It has been predicted that there would be a catastrophic widespread food famine, the type the world has never witnessed before the year 2020.
It is of common knowledge that the quality of the food a people eat is a reflection of their lives. In African setting, one of the achievements of a man is his ability to provide quality food for his family, an idea which the Holy Bible also prescribes.
By extension, any country that is self — sufficient in food production, and does not depend on other countries for the provision of food for her citizenry has reasons to be proud among comity of Nations.
Considering the abundant agro-opportunities around our country, Nigeria, there is no justifiable reason for her to be part of the over 1 billion people currently experiencing hunger across the world, despite the governments resolve to make the country one of the top 20 economies by the year 2020.
Food Security is an essential tool for national development. It might interest you to know that with little co-coordinated efforts to utilize the abundant human and Natural Resources, Nigeria can be reposition on the map of the world as a leading food producer. Most of what Nigeria needs to attain this enviable height is within her reach.
Compared with any country of the world, Nigeria has one of the best climate and land resources for produce would be enough for consumption, exportation and industrialization. There is a wide range of crops in which it enjoys comparative advantage.
Achieving food security in Nigeria is pivotal to national development. This is because it serves as boost to other sectors of the economy. It is a common saying that a hungry man, is an angry man, therefore a nation with a fragile food security will have a fragile internal security that could produce nothing better than a population of people with bottled anger, awaiting exposition.
It is a common knowledge that good food enhances immunity and good health, a well fed child can develop intellectually to justify investments in his education. Besides, the nutritional values and industrial potentials, food is an International Identity, as world-class exported food tends to become cultural ambassador for a country and its people.
According to a food expert, Mr. Kennedy Nwakapa, “food security exists when all people at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary and food preferences for an active and healthy life style”. This is a fact that tends to have ended the intelligence of leaders of this nation, Nigeria.
Nigeria is predominantly an agrarian society, as a reasonable percentage of the population engages in Agricultural production though at subsistence level. Agriculture holdings are generally small and scattered. It provides about 41 percent of Nigeria’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1999 this percentage represented a normal decrease of 24.7 percent from 65.7 percent GDP in 1957. The decrease is still ongoing because, as economic development occurs, the relative size of agricultural sector usually decreases?
The fertility of the Nigeria soil and the wide range of varieties in climate allow it to produce a variety of food and crops. The staple major food crops include yam, cassava, corn, plantain, rice, sorghum and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
The leading cash crops are cocoa, citrus, cotton, groundnuts, palm oil, palm kernel, beans seed and rubber; they form part of Nigeria’s major exports commodities in the 1960s and early 70s. Chief among the export destinations for Nigeria’s agricultural products were Britain, USA, Canada, France and Germany.
Other aspects of the nations agricultural sector involves cattle herding, fishing, poultry and lumbering which contributed more than two percent to the GDP in the 1980s.
According to the United Nations food and Agricultural Organization (UN-FAO) 1987 estimate, there were 12.2 million cattle, 13.2 million sheep, 26 million goats, 1.3 million pigs, 700,000 donkeys, 250,000 horses, and 18,000 camels, mostly in Northern Nigeria and owned mostly by rural dwellers. Fishing out pet range from 600,000 to 700,000 tons annually in the 70s but statistical data indicated that all these aspects of our agricultural sector have dropped to it’s lowest ebb due to numerous factors which must be overhauled if the nation must be on course for vision 202020
No country can truly be a truly great nation if it is not capable of feeding its citizens. Recent estimate put the number of hungry people in Nigeria at over 50 million, just less than 30 percent of the country’s total population of about 160 million out of which about 52 percent live under the poverty line.
As earliest stated in this write up, Nigeria was self sufficient in food production and was indeed a net exporter of food to other regions of the world. However, things changed dramatically for the worse following the global economic crisis that hit developing countries beginning from the late 70s, coupled with ;the discovery of crude oil and subsequent rising revenue from the nations petroleum sector. These provided a platform for the neglect of the agricultural sector and turned Nigeria into a net importer of food.
By 2009, for example, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development estimated that Nigeria was spending over 3 billion Dollars annually on food Importation.
Numerous factors are responsible for this ugly trend in the nation’s agricultural sector, these must be revisited and appropriate solution proffered. If Nigeria truly takes food security seriously. This is because developments go hand in hand with the issue of food security in every nation of the world.
