By Ajibola Abayomi,
Food sustains the vitally and strength of human. Therefore the place of food cannot be wished away in life of man.
But going by the appalling state of Agriculture in Nigeria, there are signals that the nation may be facing famine in the nearest future.
Experts have attributed the rising cost of living was mainly the result of the depreciation of the naira, while the hike in fuel and transport costs was an additional factor. The Nations statistical agency, National Bureau of Statistics also said the increased price of food in turn contributed to the high rate of inflation in the country.
Meanwhile one major factor that contributed to the general food price rise was the cost of transportation occasioned by the new pump price of petrol as introduced by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, which saw 67 per cent increase from the former N87 per litre to a maximum of N145.
A Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), Farm Infrastructure Foundation (FIF) which had been persistently calling on the Federal Government to restructure the nation’s Agricultural was of the view that hunger rate may widen beyond the imagination if steps were not taken to mob the ripple effect of fallout of depression in the nation in no distance time.
In order to stimulate government to plan and act before it is too late the body is pushing for the passage of Right to Food Bill by the National Assembly.
The President of FIF and Professor of Agricultural Economics and Policy, Gbolagade Ayoola said if that was done it would stop government at all levels from paying lip service to right to food for Nigerians by ensuring that the nation agro base is solid and supported with required resources.
He noted that the government deliberately gave issues of food a mere mention on chapter two of the constitution and excluded it from the fundamental human right section in order to render agitation for quality food related matters inactive.
His argument: “It suffices to say that at the moment more than 40% of Nigerians cannot sleep because of hunger. The remaining less that 40% also cannot sleep because of fear of hunger.
“The latest World Hunger Index published by the International FFOOD Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) indicates that as at 2017, an index value of 25.5 Nigeria ranked 84th among the 119 countries in category of serious hunger prevalence.
“This implies that about 3.4% of about 150 million people in Nigeria presently suffers from one or the other of the worst manifestations of hunger namely acute adult malnutrition, child stunting, child wastage and child mortality.”
Adding his voice to the discussion, the Executive Director of T.R.E.E, Ropo Egbeleke faulted the allocation of less than 10% of national budget for agricultural development in the nation.
This he said was contrary to the international convention which recommended not less that 10% of the budget of every nation should be committed annually to grow agriculture.
He said the paucity of fund for agricultural development was the bane of access to good food in the nation.
Economic Confidential reports that Famine Early Warning System Network, FEWS NET, an agency supported by the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, also noted that with persistent conflict, severe drought and economic instability, Nigeria and three other countries face a credible risk of famine in 2017.
FEWS NET disclosed that the combined magnitude, severity, and geographic scope of anticipated emergency food assistance needs during 2017 is unprecedented in recent decades, adding that an estimate of 70 million people across 45 countries will require emergency food assistance this year.
The report indicates that, “Food insecurity during 2017 will be driven primarily by three factors. Most importantly, persistent conflict is disrupting livelihoods, limiting trade, and restricting humanitarian access across many regions, including the Lake Chad Basin, the Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan, the Great Lakes Region, Somalia, Yemen, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.”
The report is coming just few months after United Nations have warned that 75,000 children in Nigeria risk dying in “a few months” as hunger continue to gnaw the country’s ravaged north-east in the wake of the Boko Haram insurgency.
According to the UN humanitarian coordinator Peter Lundberg the crisis was unfolding at “high speed”. As at November 2016, the assessment of United Nations show that 14million Nigerians will be in need of humanitarian assistance by 2017.
This may not be mere coincidence the latest report by FEWS NET on impending famine. Almost around the same period, the presidency also warned that Nigeria risks famine from the beginning of 2017 following a huge demand in the global market targeting the country’s surplus production.
Experts reported that over 2,000 people died of famine in 2016 especially in parts of North-eastern Nigeria which cannot be reached by aid agencies due to an insurgency by Islamic militant group Boko Haram.
