Last year, the Global Hunger Index (GHI) ranked Nigeria 98th out of 107 countries with acute hunger. Also, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO) in May said at least 9.2 million people in Nigeria faced a crisis or worse levels of food insecurity between March and May, with warnings the figure could increase to 12.8 million between June and August unless resilience-focused and humanitarian actions were taken.
Of the 9.2 million, the organisation said 3.2 million were in the northeastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, which have been ravaged by armed violence for more than a decade.
Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic dealt nations across the world huge blows. With it came job losses occasioned by the shutdown of many companies, industries and societies, as well as pay slashes that saw most households cutting down on their food budgets and yet many others going hungry. A UN report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World indicated that 720 and 811 million people went hungry last year. Using the year-round access to adequate food indicator, the report said nearly 2.37 billion or 30 per cent of the world’s population lacked access to adequate food- a rise of 320 million compared to 2019.
For most Nigerians’ their woes have been worsened by multidimensional security threats, socioeconomic inadequacies, rising inflation, recession, population growth, among other political and infrastructural issues that have led to severe and widespread food insecurity affecting vulnerable households.
As armed violence characterised by murder, kidnapping, rape and destruction of farmlands continue to escalate in agrarian communities in the northern and southern parts of the country; farm yields have reduced drastically leading to a hike in prices of commodities since demand exceeds supply.
Moreover, the travails of the people have been compounded by the exorbitant costs of imported food items caused by ever-increasing foreign exchange rates, ban on importation of certain items; delay in clearing containers leading to high demurrage, among other expenses borne by importers which transferred to end consumers of the goods.
Faced with this reality in addition to the growing mass of unemployed and restive youths across the country, federal and state governments have continuously looked for better ways to address the causes in order to prevent more devastating consequences.
In Kogi State, for example, a collaboration with the World Bank for funding of agro-processing, productivity enhancement and livelihood support (APPEALS) project has empowered youth/women in rice, cassava and cashew production, said Agriculture Commissioner, David Apeh, at the first Governor Yahaya Bello (GYB) seminar for Crime and Political Correspondents held in Abuja last month.
With a landmass of 28,313.53sqkm, Kogi State, he said, has agriculture as its mainstay with comparative advantage in the production of cashew, rice, cassava, palm oil, maize, beniseed, cowpea, yam, livestock and aquaculture.
Presenting a paper titled “achieving food security in spite of global economic downturn: the Kogi State story”, Apeh the state was also in collaboration with government and other non-government organisations to fund agricultural projects listing as an example, the International Fund for Agricultural Development/Value Chain Development Programme (IFAD/VCD) in rice and cassava.
“Also the state collaborates with Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to fund the project, which will empower youth and women in the development of aquaculture and cassava production and processing. Under this programme known as Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS): 600 earth ponds were constructed, spread across the senatorial districts of the state, also fish feed mills were constructed to feed the fish.
“One hundred hectares of land each in three senatorial districts have been cleared and fractionised to be shared to youth/women beneficiaries with five cassava processing mills established to process cassava into gari and chips from cassava farms.
“The state also established a 50 ton per day rice mill, the confluence rice, which is one of the best rice in the country to take off the millions of tons of paddy rice produced in the state and eight hundred (800) hectares of rice farm established alongside the mills,” he said.
According to the Commissioner, the state under its agricultural mechanisation policy, approved and procured 40MF 375 2Wheel Drive 75 horsepower tractor with full implement; 100 tractors purchased by the governor and trusted to two local government areas (LGAs); 1000 power tillers which were distributed to women farmers all over the state; irrigation facilities such as water pumps procured for use during the dry season along the bank of River Niger and Benue.
“The state also established the Green House at Osara in the central senatorial district for the cultivation of vegetables such as pepper and tomatoes. Another greenhouse is to be established soon in Chikara, Kogi State.
The equipment already arrived
“In the area of land clearing, the state has made giant strides to encourage youths/women in agriculture by clearing over 1000 hectares of land at Yagba West in the West, Olamaboro and Dekina in the East to combat food insecurity.
“Other measures to ensure food security include Anchor Borrower Programme facilitated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the empowerment of 14,955 farmers. The resuscitation of nursery sites at Kabba, Lokoja and Ochaja, to nurse cocoa, cashew and oil palm seedlings to encourage farmers to cultivate these crops to mitigate food security,” said Apeh.
As a beneficiary of the Staple Crops Processing Zone (SCPZ), the state government, the Commissioner said, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on the establishment of a Bio-fuel factory and sugarcane plantation at the Alape SCPZ.
In the livestock sector, the Commissioner said 25 veterinary doctors were employed to ensure that meat consumed in the state were healthy, just as poultry pens were constructed/rehabilitated for effective poultry production.
He said: “The government released money for the survey of 20,000 jobs for the teeming youths in the state.
Barring factors of COVID-19, flood, farmers/herders clashes, cattle rustling, declining soil fertility among others, the state is poised to record increased food production and food security.”
“The gains of the past which slowed down by the COVID-19 pandemic are picking up again. Not minding the shortage of resources, Kogi State will not relax in making sure that the availability of food for its citizenry will be her top priority.”