World Food Day is celebrated every year around the world on October 16 in honour of the date the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations was founded in 1945. The day is celebrated widely by many other organisations concerned with food security, including the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.
The day entered the United Nations calendar of events at the behest of 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. In 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.
According to the humanitarian organisation, Action against Hunger (AAH), the ongoing and deepening humanitarian crisis in Northeast Nigeria 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. In 2018, a research based on the forecast by the World Poverty Clock and presented by Brookings Institute revealed that over 643 million people across the world live in extreme poverty, with Africans accounting for nearly two-thirds of the total number.
More disturbing also is the disclosure that Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, showing about 87 million Nigerians reportedly living on less than $1.90 a day.
According to the World Poverty Clock, as of June 2018, 86.9 million Nigerians were living in extreme poverty which represents almost 50 percent of its estimated 180 million population at that time last year. This year, Oxfam claimed that 69 percent of Nigeria’s population live below the poverty level. As such, the importance of food cannot be emphasised on enough.
As the world marks the Day, it is imperative that Nigeria brings to the fore the challenges threatening food security in the country. Food security, it is often said pre-supposes that there is an availability of food and people’s access to it.
While this year’s WFD theme addresses healthy and sustainable diet issues, it is also paying attention to what the people eat. As a newspaper, we commend the efforts of government to bring an end to all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030. We believe that this can be achieved by putting in place mechanisms to first of all address food security which is presently being threatened by a number of factors such as lack of youth engagement in farming, a weak Agricultural policy and curriculum in schools and, most importantly, the current insecurities that plague the land.
Today’s average Nigerian youth does not want to engage in farming. It is an occupation seen as archaic because the old ways of farming still persists. Mechanised farming, in our view, is the way to go if youths are to be attracted to the farm.
The agricultural departments in higher institutions need to be strengthened and incentivised so that students will know that once they graduate they can be self-employed through farming. The government should do more to subsidise products for farmers and assure them of land to cultivate on and market for the produce.
However, it is essential for Nigeria to bring to the fore the implications of insecurity on food situation in the country. Insecurities caused by terrorism, farmers/herders clashes and banditry have driven farmers away from their farms. Women can no longer go to farms for fear of being attacked. In terms of animal husbandry, cattle rustlers are a plague to herdsmen. The government ought to focus its attention on combating insecurity to avoid scarcity and increase in cost of food, or even worse, famine in the country.
As the world marks this important day, Nigeria as a nation should look inwards and address its urgent and pressing challenges affecting food production, strengthen policies involving agriculture and food production (farming), battle insecurity and vices that are presently preventing farmers from working on their farms.
Unless peace returns to the country, the agricultural sector, like any other business, cannot thrive in the country. Food production would then become an endangered occupation at the risk of becoming extinct if nothing is done.
But beyond this, Nigerians are beginning to get worried as the order for the total closure of the borders becomes effective. Nigeria and her neighbours rely much on free movement of goods and services dominated by agricultural produce. We agree with the policy against smuggling much as we also state that it must be implemented in a way that will not make it become counter-productive and worsen the already tenuous food situation in the country.
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