World Food Day: Nigerians Groan Over Persistent Increase in Cost of Food

As Nigeria joins the rest of the world today to commemorate this year’s celebration of World Food Day, a good number of its citizens are lamenting the continued high cost of food, calling on government to act promptly by giving the necessary support to farmers in order to embark on aggressive production which will translate to food sufficiency.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations designated October 16 as World Food Day in 1979.

World Food Day is celebrated annually to promote awareness of hunger and action for the future of food, people, and the planet.

The theme for this year’s celebration is “Water is Life, Water Is Food: Leave No One Behind”.

But some Nigerians, while sharing their thoughts with the Nigerian Tribune on this year’s celebration, noted that what was being experienced in the country at the moment regarding food availability was not only about water.

They posited that Nigeria was blessed to have the appropriate climate condition to produce foods which would be sufficient for its citizens, but action plans in this regard had not been properly executed by the government from federal to the local government level.

A civil servant, Mr Akinbowale Rasheed, while speaking with the Nigerian Tribune said: “I understand the fact that water is crucial for the production of food. As much as water is important, so also sunlight and I am sure you will agree with me that Nigeria is blessed with these two very important elements.

“God blessed us a country with rain and sunshine which are critical to effective food production. But you see the government particularly at the federal level which is expected to put in resources to support farmers with a view to achieving food sufficiency in the country is doing it the wrong way.

“I am not into farming, but I have an uncle who is a professional farmer in our village in Ogun State. He told me government officials have been to the village on a series of occasions to visit farmers at their various farms to give them forms in order for them to access loans but all these have not yielded positive results.”

This, according to him, has discouraged farmers to produce on a large scale, as they only produce for the consumption of their immediate family members.

“So, my take is that if the government is serious about ensuring food security, it should take serious the encouragement of farmers otherwise, we will return to the era whereby people will be moving from one house to another to steal food,” he said.

A female farmer, Mrs Yetunde Adetona, who specialises in the cultivation of cassava, maize and watermelon while speaking with the Nigerian Tribune on challenges she was facing as a farmer said weeds and insects took over her farm and consumed almost everything on the cassava, maize and watermelon farms.

The damage, according to her, could have been prevented if she was able to afford the needed apparatuses to put weeds and insects in check.

Mrs Adetona noted that those things needed on the farm could only be afforded if there was government support.

“I lost all the financial resources and human efforts invested on the farm with no help coming from any quarter. I have tried to access loan in the past to no avail. I manage to do what I am doing on my farm with financial help from my immediate family members and friends but you know there is a limit to what they can do,” she said.

While proffering solutions to Nigeria’s food insufficiency, a professor of food technology at the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T), Obafemi Awolowo University, Ibadan, Subuola Fasoyiro, stated that agricultural research was important to the development of the agricultural sector, adding that models and strategies to enhance impact should be adopted.

She further noted that:”Multidisciplinary and multi-stakeholder holistic participatory approaches to agricultural development that consider all actors along the value chain; farmers, scientists, processors, government, NGOs, distributors and marketers should be used in decision-making processes for implementation to get more effective results.

“Development of the agricultural value chain of various crops growing in Nigeria is also critical. The value chain is the full range of activities from the farm to the final consumer. A good value chain helps maximise the generation of value of the produce.

“In the chain is the upstream linkages, that is the farmers and the producers and the downward linkages involving the distribution and marketing channels to the ultimate consumer. The cassava and maize value chains should be strongly developed as areas we have a comparative edge as a country”, she said.

A major stakeholder in the Nigerian agricultural value chain and chairman, Folhope Nigeria Limited, an agricultural firm headquartered in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, Chief Emmanuel Folorunsho Ogunnaike, posited that for Nigeria to attain food sufficiency status, efforts must be put in place to fix rural roads and make provision for social amenities in rural evironment to enable agribusiness to thrive.

He stated further: “Efforts must be made to produce local exportable goods to earn foreign exchange. The Federal Government should put in place policy to ensure youths are trained on agricultural commodities production. With all these in place, I believe with time food sufficiency in Nigeria will be realistic.”