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Food Security in Nigeria, By Prof. R.A. Ipinyomi

Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi

Prof. R.A. Ipinyomi,food

Nigerians are inherently and by tradition farmers. They live on land resources right from birth as crop farmers, fishermen, herdsmen and other livestock, hunters or related activities that link their survival to the land on which they live. Their produce and all the results of their farming activities are consumed upfront without maintaining or keeping the records. The objectives of their activities remain to sustain their families and also to earn some income. It is a taboo in Africa to live on the road begging for arms, or expecting foreign donors, until our politicians came on board and going cups in hands seeking foreign foods and money for their pockets. Foreign donors should henceforth opt for direct investments on agriculture and food production anywhere in Africa.

However the following recent developments are putting challenges to food security in Africa and globally, these are namely; (a) Devaluation of land resources due to over used in various forms, (b) Movement from rural to urban areas which has reduced the number of hands working on the land for food production, (c) The quests for western education and white collar jobs have resulted into an exponential reduction in food production in Africa traditional ways, (d)Failure of governments to meet the short falls in food production due to the reasons above,(e)Despite all these the population of Nigeria keeps doubling itself every twenty years because it is growing at an average of 3.5% annually, (f) Results of various findings suggest that to increase food production in Nigeria implies increasing the land space used. Hence there is continuous encroachment and demand on land to raise food production to meet the ever increasing population. Ideally, food growth rate must be higher than population growth rate.

Meanwhile the United Nations and users of Statistics have their interests in the dynamism of food production in Africa especially in ensuring food security, its availability and distributions, and its prevailing challenges in order to recommend the correct interventions nationally or internationally, as necessary. The production figures from Nigerians and Africans farming activities, types, qualities and quantities, regionally or nationally are generally unknown due to the nature of Africans and their governments. Productions are consumed without any records. Distributions are determined both by market forces and national infrastructural facilities provided. Hence food security is a function of many parameters, including land resources and inputs, man power and government policies, market forces and national infrastructure, and other seasonal variations, climatic changes and occurrence of natural disasters like flooding or draughts.

The core crops in Nigeria include (i) Bananas and Plantains, Cassava, Corns and its various forms, Maize, Millet, Sorghum, Vegetables, Wheat, Yam and its various varieties, and many other consumable
crops, (ii) Cocoa, Coffee, groundnuts, rubber, palm produce and tobacco,  can be classified as cash crops, (iii)  Timbers, pulps, and woods are forest products, (iv) Fish, crabs, and others are aquaculture
products, (v) Beef, eggs, hides and skins, milk,  are livestock products. Many organisations are involved in data collection on food and allied matters in Nigeria.

Currently there are many challenges in the area of Agricultural Statistics, especially to meet users’ needs and also to provide adequate and timely statistical information to policy makers in that area.  A Global Strategy for Improving Agricultural Statistics was produced by Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations FAO/UN in close collaboration with the World Bank Regional Development Banks and the Regional Commissions of the United Nations. The purpose of the Global Strategy is to provide a framework and methodology that will lead to the improvement of national and international food and agricultural statistics to guide policy analysis and decision making in the 21st century. The strategy is based on the following three pillars, (1) the establishment of a minimum set of core data that countries will provide to meet the current and emerging demands, (2) the integration of agriculture into the national statistical systems in order to meet policy maker and other data users’ expectation that the data will be comparable across countries and over time, and (3) the foundation that will provide the sustainability of the National Agricultural Statistical System (NASS) through governance and statistical capacity building.

One challenge faced in the elaboration of the Plan was lack of comprehensive and up-to-date baseline information on countries’ statistical capacity and needs to enable each of the following, namely, (a) establishing the baselines against which targets can be set and performance measured, (b) drawing up a comprehensive Technical Assistance program for Africa, covering also training and research, and (c)  establishing a monitoring and evaluation system to measure changes in the level of statistical capacity through time. What is food security? The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as, “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”. That is, each nation requires the development of a framework to assess its food security and insecurity. The framework will focus on the physical availability of food, the economical and physical access people have to food and the nutrition, safety and cultural appropriateness or adequacy of food. Consequently food security is built on the following three pillars, namely food availability, accessibility and usage; where, Food Availability implies that sufficient quantities of food stuffs are available on a consistent basis, Food Accessibility implies having sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious at all time and Food Usage also implies that appropriate use of food stuffs based on knowledge of basic nutrition and care, as well as adequate water and sanitation.

On the other hand food insecurity varies from food secure situations to complete outbreak of famine. To some people famine is different from hunger but both are rooted in food insecurity. Food insecurity can be categorized as either chronic or transitory. Chronic food insecurity translates into a high degree of vulnerability to famine and hunger; ensuring food security presupposes elimination of that vulnerability. Hunger is not famine. It is similar to undernourishment and it is related to poverty. It exists in many parts of Nigeria due mainly to poverty, lack of economic power caused by under employment to full unemployment, lack of retirement plans and old age related, large family sizes, and related poverty indices.

Famine is rare in Nigeria but caused mainly by failed crop yields, natural disasters like water deluge or fire, failed rainfalls, internal wars and unrests such that have been going on in many parts of the North, and so on. Nevertheless Nigerians and their governments should be working hard always to provide enough food on the table for their families. It may also be necessary to legislate on retirement plans to cover every citizen in the country and not just working class individuals. Our observational studies suggest that our artisans, many old aged and senior citizens, would need proper retirement plan to
forestall hunger and lack of access to food in their later years.

Therefore food insecurity exists in Nigeria and it ought to be instantly tackled to minimise its continuous impact. A group of people is considered food-secure only when they do not live in hunger or in fear
of starvation. Food security is a function a food basket and the number of people to share the available food basket. By food basket we mean a given quantity of food sufficient to sustain a standard nutritional and healthy living for a given period of time. This definition should be sufficient in defining a food security index for a national measure and global comparison. How many families or individuals in Nigeria go hungry daily because they could not afford to pay for their minimum food requirements should be determined by more in-depth studies. Food stuffs are available in Nigeria but not all Nigerians can afford to pay for their respective daily food requirements.

Prof. R.A. Ipinyomi,
ipinyomira@yahoo.co.uk or/and raipinyomi@unilorin.edu.ng

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