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Tackling food insecurity at challenging period

Recently, the Cadre Hamonise report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) revealed that 9.8 million people in 16 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory lacked food. TAIWO HASSAN examines the implications of this report on Nigeria’s food security plan

Indeed, Nigeria is in dire strait following challenges that have been threatening her food security, including the recent #ENDSARS protests, banditry, kidnapping, spike in prices of food commodity, floods, COVID-19, herders farmers clash, climate change and general insecurity in the country, mostly in the North West region. In particular, states such as Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Benue Gombe, Taraba, Kastina, Jigawa, Kano, Bauchi, Plateau, Kaduna, Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger and FCT, among others have been experiencing scarcity of food as captured by the FAO report. Besides, it is worrisome that droughts, floods and climate change have in recent times contributed to food shortage in Nigeria as the country’s agriculture has been battling with other inherent challenges resulting to insecurity.

Food inflation

While reacting to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS)’s announcement that the country’s consumer price index (CPI), which measures inflation increased by 13.71 per cent (year-on-year) for September 2020, the Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Muda Yusuf, explained that there had been sustained acceleration in headline inflation since September 2019 and that the NBS’ latest inflation rate announcement of 13.71 per cent for September 2020 was the highest level since April 2018. He explained that the persistent pressure on consumer prices stemmed largely from the sustained uptrend in food inflation. Yusuf explained that the chamber noted with concern the recent incidents of flooding in key foodproducing states in the North, adding that this occurrence had wiped off food and cash crops on a large scale and disrupted output projections in agriculture. According to him, over two million tonnes of rice was lost to flood. He explained that other crops such as sorghum, corn and millet were also affected, adding that this situation, if not expeditiously addressed and managed, would escalate the pressure on food prices, thereby putting the country on the verge of a food crisis.

FAO’s report

analysis In the Cadre Hamonise report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation ((FAO), 9.8 million people in 16 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory were food insecure. The report, which was the outcome of a research conducted to ascertain the nation’s food security status, projected that the number of food insecure people in the country would increase to 13.8 million between June and August 2021 if urgent steps were not taken by the government to improve the current situation. The states where the research was carried out include Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Benue Gombe, Taraba, Kastina, Jigawa, Kano, Bauchi, Plateau, Kaduna, Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger and FCT, among others. The report revealed that Benue, Gombe, some parts of Kastina, Jigawa, Kano, Bauchi and Plateau states were on minimal stage of food security. The Cadre Harmonise report funded and supported by the FAO since 2015 is aimed at determining the next actions and effective response in ensuring food security and nutrition in the country. Speaking during the presentation of the report, the FAO Country Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Fred Kafeero, noted that the report took into consideration the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s sources of livelihood and the inference of the various contributing factors. Kafeero pointed out that despite the relaxation of the COVlD-19 lockdown measures, several households were still experiencing difficulties in accessing their basic food and non-food needs due to disrupted livelihoods. According to him, this has resulted to reduced access to opportunities for income and food and nutrition security. He attributed the key drivers of the food insecurity level to insurgency, kidnapping, banditry, conflict between herders and farmers, flood disaster and COVID-19. To mitigate the current situation, the FAO representative stressed the need for government at all levels to redouble efforts in providing quality input supply to farmers.

Hotspots

Unexpectedly, it is sad to note that parts of Nigeria, Yemen, Burkina Faso and South Sudan were all at risk of falling into famine, while 16 other countries are at high risk of acute hunger, according to the United Nations in its released report as insecure food causes famine, hunger and food shortage globally. The UN warned in its latest report, hotspots in four countries – Burkina Faso, Yemen, South Sudan and Nigeria – are on the brink of severe levels of food insecurity and could potentially fall into famine within three to six months as the coronavirus pandemic erodes people’s ability to access food. The Early Warning Analysis of Acute Food Insecurity Hotspots report conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) found that millions of people who were already facing hunger are on the brink of famine as the pandemic plunders employment, disrupts agricultural activities, slashes remittances and sends crude prices spiralling. “We are at a catastrophic turning point. Once again, we face the risk of famine in four different parts of the world at the same time,” said Margot van der Velden, WFP director of emergencies. Burkina Faso, Yemen, Nigeria and South Sudan were already facing a dangerous combination of conflict, mass displacement, economic crisis and climate and agricultural calamity. COVID-19 and subsequent restrictions and lockdowns that followed have only exacerbated the pain.

Acute food insecurity

Up to 80 per cent of the people experiencing acute food insecurity are farmers, herders, fishers and foresters. COVID-19 has disrupted their ability to work their land, care for their animals, go fishing and access markets to sell their produce, Luca Russo, an agricultural economist at FAO said. “They have little cash reserves to fall back on and could be forced to abandon their livelihoods,” Russo warned. “Once a poor family does that, getting back on their feet again becomes difficult. “Declines in farming household mean that poor farming families will have less money to buy food and meet critical needs. The amount available for other expenses like education, health spending will be cut. So we are not just talking about hunger here,” Russo added. The FAO and WFP analysis lists another 16 countries and territories – from Haiti to Zimbabwe – as at risk of rising levels of acute hunger and urges developed countries to take urgent action to avoid an international food emergency.

Food crisis

Already in 2019, 135 million people are facing a food crisis or emergency in 55 countries and territories. How conflicts play out, whether humanitarian agencies have access to populations in need, what the pandemic does to food prices, and how governments deal with the currently burgeoning COVID-19 will continue to affect food systems. Rainfall and harvest outcomes are also an important factor.

First famine outbreak

The Hotspots report warns that unless critical action is taken fast, the world could experience its first outbreak of famine since it was last declared in 2017 in parts of South Sudan. Famine is the most severe of five phases used by the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) system to chart escalating degrees of food insecurity. But the FAO and the WFP underscore that the situation is severe and people suffer and die from hunger before international agencies actually declare a famine. “When we declare a famine it means many lives have already been lost. If we wait to find that out for sure, people are already dead,” said WFP’s Velden. In Somalia in 2011, for example, 260,000 died from starvation. While the famine was declared in July, most people had already died by May.

Last line

With food crisis looming in the country, agric analysts have predicted that government needs to put things in top gear to curb the situation if Nigeria wants to be safer in terms of food security and sufficiency.

 

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