Authors: Saheed Matemilola, Isa Elegbede
Site of publication: Researchgate
Type of publication: Report
Date of publication: December 20, 2017
During the 1996 World Food Summit of November, held in Rome, all heads of Government or their representatives at the summit pledged their support and commitments to achieving global food security and alleviation of hunger with the aim of halving the population of undernourished persons by the year 2015. Despite this unprecedented effort by international institutions, the population of the undernourished people in the world still constitutes a major problem in most parts of the world. Based on 2015 assessment of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), around 795 million people in the world remained undernourished.
Food security is a phenomenon which is multidimensional with economic, environmental and social aspects. Unfortunately, the greater share of the population of the undernourished is located in the developing countries. Although the total population of the food insuring people in Asia outweighs that of Africa, 18 out of 23 nations where undernourishment is prevalent are from Africa.
Not less than 70% of the Nigerian population is surviving on less than a dollar per day while food insecurity prevalence in the low income urban house-holds and rural areas respectively stands at 79% and 71%
Food is no doubt, the most basic of all human survival needs. Although, so many efforts have been sunk in improving the quality as well as production of world food supplies, food insecurity remains prevalent, particularly in the global southern nations of Asia and Africa, and in Nigeria, malnutrition has resulted in death of many of its citizens. African Food Security Briefs (AFSB) estimated that approximately one out of every three persons in the sub-Saharan Africa is undernourished.
Achieving a sustainable economic development in Nigeria and Africa at large will continue to be a mirage without well-nourished and healthy people. In fact, failure to ensure food security has unavoidably resulted in many social problems including civil unrest and riots in many major cities of the world.
Though Nigeria prides itself as the giant of Africa with its economy becoming the largest in 2014, the poverty rate in the country is alarming. Not less than 70% of the Nigerian population is surviving on less than a dollar per day while food insecurity prevalence in the low income urban house-holds and rural areas respectively stands at 79% and 71%.
Concept of Food Security
Almost 240 million people, or better put, one out of every four persons in the sub-Saharan Africa, lack access to adequate food. Hike in prices of food items and drought are forcing the population into hunger and starvation. The population of the world has now crossed the 7 billion mark, but how many will there be to feed? . The term “food security” first emerged in the mid-1970s, at the World Food Conference (1974). During the conference food security was defined in terms of supply of food “assuring the availability and price stability of basic foodstuffs at the international and national level”.
Since the World Food Conference of 1974, the concept of food security has evolved into what is now generally agreed the standard definition which was adopted during the World Food Summit in 1996. The World Food Summit, 1996, agreed that food security “exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.
Achieving a sustainable economic development in Nigeria and Africa at large will continue to be a mirage without well-nourished and healthy people. In fact, failure to ensure food security has unavoidably resulted in many social problems including civil unrest and riots in many major cities of the world
From this definition, four components of food security are identifiable: availability, access, utilization and stability of food. Based on the practical guide of Food Security Information for Action, all four components must be satisfied simultaneously to meet the objectives of food security. Based on FAO and Simon the four components can be delineated as follows:
Availability: There has to be physical, social and economic access to sufficient and nutritious food by all people and at all times. Such food must satisfy the dietary needs and preference of the people. It is the amount of food physically available in a region or place. To a great extent, food availability depends on the level of local production, imports, stock levels and net trade in food items.
Access: This refers to economic, social and physical access to food by all people at all times. That an adequate amount of food is available at the regional, national or international level does not imply it is accessible at household level. It must be locally accessible and affordable.
Utilization: Generally, utilization refers to the pattern in which the body makes use and benefits from the various food nutrients. Utilization id determine by food quality, nutritional values, preparation method and storage as well as feeding pattern.
Food security “exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”
Stability: this refers to the stability of food availability, accessibility and utilization over time. All three components must be present simultaneously at all times. A person who has adequate access to quality food today is still considered food insecure if he has periodic inadequate access to food which may cause his nutritional level to deteriorate. Variation in weather conditions, political and economic instability, and price fluctuation are some factor that may impact on food security status.
