Help! There’s Hunger In The Land
Food insecurity which the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defined as a situation of “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways,” is an aggrandizing socioeconomic emergency capable of plunging Nigeria into an abysmal ruckus if left unabated. There’s low supply of food in the land unaffordable for the commoners.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has its headquarter at Abuja, and offices in 35 States of Nigeria except Lagos, each of the 36 States has Ministry of Agriculture; in spite of the plethora of government establishments saddled with the responsibilities of ensuring: cornucopia of affordable food, protection of different spheres of the nation’s agricultural sector, development of agrarian communities, increasing farm outputs year-over-year, and bringing the agricultural sector in congruence with global best practices; Nigeria was ranked 2nd poorest in food affordability globally by the Institute of Development Studies, United Kingdom.
According to ‘Trading Economics,’ an independent economy forecasting consortium, food inflation in Nigeria averaged 12.07% from 1996 until 2021, reaching an all-time high of 39.54% in September 2001, and record low of -17.50% in January 2000. In 2021, it rose to 22.95% in March and declined to 17.76% in June.
Strongly correlating with ascending malnourishment, food insecurity makes living hellish for the underprivileged.
A report by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) detailing poverty and inequality from September, 2018 to October, 2020, disclosed that 40% of the populace or 82 million Nigerians live below the international poverty line of $1.90 daily, whilst another 25% or 53 million people are vulnerable.
Malnutrition is a long time problem coinciding with food scarcity and declining food quality in the country. The socioeconomic knot piqued by high poverty rate keeps gaining momentum over the years taking huge toll on the health of Nigerians.
According to bulletins from United Nations Children’s Funds (UNICEF), Nigeria has the second highest burden of stunted children in the world and an estimated 2 million children suffer from acute malnutrition. Just 18% of toddlers aged 6-23 months are fed the minimum acceptable diet and over 1000 children die from acute malnutrition daily nationwide.
Nigeria has 70.8 million hectares agricultural lands but only 34 million hectares are arable—lands currently in use for agriculture. Vast potential lands for farming are uncultivated while the populace languishes in starvation and penury.
Unambiguously Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with over 201 million people. Agriculture sector provides employment for 35% of the population while 70% of households engage in crop farming; even so, farm output is too low to feed the masses, compared to country like Canada whose employees in the agriculture industry is just 0.79% of her population yet one of the largest food producer and exporter in the world. Food produced by dint of superannuated system of farming is insufficient for rising demands as Nigeria’s large population is growing at a rate of 6.2 million annually.
As many as 811 million people worldwide go to bed hungry each night without intending to fast and large percentage of them are resident in sub-Saharan Africa. They have no access to food or can’t afford it.
Conflict is equally another weighty cause of food insecurity, precisely in war-torn societies. The incessant bandits and herdsmen incursions have left millions of farmers displaced and discouraged ample prospective agriculturists. The federal government should device a workable system for both farmers and herders to thrive as well as beef up security around agrarian communities.
Climate change is undoubtedly a global anathema to agriculture whose antecedents are not far-fetched in the country, especially in the North. Notwithstanding, the impacts can be mitigated through cutting down carbon emission plus swift upgrading of Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) to an advanced rainfall onset, pattern and retreat prognosticating bureau concurrent with bridging communication gap between farmers and NIMET.
Government’s annual budget for agriculture is insufficient; sad to say, bulk of it is still mismanaged or unaccounted for. As revealed by Chatham House, over $582 billion has been siphoned from government coffer since independence and largesse allocated to agriculture is integral victim of this embezzlement; consequently deteriorating the nation’s food upheaval. To expunge the looting hinge on efficacy of national anti-corruption watchdogs.
Nigeria is currently overpopulated owing to poor productivity. The nation is economically stretched above its carrying-capacity; ergo, can’t sustainably feed her fast growing population. Food is essential to human’s existence, physical and psychological wellbeing.
The healthiness and productivity of a nation are largely dependent on the quality and quantity of foods consumed by the people. It is the duty of a responsible government to enact, finance and monitor well-conditioned policies aimed at providing basic rights and necessities such as food for the citizenry.
The surging food insecurity calls for national emergency to assuage hunger in the land. If left unabated commoners may resolve to self-help, contravening extant Laws in their course of actions.
It’s evidently a threat to our national security. There’s fire already on the mountain. Constituted authorities should act promptly. A stitch in time saves nine.