Although agriculture contributes about 42 percent of the country’s GDP. Provided employment means of livelihood for more than 80 percent of the productively engaged population, it receives less than 10 percent of the annual budgetary allocations.
Under funding in this regard is central to the crisis in food production and food security in Nigeria which explains the high incidence of poverty and underdevelopment.
Akin to this problem is the seemingly irresolvable incoherence in governments’ policy formulation and implementation strategies.
The fact remains that the Nigeria agriculture is still too feeble to compete with the forces of Nature and the dynamics of the International Market. The farmers are incompetent to contend with the challenges of the climate change.
With too little or too much rains, the Nigerian farmers are still the losers because an average farmer has no stabilizing factors to cope with the challenges. The farmers, still depends largely on traditional implement. The Nigerian farm is still a model of incompatible marriage between new ideas such as improved crop varieties and crude age-long working tools of bare — foot old farmer.
More so, with so many Agricultural and research institutes, Nigeria hardly needs more paper work. Nigeria needs to move from crude to mechanized farming. The machines can produce better than the crude method of farming by the fast ageing population of the poverty — ridden rural dwellers, struggling to feed million of Nigerian people.
Basic infrastructural facilities like good roads to access the rural areas where the bulk of the agricultural crops are cultivated are inadequate; lack of farm labour due to rural — urban drift, trade restrictions, illiteracy on the part of farmers, little or non-government assistance in providing some basic facilities like fertilizers, dams for Irrigation, storage facilities and credit facilities coupled with acts of nature such as drought and flooding are some of the factors militating against food security in Nigeria. The Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Ayo Adesina recently in an interview with newsmen identified the appalling level of financing in Agriculture in comparison with their African Nations.
According to him “Nigeria spends only 3% or less of her entire budget on Agriculture.” Other countries, much smaller than Nigeria do far more than this. Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi and Mozambique spend between 10-15 percent or more in agriculture.
The Minister pointed out that agricultural production low, nothing that yields of farms in Nigeria are extremely low, with the average yield of seed crops in Nigeria still at approximately one ton per hectare compared to the global average of five tons per hectare. The minister went on to say that “as big as Nigeria, only one percent of our farmers use modern seeds.” He pointed out that Nigeria is presently using 13 killogramme. Per hectare of fertilizer,”
According to him “Now the global average is 100 killogramme, China is close to 400 per hectare. Most of the food we produce comes from expanding cultivated areas, not from increasing productivity per unit area.” In addition, he said a lot of what we produced is lost due to lack of proper storage and processing facilities, explaining that Nigeria farmers have been poor managers of agricultural resources due to poor planning. The Minister concluded that, Nigeria is now the largest importer of tomatoes paste from China and Italy when we have tomatoes in abundance, wasting away on a daily basis due to no storage facilities.
The ongoing co-ordination between the ministry and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in the efforts to reposition the agriculture sector is enjoying the support of industry analyst who seek enhanced Agriculture Productivity and the attainment of food security.
Attention was again drawn to the abysmal performance of the nations agriculture sector when the CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi reeled out the facts and figures on why existing agricultural policies should be reviewed with the aim of improving out put from the sector.
Just as the CBN governor’s revelation show that Nigeria is incurring a total food import bill of $4.2 billion (about N638.4 billion) annually due to the neglect of agriculture, the governor proposed a completely new agriculture policy.
With all these problems bedeviling the nation’s agricultural sector, it must be reiterated that no government in Nigeria has displayed ignorance of the possibilities of food security in National Development. Whether their policies and programmes have been mere white elephant protect or paper tiger, whether they are blue print or mere political statements, whether they are genuine intentions or mere channels of siphoning public money are puzzles Nigerians have found difficult to give accurate definition.
It is high time Nigeria translated the country’s huge agriculture potentials into realities by encouraging local production and strengthening the value chain so as to make Nigeria self-sufficient and generate income and wealth for the Nigerian farmers.
If country must move from its current level to higher heights in food production and, if she desires true national development, then, food insecurity which is as a result of the under performance in the agricultural sector can only be turned around with more commitment on the part of policy makers.
In this is a sure way to put the nation on the part to attaining the millennium Development Goals and the transformation agenda of Mr. President. Besides, food security should be given greater priority in order to enhance self sustainability which is one of the pre-requisite for National  growth and development.