Nigeria and the Menace of Food Insecurity
With over 160 million people, Nigeria is the most populated country in Africa and represents about 47 percent of the population of the whole of West Africa. Agriculture is the major occupation in Nigeria, employing almost two-thirds of the active work force and contributing 40 percent of the national GDP. However, based on date from U.S. Energy Information Administration, Nigeria has the largest natural gas reserves in Africa and is the continent’s biggest oil exporter. These wealth of resources have helped it maintain Nigeria’s relatively steady economic growth even in the face of recent global financial meltdown. Nigeria leapfrogged South Africa as Africa’s largest economy in 2013 with Nigeria’s GDP growing from $169.48 billion in 2010 to 522.64 billion in 2014.
However, economists both locally and internationally have severally pointed out that Nigeria’s economic output is underperforming. Despite the amount of resources the nation sit upon and the rapid economic progress, poverty have remained deeply rooted in the in Nigeria as about 70 percent of the population still live below the poverty line as earlier established. Also, the 2012 Global Hunger Index ranked Nigeria 40th out of 79 nations while the 2011 UNDP Human Development Index placed Nigeria 156th out of 187 countries. The prevalence of poverty and hunger is more pronounced in the rural regions of Nigeria where up to 80% of the population survive on less than acne US dollar per day.
Causes of Food Insecurity
Food insecurity is a multifaceted problem. It is quite an uphill task discussing the driving factors for food insecurity in Nigeria. Nigerians lack enthusiasm for local products and often consider them inferior to imported food products. The emergence of oil sector marked the imminent end of the agriculture sector as the huge revenue generated from the petroleum products shifted attention from agriculture. The government embarked on importation food and local production shrinked away, especially as wealth from oil has changed the status and tastes of many Nigeria in favor of foreign goods.
This couple with socio-political instability which precluded the economic downturn, civil war, dwindling human resource base, gender inequality, education decadence, poor health facilities and the general loss of good governance have coexisted to further degenerate food accessibility. The following among others have however, been identified as the prime agents of food insecurity in Nigeria.
While Nigeria only has a fixed area of arable land, its growing population will soon stretch land availability to it limits that it will not be able to sustain the population. Also, with increase in number of middle income earners in developing countries, more people can increase their meat consumption. This will increase the competition for land space putting further pressure on grain and soybean prices, supplies and reserve, since production of meats will require far more land space.
The major problem here is that the agricultural sector has remained under developed and depended too much on primary agriculture system with degraded low fertile soils, less external farm inputs utilization and significant loss of food crops both before and after harvest, and lack of facilities for storage and preservation of food all of which have cumulatively contributed to price fluctuation of agricultural products. Furthermore, agriculture is mostly practiced by the farmers who cannot access facilities required for optimum food production.
According to the World Bank’s statistics, 90% of agricultural production in Nigeria is the output of inefficient small scale farmers. As a result, such farmers only manage to produce sufficient food to sustain their immediate families. Consequently, poverty persisted in Nigeria which has become a capital for politicians to buy the conscience of the voters during elections by offering them peanuts to buy their votes.
Gender inequality causes and is also a result of food insecurity. It is estimated that 60% of global chronically hungry people are women and girls, while 98% of them are from the global south countries. Women face lots of discrimination both in seeking education and job and face similar fate even at home within the household, yet women are mostly responsible for preparing meals and taking care of the children. They in fact, mostly spend all or a good fraction of their income on feeding and their children’s needs.
Gender inequality is one of the primary driving forces of food insecurity because this is the most important concern of people who are denied access or unable to engage in labor. The vulnerability of women is most pronounced when assessing the effect of food crisis. They constitute the larger ratio of the poverty ridden population especially in Africa. In many parts of the world, when a woman heads a household, they are often more vulnerable to poverty and hunger than a household headed by a man.
Inefficient Policies and Corruption
Food insecurity has persisted in Nigeria and many developing countries because of inefficient policies especially with respect to agriculture, trade, economics and other adjourning sectors. If governments fail with these policies, hunger will naturally persist or even worsen. Indeed, many countries have failed in their efforts to develop due to failure to properly administer policies and initiatives which has connection to food.
With increase in number of middle income earners in developing countries, more people can increase their meat consumption. This will increase the competition for land space putting further pressure on grain and soybean prices, supplies and reserve, since production of meats will require far more land space
This problem arises sometimes when the focus on policies objectives, structures and institutions were designed without adequate consideration of public interest. When policies designs which are not inclusive in structure, tend to disenfranchise the exempted populace.
