Global Food Crisis and Challenge to Nigeria
Prince Nwaokugha Ikeokwu
With the exception of clothing and shelter as the basic necessities of life, food remains the most vital because of its centrality to human existence. It is a known fact that the ruthless expedition for food has shaped human history, provoking wars, driving migration and underpinning the growth of nations. The recent escalation of food prices call for sober reflection, owing to the fact that the globe is facing a worsening food crisis period unseen in the last 30 years and the potential of leading to catastrophe. The discussion of this vital issue has taken a centre stage among world leaders, thereby increasing concern about the world’s ability to feed its 6.5 billion people, to avert world-wide unrest and political instability as reported in Egypt, Cameron, Burkina Faso, Cote d Ivoire, Senegal and Mauritania and other nations.
As a result of this “Silent Tsunami”, International organizations and individual countries have embarked on aggressive food security crusade as the only option to remedy the situation in order to make food affordable to all. The Food Security Assessment in 2005 proves that over 750 million people were food insecure in 70 lower countries. Both Asia and the Commonwealth of Independent States experienced a 30 percent drop in the number of hungry people. The number in Latin American and Caribbean has varied slightly over time, but there has been a discernible trend across the region as a whole. Despite the strong growth in food production, Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region where the number of hungry has risen in the last decade. Analysts are of the view that high food prices will cause an increase in food security and widespread food crisis in many developing countries. Poor people in developing countries spend between 50 -80 percent of their income on food and poor rural households tend to be net consumers of food. Any increase in food prices reduce food consumption and increase hunger.
The prices of rice, corn and wheat have all reach record high recently, which is a big threat to the developing countries. This has been attributed to a number of factors including climate change, population growth, increase demand for biofuels, failure to improve crop yield, high oil and input prices, leading to increase input lost for producers and traders. Speculation on commodity market and structural problems like underinvestment in agriculture and infrastructure, the dominance in supply chain of food and agricultural policies could also push price.
Even though there is no correspondence between the ever growing populations and agricultural produces in Nigeria, agriculture remains a crucial sector in the Nigerian economy. Majority of the rural population depends on agric related activities for their livelihood.
The appraisal of the past shows that successive administration had initiated progammes towards ensuring that food is available, accessible, and adequate for the teaming population. Unfortunately, the sustenance of these laudable ideas to fulfill their mandates has remained a dream. Some of these progammes are; Farm Settlement Scheme and National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP), lunched in 1972 by Gen. Yakubu Gowan; Operation Feed the Nation introduced by the Murtala /Obasanjo administration; River Basin and Rural Development Authority established in 1976; Green Revolution and the World Bank founded Agricultural Development Project (ADP) launched by the administration of Shehu Shagari in 1980; and Babangidia’s Directorate for Food, Road and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI). Despite the efforts, agriculture has been constrained by numerous challenges like rural-urban migration, wavering policies formulation and implementation, insufficient infrastructure support; poor input distribution system; emphasis on oil economy; pricing system; over dependence on rain-fed farming; poor capacity utilization, low investor’s confidence; environmental degradation; poor access to funds ; poor socio-economic status of farms and insufficient technological transfer system, corruption and poor commitment to implementation of agricultural policies Economic analysts believe that for Nigeria to transform to one of the leading 20 economies in the world by 2020, an agricultural revolution should be the catalyst to its industrialization. Besides, the targets of the MDG of reducing hunger and poverty, sustainable development can only be attained through increased attention to agriculture, food security and sustainable water resources development Acknowledging the flaws of the past, to reconcile the current global food predicament, the present administration led by president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, took a proactive measure by outlining agriculture as one of its conceptual practical framework, to be tackled through the short, medium and long term, in line with his agenda and vision 2015 of curbing hunger and poverty to improve the lives of 140 million Nigerians. Over N134 billion approved for Agriculture in the 2008 budget is a clear testimony. Recently the Federal Government summoned a meeting of the National Economic Council and Federal Executive Council for practical and positive intervention towards eliminating hunger. So far the intervention has resulted in the release of N80 billion from the Natural Resource Development Fund for importation of 500,000 metric tones of rice from and 11,000 metric tones of grains to complement the local output. A 6 months waiver was introduced on import duties on rice a sedative measure to encourage private partnership. Considering the fact that fertilizer is an essential input in Nigerian’s agricultural system, the Federal Government has procured 650,000 metric tones of fertilizer valued at N64,340,000.00 billion naira for distribution to all the states and FCT at 25% subsidy, with an efficient and effective procurement and distribution system to ensure non-diversion of the product. As part of the palliative schemes to keep hunger at bay, the Federal Government has approved the release and distribution of 65,000 metric tones of assorted food from the Strategic Food Reserve to cushion the effect of low yield during 2007 season while stoking food items in the Reserves to guarantee the required level of food security, which goes in line with a view to adopting a policy of Guaranteed Minimum Price (GMP) of major food commodities. This strategy will enhance food security through preservation and storage of items in the rural areas nationwide. Livestock development is not left just as fisheries production has been promoted in the determination to address general concern on agriculture in Nigeria. In the crop sector, government is refocusing on the production of major key crops in which the country has comparative advantage.
Access to credit facilities by farmers is one of the major constraints facing agricultural development in the country of which the Federal ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources has secured approval for the sum of $39.0 million for Rural Financing Project to provide credit facilities to small scale farmers. Because of the importance of land as a factor of production, it is obvious that the existing land tenure system in the country lacks organization in terms of documentation, thus rendering land illegally secure as a means of collaterals for credit facilities. The Minister of Agriculture recently informed the nation that government has designed templates for the implementation of Cadastral Survey of the country to ensure the certification of individual farm land for title deeds and to serve as bank collateral for access to credit and support services.
Having recognized the importance of water for farming in particular and human survival in general, the present administration is set for the rehabilitation of the existing Dams for the development of irrigated agriculture, some of which are the Hadejia Valley project, Kano River projects, Middle and Lower Ogun, Lower Anambra project, Middle Rima as well as other small scale irrigation projects, which are farmer-managed and also, the continuous monitoring of surface and under water resources to ensure sustainable operation. Regarding the danger posed by frequent attack by pirates on fishing vessels and the restiveness in the coastal region of the country, government has perfected plans for the implementation of Special Agricultural Programme in the Niger Delta in line with the master plane.
Considering the agricultural projects lined up for execution at the federal level, the rest 36 states and their local government areas including the FCT have been charged to develop a blue print of their administration, with a passionate commitment to agriculture with a view of reducing hunger and poverty before 2015. Nigerians are anxiously counting their fingers to seeing the full implementation of these policies and programmes, what Nigerians need at this point is patient and absolute support of the present administration. If these programmes are implemented without sabotage, in line with the Rule of Law and sincerity of purpose, Nigerians will have more than enough food to feed her teaming population.