EDITORIAL: Zero Hunger On World Food Day

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Remove food from poverty, the rest will be easy to manage. This saying is not original to this newspaper, but it goes to emphasise the importance attached to food security. That is why, also, the United Nations’ Organisation (UNO) set up two sub- organisations- the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) as well as the World Food Programme (WFP) to galvanise actions geared towards food and agriculture so as to achieve the target of zero hunger for all. It did not stop there. The UNO also reserved a day, October 16 of every year, specifically to draw attention to issues related with food security.

That date was not arbitrarily chosen, World Food Day is celebrated every year around the world to mark the date of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations in 1945. It is also now considered as Food Engineers’ Day. The theme for this year’s event is auspicious: Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development. It sees food, health and education at the core of the decision of families to relocate to unfamiliar terrain. The theme appeals for increased investment in the area of food production. Experts are of the view that the bulk of that investment will have to come from the private sector but not discounting public investment which plays a crucial role as it relate to policy, especially in view of its facilitating and stimulating effect on private investment.

Historically, the World Food Day (WFD) was established by FAO’s Member Countries at the Organisation’s 20th General Conference in November 1979. It has since been observed every year in more than 150 countries, raising awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger.

World Food Programme is committed to ensuring this plan towards Zero Hunger—a goal it believes the world can achieve together. The Programme is targeting 15 years to end hunger for every child, woman and man around the world. It affirms that reaching that target will save countless lives and build brighter futures for everyone.

World Food Programme as part of its drive to ensure food security, has given eight reasons why Zero Hunger as a positive plan of action has the capacity to change the world. For a start, WFP believes that it can save the lives of 3.1 million children a year. It is also a guarantee that well-nourished mothers have healthier babies with stronger immune systems. WFP is convinced that zero hunger can bring an end to child under-nutrition and increase a developing country’s Gross domestic Product (GDP) by 16.5 percent. Directing its attention to investors, local and foreign, WFP is certain that a dollar invested in hunger prevention can return between $15 and $139 in benefits. We don’t know of a more profitable investment push than this. Even more importantly, it believes that proper nutrition early in life can mean 46 percent more in lifetime earnings. In forging ahead with its plans, WFP is of the firm belief that eliminating iron deficiency in a population can boost workplace productivity by 20 percent. Similarly, ending nutrition-related child mortality is sure to increase a workforce by 9.4 percent and also help build a safer, more prosperous world for everyone.

Curiously, in our opinion, in spite of the importance of agriculture as the driving force in the economies of many developing countries, not just for providing food, this vital sector is frequently starved of investment. Nigeria is a typical example. At Independence in 1960, the wheel of the economy was kept rolling by the efforts of the populace steeped in agricultural production. With the discovery of hydrocarbon, activity in that sector slacked and with it, foreign aid has continued to show marked decline.

In contemporary Nigeria, organizations and individuals involved in feeding programmes connect with other stakeholders in food production, agro-allied industries, wholesalers and community-based organisations to address food security challenges. Since 2009, the Northern part of the country which holds the key to food security in the country, has remained unstable as a result of the activities of terrorists. It has brought about a deepening humanitarian crisis that has led to the displacement of over 1.5 million people, causing four million people to experience acute food insecurity and be in need of humanitarian assistance.

It is pertinent, in our view, to point out that empires have collapsed not because they were defeated by more powerful armies but essentially as a result of the softening of their citizens emasculated by hunger. Nigeria has a lesson to learn in this regard as it carries on as the giant of Africa with a population majority of whom go to bed hungry.

On this World Food Day, this newspaper expresses its appreciation of the effort by the government to revive the agricultural sector in the hope that there will be no policy reversals that could stymie its sustainability.