Frequent policy changes and poor performance of Nigerian monitoring and implementation agencies also has its toll on food crisis. Each time a new government takes power, the previous food and agricultural policies are abandoned and new ones are set-up. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that the new ones are better-off, in fact often times they are worse-off. It is only in a bid to create room for financial manipulations.
Similarly, the failure of some of the past intervention initiatives like Operation Feed the Nation, Lower River Basin Development Authorities, Green Revolution and regulatory bodies such as the Directorate of Foods, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI) and National Agricultural and Land Development Authority (NALDA) have engendered poor agricultural and food productivity in Nigeria.
As a result of the successive policy failure, poverty has persisted in Nigeria. Successive governments have thus capitalized on this situation created by the previous government to deceive the electorates. Eventually, another wrong leader is voted into power and poor governance succeeds another.
Conflicts and Civil Insecurity
The spread and of civil war and conflict post-independence interrupted production of food and displaced people leaving fertile land uncultivated. Also, there are occasional ethno- religious crisis that has had devastating effects on the Nigerian economic development especially in the area of food production. Other conflicts may take the form of physical fighting, structural violence without declaring war which may result from premeditated pervasion of poverty, rich oppression of the poor, police brutality, intimidation of the common citizens by politicians, women and children oppression and monopolization of resources and power.
Each time a new government takes power, the previous food and agricultural policies are abandoned and new ones are set-up. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that the new ones are better-off, in fact often times they are worse-off. It is only in a bid to create room for financial manipulations
Civil insecurity born out of the Boko Haram conflict has persisted in the extreme northeast, particularly in Borno, Yobe and Kano states, causing population displacement and limiting crop production below average, restricting market and trade activities and causing higher food prices compared to other areas of the country. Borno and Yobe states have been the focal point of the Boko Haram crisis where farmlands have been converted to battle field and farmer are now banished to camps where they have to depend on aids for survival.
Nigerian Food Security Policy Review
The Nigerian government has come up with various strategies to improve the situation. Efforts are now been made to restore agriculture back to its original status before the oil boom and stamping out food insecurity. Several policies and initiatives are now being developed with the aim of providing efficient framework to address food insecurity and malnutrition in Nigeria. In the early 70s, during the military regime, Gen. Yakubu Gowon government out of desperation embarked on a gargantuan importation of rice to alleviate hunger.
Unfortunately, the Nigerian ports did not have sufficient facilities to manage such elaborate importation project that later came to be known as the Rice Amada. The ports became choked with rice so much that a committee had to be set up to enable the decongestion of the Port. Despite this effort by the government, the massive amount of imported rice could not solve the long term food insecurity challenges; rather, a comprehensive and inclusive agricultural policy was needed.
There was also the National Accelerated Food Production Project (NAFPP) that was inaugurated in 1974 with the objective of boosting the availability of agricultural inputs as well as educating the farmers. Okuneye, however availed that, the NAFPP could not achieve its objectives due to ill planning and poor timing in providing farmers with the required extension services. To make up for the failure of NAFPP, the government established the Agricultural Development Program (ADP) in 1975. Under the ADP project, 470 agro service centers where set-up all over the four geo-political zones to avert the difficulty of untimely delivery of extension services to the farmers which was the major undoing of the NAFPP.
The ADP was a successful project and was penetrating the rural areas. While ADP was still running, other agricultural and food security projects such as Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) in 1976 and the Green Revolution in 1980, were initiated and ran simultaneously to complement the ADP. These initiatives were captured in the Nigeria’s third nation Development plan (1975-1980). These initiatives were part of the government’s effort to establish a public-private partnership in food production to ensure an inclusive and self-sustaining agricultural system that limits the country’s dependence on importation.
The initiatives advocate policy shift that will enable government subsidies and various other incentives for farmer to improve local production of food. The Fourth National Development Plan (1981-1985) took a cue from the third National development plan. Thus, it sought to further improve food productivity and strengthen self-sufficiency. To achieve these objectives, the initiatives worked with other government institutions like the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Commerce, the River Basin and Rural Development Authority (RBRDA).
In a nutshell, despite the comprehensiveness of the numerous programs and projects, effective implementation could hardly be achieved due to poor governance and corruption. Only until the re-emergence of the civilian administration in 1999 that the much needed attention was given to the agriculture sector and food production. The government thus, restated its commitment to face-out hunger and malnutrition through ensuring adequate food supply.
