Nigeria’s food insecurity crisis has worsened. The emergency President Tinubu has declared is the first step towards acknowledging and addressing this escalating crisis. It now requires a sustained, multi-faceted response to mitigate the severity and ultimately reverse the trend.
Nigeria is grappling with a critical problem—food insecurity. This perilous situation has been deepening over recent years, driven by a combination of factors ranging from economic downturns, climatic shifts, conflicts and the compounding impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of Nigerians are facing the brutal effects of these factors, leading to a drastic escalation in the number of people at high risk of food insecurity.
President Bola Tinubu recently highlighted this predicament by declaring a state of emergency on food security in Nigeria. His 13 July declaration underscores the severity of the issue and has ignited nationwide conversations about the food crisis, its consequences, and potential solutions. The declaration, although well-intended, paints a grim picture of a nation’s struggle to feed its citizens, emphasizing the urgency for more robust, holistic solutions.
THE FOOD EMERGENCY: AN OVERVIEW
At the heart of Tinubu’s declaration is the urgent need to reassess Nigeria’s food supply and distribution mechanisms. His proposal calls for an extensive review of agricultural practices, with a strong emphasis on promoting sustainable farming methods and enhancing the capabilities of local farmers. Furthermore, Tinubu advocates for establishing a National Commodity Board to stabilize food prices through food reserves and land banks. He argues that this is crucial for bolstering food production and reducing Nigeria’s dependency on food imports.
Tinubu’s emergency declaration also targets the pervasive issues of waste and inefficiencies in the food supply chain with the presidential spokesperson Dele Alake noting that “The cost of transporting Agricultural products has been a major challenge (due to permits, toll gates, and other associated costs).” It underscores the necessity for innovative, technology-driven solutions to minimize food waste and improve the overall efficiency of food production, processing, and distribution systems.
The driving force behind Tinubu’s declaration is Nigeria’s dire state of food insecurity. Confronted by the harsh reality of millions of Nigerians at high risk of food insecurity, Tinubu has underscored the gravity of the situation and the urgent need for effective solutions.
However, Tinubu’s declaration is just a starting point. It forms part of a broader narrative that demands comprehensive, long-term measures to address food insecurity. These measures extend beyond political declarations and require collaborative efforts from all sectors of society, including government, businesses and local communities.
FROM BAD TO WORSE
The food insecurity crisis in Nigeria, currently endangering an estimated 25 million people, is multi-layered. A volatile mix of economic, climatic, socio-political, and infrastructural factors are converging to create this precarious situation.
Economic instability, exemplified by an inflation rate of over 22 per cent, drives food prices skyward. At the same time, the majority of Nigerians grapple with stagnant wages, pushing essential food items beyond their financial reach. The result? An increasing percentage of the nation’s population is pulled into the vortex of food insecurity.
The climate crisis, manifesting as erratic weather and intensified flooding, wreaks havoc on the agricultural sector. This disruption is a heavy blow to the approximately 70 per cent of Nigerian farmers who rely on agriculture at a subsistence level and significantly contributes to the growing food crisis.
Socio-political instability, especially in northern regions, directly impacts farming operations and exacerbates resource scarcity. Communal clashes and banditry in the North West have displaced 400,000 people across Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina states and a further 400,000 have been displaced due to the herder-farmer conflict in the Middle Belt/Benue State.
Infrastructure, or rather the lack thereof, is a significant contributing factor. Inadequate storage facilities, limited transport networks, and scarce technological support contribute to up to 50 per cent post-harvest losses in some regions, further exacerbating the food security problem.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a pressure multiplier. Already strained food production, processing, and distribution systems have been disrupted, resulting in severe labour shortages and logistical challenges. This has deepened Nigeria’s food crisis, with over 90 per cent of households reporting increased food prices since the onset of the pandemic.
The situation is clear: Nigeria’s food insecurity crisis has worsened. The emergency President Tinubu has declared is the first step towards acknowledging and addressing this escalating crisis. It now requires a sustained, multi-faceted response to mitigate the severity and ultimately reverse the trend.
IMPLICATIONS OF THE FOOD CRISIS
The food crisis in Nigeria isn’t just about hunger; it’s a ripple effect that impacts public health, socioeconomic stability, education, and national security. Healthwise, the crisis fuels an upswing in malnutrition rates. More than 40 per cent of Nigerian children under five are stunted, which impacts growth and cognitive development. Coupled with a healthcare system already under strain, mortality rates inch upward.
Economically, the crisis is creating an uptick in poverty rates. With over 40 per cent of Nigerians living below the poverty line, living standards plunge. It is a vicious cycle—low incomes lead to poor nutrition, ill health and even lower incomes.
On the security front, food scarcity stokes unrest. Crime rates, particularly those related to food and resource theft, rise. Socioeconomic deprivation becomes a breeding ground for insurgency, threatening national security. The ramifications of Nigeria’s food crisis are deep and wide-ranging, highlighting the urgency for a comprehensive and immediate response.
BEYOND THE DECLARATION
A long-term approach is key to sustainably tackling Nigeria’s food insecurity. Quick fixes may stem the tide, but food shortages could resurface without deep-rooted changes. Investment in agricultural mechanization, research, and modern farming techniques can significantly boost production. Currently, Nigerian farmers still rely on rudimentary tools, limiting yield potential.
Bridging gaps in the food supply chain from farm to table is crucial. Improvements in storage, transportation, and distribution systems could mitigate post-harvest losses and ensure more food reaches markets and consumers.
Fostering local food production is a step towards self-sufficiency. At the moment, Nigeria relies on $10 billion of imports to meet its food and agricultural production shortfalls, tying the country’s food security to global market volatility. Enhancing local production, especially of indigenous nutrient-rich crops, can improve dietary diversity and boost local economies.
Enhancing social protection policies could shield the country’s most vulnerable from the worst impacts of food insecurity. Despite the significant need, current policies only reach approximately six per cent of Nigeria’s population. A more inclusive social protection scheme could reduce poverty levels and improve living standards.
Ultimately, long-term planning and investment in the agricultural sector, coupled with strategic policies, are vital for overcoming Nigeria’s food insecurity. The road to self-sufficiency will require a focused and coordinated effort from all sectors of the country.
Nigeria’s food crisis has evolved from a pressing issue to an existential threat. With millions at risk of food insecurity, elevated malnutrition rates among children, and the ripple effects jeopardising socio-economic stability, this crisis demands more than concern—it requires immediate and decisive action.
The recent declaration of a food emergency signals the growing recognition of this critical challenge. However, while this is an essential first step, it’s just that—a beginning. The declaration highlights the urgency of the situation, but the challenge remains to translate this declaration into effective action on the ground.
Addressing food insecurity needs comprehensive, long-term strategies. Investment in agriculture, modernisation of farming techniques, robust supply chains, promoting local food production, and social protection policies for the vulnerable are all essential pieces of the puzzle.
The emergency declaration is a rallying cry, but the real work lies ahead. Addressing Nigeria’s food crisis requires strategic planning, substantial investment, and most importantly, the commitment to put words into action. The future of millions of Nigerians, and indeed the stability of the country, depends on it⎈
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