The analysts further explained that the deaths occurred in the town of Bama in Nigeria’s Borno State, the jihadists’ former stronghold. The United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) had initially revealed that some 400,000 children were at risk from famine in the three states, 75,000 of whom could die from hunger within months.
This is due to the fact that the current humanitarian response is insufficient amid extreme levels of food insecurity, and only one million people have received food aid this year analysts lamented.
There has also been continuous reported food emergency in the Lake Chad region and Nigeria which has left 11 million people in desperate need of humanitarian aid while more than 500,000 children facing severe to acute malnutrition, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel has warned.
According to Toby Lanzer, violence and mass migration have caused a humanitarian emergency that needs urgent attention. “We are now faced with 11 million people in desperate need of humanitarian aid; 7.1 million are severely food insecure. Severely food insecure, if you want, is a technical term that we get from the World Food Programme and from the Food and Agriculture Organization.
“What it really means is that people are living on the edge. They are surviving on, if they can, one meal a day,” he said It is estimated that Nigeria is in need of $164 million in humanitarian funding to prevent thousands of deaths from malnutrition in its war-torn northeast, a United Nations humanitarian coordinator said. Thus there are suggestions that in order to save lives, continued efforts to resolve conflict and improve humanitarian access are essential.
Also, given the scale of anticipated need, donors and implementing partners should allocate available financial and human resources to those areas where the most severe food insecurity is likely. In a similar vein, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations agency has said about $20 million is urgently needed by June, 2017 to support farmers for new farming season in the north east region of Nigeria.
“FAO’s National Communication Officer, Emeka Anuforo, said about 5.1 million people may face acute food insecurity in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe except there is quick intervention.
The report stated that concerted efforts should be made to ensure the sum is raised otherwise, the implication might continue to rise until 2018. According to the report, about 174,400 people have received farm inputs and irrigation equipment including livestock support during its ongoing campaigns for dry season farming.
It said: “In 2017, FAO is asking for USD 62 million under the Humanitarian Response Plan for Nigeria. Of this, USD 20 million is urgently required to reach 1.9 million people during the upcoming main planting season starting in June 2017.
Missing this season will mean food insecurity and, therefore, humanitarian costs will continue rising into 2018. “FAO’s dry season campaign is ongoing, with 174,400 people receiving vegetable seed, irrigation equipment and livestock support.
“A combination of food assistance and food production support is the only way to address the scale of hunger facing the people of northeastern Nigeria.” Unfortunately the situation has gone beyond the northeast as the entire country continue to endure high cost of living as price of food continue to soar.
The prices of staple food items in the country increased considerably between January and December 2016, with many selling at triple their prices at the end of the year with prices not showing signs of mellowing down anytime soon. Analysis of the Novus Agro Commodity prices between January and December showed that the market prices of palm oil and maize tripled, while garri and imported rice doubled in price in the same period.
But Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, was quick to douse the projection on hunger in Nigeria saying Nigerians are not facing hunger as widely reported in some foreign media.
He faulted the three UN agencies Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), reports that famine was imminent in the country.
To the minister, the country remains a major source of food for other African countries like Sudan, Libya and Chad. His defence:“I think there’s a danger of mixing the situation in the North East with the situation nationwide.I have seen that on CNN- starvation in Somalia and Nigeria and then they go on to talk about civil commotion in the North East.
“I don’t think the rest of Nigeria is facing any threat of famine. That is not true and I think these agencies have to be a little more careful in their prognoses. I think there are challenges in the North-East because this is a huge part of Nigeria which, for five years, has not engaged in food production.”
At the same forum, Ogbeh said a bag of fertiliser would soon cost less than N6,000 and added that there were efforts to establish extension offices in all the local government areas of the country.
“Brazil took grass from Africa 25 years ago and now, they are exporting same grass to Saudi Arabia. South Arabia has the largest dairy farm in the world; they have about 135,000 cows in one farm. They have the most comfortable cows in an air-conditioned environment.