Strategies for Achieving Food Security in Nigeria
- Promoting decent employment in the agriculture sector: this is particularly effective in the rural areas. A great proportion of the rural population depends on agriculture for survival, yet they are the most food-insecure part of Nigeria. Like in other developing nations of the world, rural farmers in Nigeria are highly informal with casual approach to farming activities. This makes them highly vulnerable to exploitation. Policies and programmes should be implemented to facilitate equitable market place for the informal farmers such as training and monitoring schemes.
- Promoting the non-farm economy in the rural areas: again the rural population who are most susceptible to food insecurity are the targets here because the Nigerian urban economy is mostly non-farm based. As important as agriculture is to the rural people, there is need for diversification. While some rural farmers may begin to enjoy the dividends of access to the transforming equitable agricultural market enabling them to find their rout out of poverty and food insecurity, others may not be so successful. The whole rural economy cannot be based on agriculture. Some may need to exploit other non-farm opportunities which may as well be economically viable such as paid employment or trading. The government needs to provide orientation program and the enable environment for diversification of rural economies.
- Social networking and organized farmers cooperation: this is another important factor identified that can significantly improve the livelihood of small-holder farmers through inter-connecting and cooperating with one another. This helps protect the interest of the most vulnerable farmers in a group and can serve as base for human resource development enabling the weaker farmers cope with risks. It can serve as a viable capacity building platform for farmers and other social groups to form a force and gain access to credit facilities, inputs, markets and other resources.
- Accessible education: this is indeed a mechanism that facilitates productivity in any field of career. Lack of or inadequate education is the bane of farmers in Nigeria particularly in the rural settlement. This is mostly not because of their lack of interest but because they lack access to it. The government needs to make education affordable for the low-income urban and rural people. This will improve their ability to navigate opportunities and technical know-how in employing farm implements.
- Provision of infrastructure: even in the most developed urban centers, lack of basic infrastructures as access roads, electricity and portable water can have immense impact on the economy. For farmers to be productive these basic amenities need to be accessible. Electricity for an instance cannot be compromised to power storage facilities of sometime farm equipments. Road and transport give them access to the market and thus improving their economy.
- Improved management of industrial effluents: research of Impacts of industrial effluents on plant and soil in Bangladesh showed that industrial effluents significantly reduce deplete the nutrient content of soil which reduces the growth, yield, and nutrition of agricultural products. In Nigeria, oil spillage, gas flaring and other industrial effluents have consistently constituted a scourge for the agricultural sector, crippling productivity. There is a need for an improved monitoring system of industrial compliance to Environmental Management Plan (EMP) and follow-up program to reduce impact on agricultural productivity.
- Regulation of the use of fertilizers and other agro-chemicals: the importance of fertilizers and agrochemicals in today’s agricultural practice cannot be overemphasized. However, they also have their associated environmental consequences. Where nitrogen from fertilizers washes into water bodies it causes eutrophication killing aquatic lives. Phosphorus can also make algae to accumulate in water bodies depriving fishes of oxygen leading to suffocation and thereby affecting the supply or availability of fish for consumption. Measures should be taken to control the usage of fertilizers and pesticides by farmers through trainings and orientation programs.
- Crop rotation and diversification: crop rotation, mixing and diversification is an important practice that can improve quality and yield of agricultural produce. This technique basically help improves soil nutrients and can be used to control pests and diseases. This system should be encouraged amongst farmers.
- Irrigation system: irrigated farms in the dry savanna agro-ecological zones give higher productivity than non-irrigated farms in the same region. This system will be particularly useful in most part of the northern Nigeria.
- Promotion of mechanized farming system: despite the use of indigenous CRP rotation system in Africa, Asia and the Latin Americas, food insecurity has been on the rise as these techniques are not enough to meet the demand of the fast growing populations. There is the need for mechanization of agriculture in Nigeria to improve production through the use of equipments, machineries and implements. Although, some large scale farmers have been using the mechanised farming system, there is the need to promote mechanized farming amongst small-holder farmers. To achieve an overall inclusive agricultural mechanization, the Nigerian government needs to engage other public and private corporations as well as financing institutions.
- Agricultural biotechnology: although agricultural biotechnology which involves genetically modified foods is still not generally accepted due to unresolved safety issues. It represents one of the success stories of science and technology in recent times which has an immense potential to significantly reducing the global food security challenges.
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