerbate the situation, with an alarming 26.5 million people projected to face acute hunger during the June-August 2024 lean season, a notable increase from previous years.

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The North East region, particularly affected by conflict, witnesses the displacement of 2.2 million people and leaves 4.4 million food insecure, with Borno State bearing the brunt as the epicenter of insurgency. Additionally, Nigeria grapples with periodic droughts and floods, further straining agricultural output and leaving rural populations particularly vulnerable. Insurgent activities not only deepen insecurity but also exacerbate food and nutrition insecurity, disproportionately affecting women and children and hampering overall development efforts in the country. The situation is not much different in many other African countries.

Much like the fictional character Peter Pan, who refuses to grow up and shoulder the responsibilities of adulthood, many African countries exhibit a similar reluctance to address some fundamental existential issues. Instead of confronting systemic challenges head-on with long-term planning, they go for quick fixes and opt for the temporary relief offered by external aid.

Just as Peter Pan relies on the Lost Boys and Wendy for companionship and assistance in Neverland, African nations continue to place their faith on loans and aids from Western nations and Asia to drive its developmental agenda. This dependency perpetuates a cycle where external support becomes a crutch, hindering the development of self-sufficiency and resilience.

Moreover, like Peter Pan’s escapades in Neverland, reliance on foreign loans and assistance provides only temporary respite without addressing the root causes of poverty, inequality, and underdevelopment. African countries for the most part are ruled by kleptocrats and so are trapped in a perpetual cycle corruption, nepotism, poverty and dependency.

Foreign aid, while oftentimes well-intentioned, often comes with strings attached. Conditions imposed by donor countries or international institutions may undermine the sovereignty and agency of recipient nations. Policy reforms and preferential trade agreements dictated by external actors can perpetuate a cycle of dependency and hinder local initiatives for sustainable development. Furthermore, the influx of foreign aid may inadvertently stifle local innovation and entrepreneurship. Instead of fostering indigenous solutions to local challenges

To break free from the shackles of dependency, African countries must adopt a more nuanced approach to international assistance. Genuine partnerships based on mutual respect and cooperation are essential. Rather than imposing top-down solutions, aid should empower local communities to drive their own development agendas.

Moving forward, African nations must take ownership of their challenges and pursue sustainable solutions. This requires tackling corruption, implementing necessary reforms, and investing in long-term development strategies. By fostering a culture of self-reliance and innovation, Africa can break free from the Peter Pan syndrome and chart a course towards sustainable and inclusive growth.

Israel has earned global recognition for its remarkable achievements in agricultural innovation and food production, despite facing challenges such as arid climate and limited water resources. Through pioneering technologies and innovative practices, Israel has transformed barren desert landscapes into flourishing agricultural hubs, setting a precedent for sustainable farming methods worldwide.

One key aspect of Israel’s agricultural success lies in its groundbreaking advancements in water management. Through the development of drip irrigation systems, precision agriculture techniques, and desalination technologies, Israel has revolutionized the way water is utilized in agriculture. By delivering precise amounts of water directly to the roots of plants, drip irrigation minimizes water waste and maximizes efficiency, allowing crops to thrive even in arid conditions.

Additionally, Israel’s expertise in desalination has enabled the country to harness seawater for agricultural purposes, mitigating the impact of water scarcity on crop production.
Furthermore, Israel’s commitment to research and development has led to the creation of innovative farming methods and technologies tailored to suit the country’s unique environmental challenges.

From vertical farming and hydroponics to bioengineering drought-resistant crops, Israeli scientists and agricultural experts continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in food production. Through collaborations with universities, research institutions, and private companies, Israel remains at the forefront of agricultural innovation, inspiring sustainable farming practices and offering solutions to global food security challenges.

Tackling the food crisis gripping Nigeria demands nothing short of a surgical, comprehensive and bold intervention. It’s time to confront insecurity head-on, empowering farmers to cultivate their land without fear. Investing in modern agricultural technology is crucial to boosting productivity and efficiency. Moreover, facilitating the import of agricultural equipment duty-free can expedite this transition, enabling farmers to access the tools they need to thrive. We must empower our youth to pursue careers in agriculture, offering incentives and opportunities to harness their potential in crop and animal husbandry.

As nations across the globe embark on ambitious space exploration missions and groundbreaking technological endeavors, it is imperative for Nigeria and its African counterparts to prioritize addressing the most fundamental human needs, encompassing food security, shelter, and energy provision. This imperative extends beyond mere necessity; it pertains to the preservation of dignity and the pursuit of self-reliance. We cannot afford to continue relying on handouts and scavenging everywhere for sustenance.

Osmund Agbo is the author of ‘Black Grit, White Knuckles: The Philosophy of Black Renaissance and an upcoming novel, “The Velvet Court: Courtesan Chronicles”.

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