WFD: Attaining Food Security
The World Food Day is a day set aside by the United Nations through one of its agencies, Food and Agriculture Organisation, on October 16 of every year to celebrate and advance the cause of food security globally especially in times of crisis.
According to the FAO, the celebration is to create awareness for people who do not have enough resources to provide for food and as a result leading to hunger and serious starvation. It also serves as an avenue for implementing agricultural policies by governments across the globe towards ensuring that food is available for people.
The major concern of the FAO, a specialised agency of the UN, is primarily to lead international efforts to defeat hunger. It is designed to achieve food security for all where people will have regular access to high quality food for healthy living.
But, how far have these countries actualised this goal when countries like Kenya, Philippines, Pakistan and other third world countries find it difficult to cater to the need of their citizens due to skyrocketing food prices thereby throwing a large number of children into hunger.
Reports from the UN indicate that over 800 million people globally still do not have enough food to eat while so many people are suffering from malnutrition because of poor feeding. As a result of these global challenges, the international community through the FAO in conjunction with various governments and international stakeholders and Non-Governmental Organisations are working round the clock towards finding a lasting political will strong enough to break the cycle of poverty by promoting the new global development goal on hunger.
In Nigeria, the government at all levels have designed so many programmes in the agricultural sector to alleviate the suffering of the masses by ensuring food security. The country had witnessed Operation Feed the Nation during the regime of Gen Olusegun Obasanjo between 1976 and 1979 as military head of State which recorded a strong impact in ensuring food security. There was also a Green Revolution by the Shagari administration aimed at achieving the same purpose but sustainability and continuity have been the bane of such lofty programmes in the agriculture sector with many more of such programmes designed to enhance food security by successive governments that have hit the rock.
The culture of continuity for the lofty programme should be embraced by governments to enhance food security, but it is so pathetic that the reverse is the case. The challenges confronting the sector in particular and the country as a whole got worse with both the federal and state governments devoting only paltry sums of money to agriculture in their budgets. The agricultural sector later got a relief during the return of democracy in 1999 where both levels of government invested heavily in the sector with the provision of funds, equipment, farm inputs such as fertilizer and so on to boost the economy.
In Ogun State, the administration of Prince Dapo Abiodun has put in place a programme towards supporting the people particularly farmers with the provision of farm implements and inputs to boost food production. Apart from this, there has been a good synergy between the state government and various farmers’ associations in preparing for the rainy season through aid and grants to solve the problems of food crisis and hunger.
In view of ensuring food security and providing an enabling environment for farmers and farming businesses to thrive, the state government facilitated an Anchor Borrowers’ Programme from the Central Bank of Nigeria which assisted over 3,500 farmers drawn across all the 20 local government areas of the state with over N700 million with each farmer receiving 60 bundles of improved cassava stems, four bags of fertilizers, 11 litres of herbicides and cash worth over N250,000 each.
Rice farmers have also received support from the government by providing 120,000 hectares of farmland for the cultivation of rice and 385 new fish ponds/tanks in fish farming, while it has constructed and maintained 300 fish farmers across the state. In addition, over 200 beneficiaries were given over N74 million to boost their businesses in the cultivation of cassava, maize, rice, yam and vegetables as well as engaging in poultry, fisheries, piggery, snailery among others.
Besides, the government in partnership with the Federal Government distributed improved varieties of plantain, banana and pineapple to 100 farmers as a way of promoting farmer productivity. It had constructed four solar-powered boreholes to make a total of 11 solar-powered boreholes to provide potable water for over 2,500 farmers in the state.
The Federal Government as a matter of urgency should declare a state of emergency in the agricultural sector and diversify the country’s economy from oil to agriculture so as to grow the nation’s economy and improve its Gross Domestic Product.
In achieving the set goal on global food security, the UN through FAO should mandate member countries to invest heavily in the sector and also set up a monitoring team that will ensure funds budgeted for the sector are fully expended and not diverted for other uses so that the set goal of establishing the FAO at providing food in abundance for the people can be achieved.
This year’s celebration should be used to address the perennial food crisis facing the world so that efforts of the various governments put in place for abundant food supply and bring quality and nutritious food to the table of the common man would not be in vain.
Also, the celebration should be an avenue for the government to take stock of the huge investment in the agricultural sector to determine challenges and proffer solutions to further promote government investment in the sector..